KOLKATA: Pro-Mamata on Sunday. Pro-Tata on Monday. That's how Bajaj Auto chairman Rahul Bajaj reacted to the fast-paced developments on the Singur front.
A day after endorsing Mamata Banerjee's Singur agitation as a fight for farmers' rights, the straight-talking Bajaj on Monday appeared to back Tata Motors' contention that relocation of key vendors from the project site could affect the viability of an automobile venture. "It is a norm in the automobile industry that tier-I vendors should be as nearby as possible to the main unit for keeping freight, logistics and operational costs low," Bajaj told TOI from Pune. "In Bajaj Auto's own case, when we took land at Chakhan (Maharashtra) and Pantnagar (Uttarakhand), it included that (land) which would be used by our main suppliers," he added.
Incidentally, land allotted to Honda Siel Cars India Ltd for its new manufacturing facility in Rajasthan includes contiguous space earmarked for key vendors. Bajaj — whose two-wheelers may face competition from Tata Motors' Nano - dismissed speculation that he had a role to play in the Singur agitation. "I am fed up of hearing these things. Ratan (Tata) is a dear friend of mine. And anyone who knows me, is aware that I don't pay a dime to anybody. Why should I pay anything to Mamata?" he said.
However, Bajaj, a former CII president, said the Singur episode held out a message for land acquisitions being made for industry anywhere in India. "Industry should now learn the lesson that in future, irrespective of whether the land has been acquired by government, they should make sure that the original landowner had sold the plot willingly," he said.
Bajaj's views were echoed by another old hand in the automobile business, Wartsila India chairman Subodh Bhargava.
9 Sep 2008, 0150 hrs IST,
TIMES OF INDIA