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Tata slams politics of farmland protection

Calcutta, Aug. 10: The agitation upholding the cause of agriculture in India by resisting industrialisation is politically motivated, Ratan Tata said today.

Replying to a shareholder’s question at the annual general meeting of Tata Tea in Calcutta, Tata said those leading the agitation should do something for agriculture instead. “Why is there farmers’ suicide in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra'” he asked.

He went on to add that people who wanted farmland to be reserved for agriculture should ensure farmers and those depending on agriculture did not live below poverty line.

He lamented the bid to delay the small-car project in Singur. “It’s getting delayed. But we are trying to do what best we can to meet our target.”

Tata Motors had said it would roll out the first car by the second half of 2008.

The government’s delay in handing over the 997-acre plot — because of protests over land acquisition — and waterlogging at the site during monsoon has slowed down the work.

Tata said the company took a risk by choosing Bengal for the “landmark” project and added that not too many companies were willing to bet that heavily on the state then. “We risked putting a very significant and landmark project in Bengal and Calcutta.”

Asked if his group would consider Bengal for a big-ticket investment in the future, Tata said: “I am very pro and in favour of Bengal.”

Engineers attacked

Supporters of the Trinamul Congress-backed Save Farmland Committee dragged out from a Sumo employees of a construction company working on the Tata site in Singur and smashed its windscreen.

About 25 women armed with brooms, bamboo sticks and sickles intercepted the vehicle at Kolepara, 2km from the project site, amid rumours that Tata would visit Singur today.

Thirteen officials and engineers of the Delhi-based Interarch were on their way to work from a guesthouse, Usha Villa, when attacked.

They regularly start around 9am and reach the site in 20 minutes. After they travelled five minutes this morning, the mob blocked their way. The officials were pulled out and the Sumo’s windscreen, windows and headlights smashed.

The rampage continued for 30 minutes until police arrived and rescued the driver, who was being thrashed.

Some of the Sumo passengers had managed to make it to the police station, 500m away.

Four Interarch officials needed first aid. Its project manager, Jayanta Banik, lodged a police complaint.

Trinamul leader and Save Farmland convener Becharam Manna said villagers had been angry since hearing about Tata’s possible visit. “The villagers wanted to show him black flags. When they didn’t find him, they targeted the engineers’’ Manna said.

Subdivisional police officer Kalyan Mukherjee said efforts were on to trace the attackers.

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