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Tatas tighten screws with dreaded Plan B
- Looking at ‘alternate’ options: Company

Calcutta, Sept. 2: Tata Motors today said it was working on a plan to shift the small-car plant and people to an “alternate” site, stopping one step short of executing Ratan Tata’s pullout threat.

Work in Singur has been suspended, a statement issued in the evening said. “The company is evaluating alternate options for manufacturing the Nano car at other company facilities and a detailed plan to relocate the plant and machinery to an alternate site is under preparation,” it added.

The statement suggested the company was activating Stage II of the warning issued by Tata on August 22 that the Singur project would be moved if trouble continued there and the safety of workers came under threat. The question of the next stage — actual withdrawal — will arise, if the ongoing initiative by the governor does not bear fruit.

Tata had then said no “Plan B” was ready. But this evening’s statement makes it clear other options are on the table ( ).

Mamata Banerjee, whose dharna outside the plant’s gates has stalled work for the past five days, said: “This is their internal and technical matter and we shall not comment on it.”

Tata Motors said people from Bengal recently recruited and trained could be absorbed at other plant locations. Around 12 casual labourers, who had been working at the Singur plant for the past one-and-a-half months, were sent away by their contractor to work in another Tata project in Lucknow.

The statement said the company was “constrained to suspend the construction and commissioning work” — suggesting that the mother plant had reached the stage of commissioning. It added that the ancillary units were also stopping operations.

“This decision was taken in order to ensure the safety of its employees and contract labour, who have continued to be violently obstructed from reporting to work. The company has assessed the prevailing situation in Singur, after five continuous days of cancellation of work, and believes that there is no change in the volatile situation around the plant,” the statement said.

The company said work could not resume till normality was restored. “There has to be harmonious peaceful co-existence by all and acceptance by all. Acceptability of all stakeholders is critical to resume work,” a source said.

Tata Motors said there was a drop in the attendance of staff and contract labour since August 24, when Mamata started her dharna, and some of the international consultants working on the plant had returned home.

Several people engaged in construction and commissioning work, who had moved into Singur and nearby areas, have since vacated their accommodation and left. The environment of obstruction, intimidation and confrontation has also begun to impact the company’s ability to convince its experienced managers to relocate and work in the plant, it said.

Industry chamber CII said the “suspension of work… is an unfortunate situation. The Tatas have been extremely patient and we understand that the company has been forced to take this decision…. We are still hopeful that the situation would be resolved.…”

Biman Bose, the Left Front chairman, requested the Tatas to stay. “I appeal to them to start work at the project.”

But Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy, like his leader, said: “Our agitation is against the state government and not the Tatas. Second, we didn’t ask the Tatas to leave Singur. So, why should we be bothered if they are planning to shift to some other state?’’

A Tata Motors spokesperson said there was “no way this plant could operate efficiently unless the environment became congenial and supportive of the project. We came to Bengal hoping we could add value, prosperity and create job opportunities in the communities in the state”.

As many as 762 ITI graduates and other apprentices from the region and the state had been retrained at Tata Motors facilities in Jamshedpur and Pune, the company statement said. At the peak of construction, the project had employed about 4,000 employees, including several hundred young residents from the region. Some 60 ancillary units have taken possession of land and invested about Rs 500 crore in Singur, it added.

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