Friday, August 22, 2008

Tata says violence could force Nano plant to move

Accidentally today I'm in NewDelhi to attain Indian Art Summit 2008 @Pragati-Maidan. But with inputs from Tanmoy Chatterjee of HT Kolkata Bureau- this is an excerpt of Ratan Tata's fear

Tata Motors Ltd said it was prepared to move a plant to make the Nano, billed as the world's cheapest car, from its West Bengal site if violent protests continued, despite having invested $350 million in the project.
Tata Motors has faced protests and political opposition over the acquisition of farmland for the plant in the state, which have led to cost overruns and threaten to delay the car's launch.
"What has concerned us is the violence, the disruptions, that has led us to be concerned about the safety of our employees, our equipment and investment, and of the viability of the process," Chairman Ratan Tata told reporters in Kolkata, on Friday.
Tata said the Nano would be ready to launch in or close to October, but irrespective of the investment made so far, the safety of employees and workers at the site was his main concern.
"If anybody is under the impression that because we have made this very large investment of 1,500 crore rupees ($350 million), that we would not move, then they are wrong, because we would move to protect our people," he said.
"There is a concern about our people, a definite concern about not being wanted."
Industry forums called for a peaceful solution to break the deadlock.
"Any adverse development with regard to the upcoming Tata Motors Nano Plant in Singur, will irreversibly hamper the future in industrialisation in the state of West Bengal," Chandrajit Banerjee, director-general of the Confederation of Indian Industry said in New Delhi.
The Nano project has been billed as a key to the rejuvenation of industries in West Bengal, where the world's longest-serving democratically elected Communist government has changed tack after decades of focus on helping agriculture and poor farmers.
The unveiling in January of the 100,000 rupee snub-nosed Nano was hailed by the state's ruling Communists, but protests have since gathered steam.
Trouble began after the government took over 1,000 acres (400 hectares) of farmland for the factory. The government offered compensation, but some farmers with smaller land holdings have refused compensation, demanding that land be given back to them.
India's second-biggest private conglomerate which has interests ranging from software to steel, is known as much for his philanthropy as for being above the political fray.
"If there is a view, for various political reasons, that we should not be here or that what we are trying to do should be altered ... then we would necessarily face a situation, very reluctantly, where we would have to move," he said.
Shares in Tata Motors, India's leading vehicle maker, closed up 1.8 percent at 425.60 rupees in the Mumbai market that rose 1.1 percent.
The Nano has already encouraged other car makers including Renault, Nissan Motor, General Motors, Hyundai Motor to plan to make low-cost cars for India and other emerging markets.
Ratan Tata has said he expects eventual sales of one million units of the Nano in India, with exports also contributing later.
"It would seem that many people have a desire to not see that (launch) happen," he said on Friday.
"It's our desire to see that it takes place," he said, adding there "was no Plan B" for the roll-out of the Nano at this time.
Tata has said the plant at Singur, which was to have an initial capacity of 250,000 units, would be the first, but not the only plant to make the Nano.
The protests reflect a larger stand-off between industry and farmers unwilling to part with land in a country where two-thirds of the 1.1 billion population depends on agriculture.
The West Bengal government had started talks with the Trinamool Congress party, the main political opposition in the state, spearheading the protests.
"Everyone has a right to protest, but in a democratic and peaceful manner. I want them to keep their promise," Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, West Bengal's chief minister said.
Mamata Banerjee, the opposition party chief, wants 400 acres of farmland returned to the farmers, which the government says is not possible to do.

India hopeful about NSG status

Yesterday over chat I talk to Siddharth, Deputy Editor of The Hindu , the sense is very clear .Foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon’s special briefing in Vienna was generally well received by the NSG member states on Thursday, with some describing it as useful and constructive, but Austria, New Zealand and Switzerland continued to hold out on an unconditional waiver for India.
The representatives of these three wanted to know why India should be granted the waiver as they raised issues related to NPT and testing. "Some delegations gave approving statements, but others expressed concerns, and conditions will be tabled this afternoon," a European diplomat told Reuters.
Another report said the mood was positive. A German official said "the questions were constructive and technical, not personal." Germany is the NSG chair.
Mr Menon met some NSG representatives separately in groups, to reassure them India has put in place strict export controls to guard against transfer of dual-use technology or nuclear fuel to ineligible entities.
US ambassador to India David C. Mulford, now camping in Vienna, was busy meeting key members to forge a consensus on integrating India into global nuclear commerce after 34 long years.
As the NSG talks got under way, the US camp urged patience. Mr Mulford told NDTV that Washington thinks a consensus would eventually
be arrived at on the issue of a waiver for India, but
it does not know how quickly.
"This won’t be easy, we need to be patient," Mr Mulford said, adding: "It is quite early to say how the NSG talks will go." The US has, incidentally, said earlier it will act as India’s "sherpa" and work with the NSG members for a waiver.
A report in the Washington Post cited unnamed diplomats as suggesting that the US proposal has aroused scepticism from several members, making it increasingly unlikely that a deal will be reached immediately.
US state department spokesman Robert Wood told the Post "a lot of people have raised questions, and many people think [the India civil nuclear deal] does not fit into the non-proliferation framework. That is not our view."
Mr Shyam Saran, the Prime Minister’s special envoy for the nuclear deal, Mr Ravi B. Grover, director (strategic planning group) in the department of atomic energy, and certain other officials accompanied Mr Menon to the briefing.
The special briefing was held as India, which is not a member of the NSG, wanted to put forth its case directly before the mem-bers of the group that regulates international nuclear trade.
The NSG operates by consensus, so for India every member counts. The talks will resume on Friday.
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