Kolkata: Construction stopped at Tata Motors Ltd’s small car factory in Singur on Monday as supporters of West Bengal’s principal opposition Trinamool Congress blocked the highway on which it is located.
Although Tata employees managed to reach the factory, an hour’s drive from Kolkata, contract labour couldn’t turn up, said a company spokesperson.
Thousands of Trinamool Congress supporters, protesting farmland seizure for the project, had blocked the highway since Sunday evening, forcing the Hooghly district administration to divert the traffic.
Held up: Vehicles stranded on the Durgapur expressway on Monday as the Trinamool Congress continued its demonstration for the second day against the Tata Motors small car factory in Singur. Photograph: PTI
Two days before the action started, Tata Motors’ chairman Ratan Tata threatened to pull out of West Bengal if the situation didn’t improve.
“Reaching Singur is almost impossible,” said a construction worker in Singur, who refused to reveal his name. He said 15-20% of the workforce reported for work on Monday, mostly locals. “With so few people around, we couldn’t do anything.”
“This siege cannot continue,” said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who on Monday wrote to Mamata Banerjee, Trinamool Congress’ chairperson, inviting her for talks.
“In the interest of the state and its young generation, this dispute must be resolved quickly, and the project implemented without delay,” Bhattacharjee wrote in his letter to Banerjee.
“I have spent three years protesting this farmland seizure. I also want to end this standoff, but the government must return 400 acres to farmers,” Banerjee responded in Singur.
On Friday, Tata had said he wouldn’t agree to the project site being carved up. The government, too, has ruled out returning 400 acres from within the project area, but has now agreed to offer a better compensation package than the one offered two years ago when the land was acquired.
Although the Trinamool Congress has agreed to meet the chief minister, it announced that its indefinite sit-in demonstration at Singur would continue.