Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Nano pullout a ‘colossal loss’ for Kolkatans

The dismay and shock are yet to get over. For the people of Kolkata, the finality of Tata Motors’ decision to shift the Nano small car project out of West Bengal is like the end of a dream for a better future for the state.
A day after Tata group chairman Ratan Tata made the announcement, which had been apparent for some days, people Saturday blamed both the Communist-led state government and the opposition Trinamool Congress party for being “irresponsible” in handling the prestigious project.
The drama that unfolded since Friday evening, after Ratan Tata and Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee emerged from a closed door meeting to announce the Nano pullout, had people glued to their television sets, watching the happenings with a tinge of disbelief. Almost everyone had been hoping against hope that Tata would remain at the Singur plant in Hooghly district, about 40 km from Kolkata.
On Saturday morning, screaming newspaper headlines greeted people, adding to the pain of the “colossal loss” and apprehensions for the future of 80 million population of the state where the East India Company first set up base.
Till the first decades of independence West Bengal was known as an industrial hub, including having the country’s first indigenous automobile plant in Hindustan Motors that produced the iconic Ambassador car.
“Nano nei rajye (Nano no more in West Bengal),” said the banner headline in the largest circulated Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika. “Singur theke sorlo Nano (Nano moves out of Singur)”, said the second largest circulated vernacular newspaper, Bartamaan. For the youth it was like the end of a dream, the shattering of their hopes of a better future.
Tulsi Prasad Datta, manager of a large private sector bank, was concerned at the message that the investors were getting about the state after the pullout of the Nano project.
“It is not the issue of one industry going out of the state. The message that is going to the outside world about the state of affairs in West Bengal is indeed very bad. After a long time the state was getting positive vibes on the industrial front. Now, again the situation has been reversed,” Datta told IANS. Goutam Bhattacharya, a teacher, squarely blamed Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee for the pullout. Banerjee had spearheaded protests against acquisition of farmland for the Singur project and demanded that 400 acres be returned to the “unwilling” farmers, those who had reportedly been forced to part with their land.
“How can people be so shortsighted? She seems to think that her stand on the Nano issue will fetch her more votes from the villages in next year’s Lok Sabha elections. She may or may not get the votes. But in the process she has done irreparable damage to the state,” said the 35-year-old physics teacher.
Datta felt the government had initially acted in haste in steamrolling all opposition to the project. “They should have taken everybody on board from the outset. And when the project was in such an advanced state, the opposition should not have acted in the way it did,” he said.
Arijit Nag, an information technology professional, termed it a “colossal loss” for the state industrially. However, he felt the government should not have allowed the project to come up on farmland. “I am feeling very empty. The state has now gone two steps back industrially. But at the same time the opposition is also correct. You can’t take farmland for setting up industries,” said Nag.
“The location was wrong. The government should have kept in mind from the onset that it has to ensure the right balance between agriculture and industry. Why did it take fertile land, that too multi-crop, for the project?” Nag asked.
But everybody IANS spoke to sympathised with Ratan Tata. “He had no other choice but to pull out. He had a deadline to meet,” said Nivedita De, a housewife in her mid-30s.
“What else could Ratan Tata have done? He has already lost several billions (in setting up the plant). And he has to keep in mind the interests of his shareholders,” Datta said. Tata had promised that the Rs.100,000 Nano would roll out in October.
Indranil Dhar, an automobile expert, seemed very downcast. Dhar, 37, works in a company in Madhya Pradesh that was one of the vendors of the project.
“Had the project materialised, I could have asked for a transfer. Now, maybe I have to remain away from my family till the day I retire,” he said.

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