The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Seal on Tata deal, from hospital bed

Calcutta, March 9: The Bengal government can now claim to have lived up to the declaration that nothing will break its resolve to push ahead with the Tata project in Singur — not even a broken bone.

The government today announced that it has signed with the Tatas a lease agreement for land in Singur to set up the small-car plant.

As with every other turn and twist in the Singur saga, what should have been a mundane official event, too, had its share of the unexpected.

The upshot: the signature from the Tata side had to be put on the deal from an undisclosed hospital bed as the official concerned suffered a fracture in an accident.

As R.S. Thakur, vice-president (finance) of Tata Motors, was in the hospital, the agreement was signed there and then taken to the government representative, commerce and industry secretary Sabyasachi Sen. Debashish Som, the managing director of West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC), was the other signatory.

“Since Thakur has met with an accident and has been hospitalised with a fracture, he signed the papers and sent them across. We signed them in my office. We could not get together,” said Sen.

Another — but pleasant this time — surprise was also in store. The Tatas have agreed to invest Rs 500 crore more than that announced earlier, taking their total investment in the mother plant to Rs 1,500 crore.

Sen said the company would probably augment production, accounting for the additional investment.

For the mother plant, around 645 acres are being leased out to Tata Motors for 90 years, Sen said. However, he refused to go into details of the land price and the incentives being given to the company.

“The Assembly is in session. The government cannot make any revelations outside the House,” Sen said.

A separate agreement will be inked with vendors later for 290 acres that will house the ancillary units near the plant.

In the morning, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told Left Front partners at a core committee meeting that Tata officials had requested him to keep the agreement under wraps since it was a “corporate secret”.

“However, since this is a democracy, I will announce salient features of the agreement in the Assembly,” Bhattacharjee was quoted as telling the partners.

In the afternoon, a cat-and-mouse game unfolded. Sen and his entourage had left Writers’ Buildings, fuelling speculation that the deal was being signed at the WBIDC office nearby. But he did not go there. Around 6 pm, Sen returned to Writers’ and briefed the media.

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