The Tata Motors Ltd project at Singur, 40km from Kolkata, which will roll out the country’s cheapest car, is running behind schedule, said Ratan Tata, the company’s chairman, suggesting that protests that have dogged the project since inception may be taking their toll.
Though the company is working to make up for lost time, there are forces working against it, Tata said. Last month, at the annual general meeting of Tata Motors, he had said that the company was working towards rolling out the car by June 2008. When asked if the project would meet this dateline, he said, “I hope so, but there are vested interests working against it.”
The movement against the project at Singur has been thwarting its progress and Tata said that he did not find himself in a position to commit to a specific date for rolling out the long-awaited Rs1 lakh car.
He pointed out that West Bengal has been ignored by investors because of its history, but he found the state to be investor-friendly with a government run by a pragmatic chief minister. “We risked putting a large project here,” he said.
“This is an investment to be proud of, not ashamed of or to feel exploited. This state has not had an opportunity to prosper,” Tata added.
The resistance to the Singur project has to do with preserving farmland, but according to Tata, there is also a need to provide prosperity and technological advancement so that the people of the region do not remain below the poverty line.
The state-run West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation has acquired 997 acres of land at Singur for the Tata Motors project.
Opposition parties such as the Trinamool Congress and Socialist Unity Centre of India have been fighting the setting up of the project on the land, which they claim has been forcefully acquired from farmers.
Tata Motors began construction of the plant in January. The plant is expected to make 250,000 cars at full capacity.