August 31, 2008


Question – Mamata Banerjee’s has been demanding to return the 400 acres of land, what is the reaction of Tata group.

Mr. Tata - We believe, yesterday I voiced our concern on various developments in Singur, if I have to give a slightly long reply, perhaps Ican answer some of the issues you have. We came to West Bengal at a time when many people considered us to be mad. There had been very little development in West Bengal, there had been very little investment. And Tata Motors decided they would locate one of their prime and most unique factories in West Bengal. Everybody had great apprehension about us making this investment in West Bengal. But this part of the country has always been ignored industrially for many years and we thought that it should not be ignored. This part of the country has to play and has always played a major role and as you know it was the centre of heavy engineering in the past, but it has disappeared from the industrial scene. So we decided to locate the small car factory in Calcutta. And mostly wanted and hoped for setting up to showcase the new industrialization of West Bengal. We leased property that was offered to us that had already been acquired. And as we were looking at a unique product at a very low cost we wanted it to be a consolidated car company with its ancillary suppliers incorporated in the same location, because logistic & transport cost are a major part of the component cost of any plant. We are trying to produce the car that has never been tried anywhere in world and at that kind of price. It will be a tribute to the young engineers if we achieve that. What has concerned us is the violence; the destructions have let us to be concerned about the safety of our employees, the safety of our equipments and investments and in fact of the viability of the process as such. We do not want to come to an area where we perceive that we are unwanted. We have not come here to exploit any segment, we are deeply concerned about the people of West Bengal, if, in fact,anybody has a history of dealing with serving the people of around their plants, I think we have displayed that kind of sensitivity. And we are deeply concerned about the people of West Bengal and the people around the areas where we have located our plants. There the people of West Bengal & Calcutta to decide whether we are going to be an unwanted resident or a good corporate citizen of West Bengal, and if it is the latter we will be very very happy to be part of this development. If on the other hand, if there is a view that for various political reasons, we should not be here or what weare trying to do should be altered, which cannot be.., then we would necessarily face an issue, very reluctantly, where we need to move. If anybody is under the impression that because we have made this large investment of about Rs. 1500 crores, we will not move, then they arewrong.. it is not a hypocritical investment. Because we would move whatever the cost to protect our people. I can’t bring our managers and the families to West Bengal, if they’re going to be beaten, if there is going to be violence constantly, if their children are going to be afraid to go to school, and surely that is not what West Bengal is. West Bengal is a highly intelligent, literate state. I think they have tremendous potential. The people of West Bengal, either in agriculture or industry, I think have a rightful place in the prosperity of India. And our hope would be that we can help bring this prosperity to the state. But if the state, for any reason, any segment of the state feel that we are exploiting them, first of all it is totally untrue, but if that is the feeling, we will exit. So, that has been my concern.

Question: You have already answered the questions I was going to raise, but what exactly is your anxiety? - the violence that is starting from 24th onwards or worse and finally do you.

Mr. Tata: My concern is no specific issue other than the fact that if there’s a sense of tension and violence and disruption, obviously that is not a conducive environment. I have to applaud all the people who have been working at the site; they are working under tremendous tension. Our compound walls have been broken, people have been coming in, and materials are being stolen. We can’t open and operate a plant with police protection, if that is the way it is to be before we start, you can well imagine our concern what will happen if we try to operate. If statements are made that no cars will be allowed to go out of the plant. May be we have no way to consider that we could be here. I have to say that the people on contract and our own people are working in tremendous tension. So, I do believe that these are the kinds of concern that we have.

Question: Do you regret coming to Bengal?

Mr. Tata: No, I am an optimist. And I am an Indian first and I believe West Bengal is very much a part of India. I have, unknown to most of you, lived in Jamshedpur for 6 years. I know West Bengal well; I have spent a lot of time in West Bengal. I have always had a very soft corner for West Bengal which is what led me to take this decision. The last thing I want is, or a feeling that Tata’s are unwanted, for what ever reason, in West Bengal. Because under those circumstances we could just revert back to the situation, Tata’s did not invest in any major way in West Bengal in many years. This is our token. Yes, we donated a hospital which will be operational in March or April. That has nothing to do with the industrial decision we make. But what we have looked at is that all our company is looking at West Bengal, be it in power, be it in metalics, be it in coking coal that we looked at West Bengal as a place for industrialization. At the same time we are extremely sensitive to the rural community and I think Tata’s more then anyone else are sensitive to the need for rural community to haveupliftment and although with the rest of India we have been in advance in water conservation projects, increasing the yields of agriculture, just we’ll do the same thing here. I don’t think that our involvement in West Bengal starts and stops with our investment in an industrial location. We have and always will be sensitive to the needs of the agricultural community and rural community because they are infact the majority of India. In this particular case all I can say that we leased land which was offered to us,which we believe and have no reason to disbelieve were acquired legally.

Question – Some people is saying that Singur deal is lacking transparency.What is your take and do you believe that by not making the deal public, State Government is adding fuel to further tension.

Mr. Tata - See, I don’t believe that there is a lack of transparency and I don’t wish to comment on what the government is doing or not doing. I believe for example that how we build cars, is our business, how the government operates, is their business and I think that our experience in this whole transaction has in the best of my knowledge been very transparent.

Question – In this juncture are you confident to roll out Nano in Octoberfrom Singur?

Mr. Tata - See, we are in a position to roll out Nano in October or close to October, but it seems that many people have desired not to see that happen. So, it’s very easy for people to block that from happening, but our desire is to see it take place and it can take place.

Question – Sir, you just mentioned that if such kind of violence continues,then you are going to move, this is what I understood you just mentioned,have you set some kind of a deadline, some kind of a situation where if such violence continues till this period of time I am going to move out from there?

Mr. Tata - No, please understand, I am making a very genuine statement. Idon’t have a motive, I don’t have a plan that I am working to, I have made a major investment here, to move would be a great cost to the company, and great cost to the Tata Motors shareholders, I think it is also going to be a great cost to West Bengal because I don’t know, because I don’t know how many Rs. 1500 crores investments would come to West Bengal. All that is happening in terms of violence and disruption is seeing a lot of visibility on television not only in West Bengal in India and soon beyond India. I hope if this untoward issue has to take place then West Bengal doesn’t get characterized as the trouble spot in India. It does not fall into the same category as some other trouble spots in India, where there is an urge to leave it alone and not to take the risk of investment because today what are we looking at, even for us the risk of having taken that investment. There is no time frame but there is a concern for our people, there is a definite concern of not being where we are not wanted, definite concern where people who are suspicious of our motive. And there’s a definite concern…about the…what should I say…where people are suspicious of our motive…because nothing could be far from the truth.

Question - Is there any plan B?

Mr. Tata - There is no plan B at this time.

Question - Will you accept any alternative plan just to save the project?

Mr. Tata-I have already explained to you that the vendors have already…let me just address that. The vendors have made as much of a leap of faith in West Bengal as we have. Without the vendors having come there and been willing to locate themselves adjacent to us and to be a part of our plan, there may not have been a Nano plant in Calcutta, because the components would have had to come from other parts of India. The component manufacturers have therefore made as much a leap of faith. They in fact will employ large amounts ofpeople and in fact following them more investments will follow in the terms of Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers. I would just like to raise something that I think I missed. As I see West Bengal what do I see in the years ahead? As things that West Bengal can aspire to. More jobs, higher education and the people of West Bengal sharing in the prosperity that has been there in other parts of India which I believe West Bengal have not shared in. There has to be a balance too that the rural community must prosper and West Bengal must be industrialized Somewhere that balance must be found. It’s been found in other parts of India and it must be found here. I don’t think industrialization can take place without being sensitive to the rural community…I don’t think the rural community can prosper without the industrialization that must also take place in the world of century.

Question - Sir, in the worst case scenario if you have to move this project out outside West Bengal then would it affect the fate of future possible investments by the Tata group?

Mr. Tata - Of course, it would.

Question – Return of the land is it possible to negotiate?

Mr. Tata-It’s not for us to negotiate. The ancillary people have committed themselves to come. In many cases construction of their plants is underway, although not totally in phase with our plant, it is because for two monsoons the site has been under seven feet of water. I cannot emphasize enough the hardships that we have undertaken which most of you are unaware of. We have had, apart from the disruptions, we have had floods, we had to fill the site at a great cost to ourselves. There’s been silting of the waters around us, which we’ve had to rectify. There would have been no cultivation in these last two years because the site has been like a lake.

Question - Mr Tata, are you thinking of talking to Mamata Banerjee?

Mr. Tata - Ms Banerjee made a statement that she would be open to talking to the Tata’s and Mr. Ravi Kant, our MD Tata Motors immediately wrote to her expressing Tata Motors willingness to meet with her and wrote to her giving a letter that explained our position to avoid any misunderstanding so that our meeting could be worthwhile.


No comments: