October 17, 2008

Tata's open letter to west bengal people through huge ads

Kolkata, Oct 17 (IANS): A fortnight after pulling out the Nano plant from Singur, Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata Friday asked the people of West Bengal to support either the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-led government 'to build a prosperous state' or suffer the 'destructive political environment of confrontation' that he id was being espoused by Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress.

In an act unusual for an industrialist, Tata made sharp, politically-explosive comments eulogising the state government and running down Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, the main opposition party in the state, through huge advertisements in several dailies here.

In the advertisement, headlined 'Open Letter to the citizens of West Bengal', Tata urged the people, particularly the younger citizens, to express their views and aspirations as to what they would like to see the state become in the years ahead.

'Would they like to support the present government of Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to build a prosperous state with the rule of law, modern infrastructure and industrial growth, supporting a harmonious investment in the agricultural sector to give the people of the state a better life?

'Or would they like to see the state consumed by a destructive political environment of confrontation, agitation, violence and lawlessness? Do they want education and jobs in the industrial and high-tech sectors or does the future generation see their future prosperity achieved on a 'stay as we are' basis?'

Then he went on to fire the salvo that had Kolkata talking Friday morning: 'The confrontative actions by the Trinamool Congress led by Ms. Mamata Banerjee and supported by vested interests and certain political parties opposing the acquisition of land by the state government have caused serious disruption to the progress of the Nano plant.'

Tata said his company had two years ago decided to bring out Nano from Singur as it had 'tremendous faith and confidence' in the state government.

'It reflected the tremendous faith and confidence we had, and still have, in the investor-friendly policies of Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government. All through the two years that we have been constructing the plant at Singur, this feeling of faith and confidence in the vision and objectives of the state government has been reinforced.

Slamming the Trinamool for leading a farmers' agitation which forced Tata Motors to shift the Singur project Oct 3, Tata said the protests had the backing of 'vested interests'.

Tata recalled that the state was a major centre for heavy industry and steel fabrication in the past, but agitation and violence drove away many industries around 30 years ago.

'History appears to be repeating itself. Agitation, violence and terror are overtaking the state in the name of the agricultural community, to serve political goals - stalling progress and destroying the new-found confidence in the state, while doing nothing for the rural poor, other than making promises,' he said.

Detailing the reasons for withdrawing from Singur, Tata said the company had to endure constant acts of open aggression on the site, occasional acts of violence, breaking of compound perimeter walls, and theft of construction material from within the project area.

He squarely blamed the Trinamool for the breakdown of talks with the government to resolve the Singur impasse, saying: 'Various attempts at finding a solution were thwarted by the Trinamool Congress' consistent demand that land acquired for the Nano plant and/or its integrated vendor park be returned to the segment of the land owners which the Trinamool Congress party claims to represent.'

He also referred to the 'intimidation and even physical assault of employees, contract labour and residents of the area to be absorbed in the project. Country bombs have been lobbed into the premises, obstructing the movement of material and personnel into and out of the plant'.

Tata said that the project had been conceived as an integrated campus of manufacturing facilities and suppliers, so as to maximise integration and minimise logistics and material flow costs.

'Disruption of this integrated campus would make it extremely difficult for the company to meet its product price and productivity goals,' the advertisement said.

Tata said he was compelled to write the open letter following statements by vested interests criticising the decision taken by Tata Motors to move out of Singur and claiming that it was hasty and politically motivated.

'I therefore feel compelled to address the people of West Bengal, to explain how our dream of contributing to the industrial revival of the state has been shattered by an environment of politically-motivated agitation and hostility that finally left us with no option but to withdraw,' he said.

Tata said his appeal Aug 22 for a more congenial environment only led to an escalation of hostilities through a dharna (sit-in led by Banerjee) on the highway in front of the plant.

'All of you will therefore appreciate that the final and painful decision to move the project out of West Bengal has not been a decision taken in haste, but a decision taken with great regret after a great deal of deliberation,' he said.

'We believe the responsibility for this would lie with the Trinamool Congress, which has created the hostile environment that had obliged the company to move the project form Singur,' Tata said.

Since its inception in May 2006, the project to roll out the Rs.100,000 ($2,250) car encountered strong resistance from the Trinamool-led farmers demanding return of a portion of the acquired land 'forcibly taken' from owners unwilling to part with their land.

Tata Motors has since relocated the plant to Sanand in Gujarat.

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