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Space for Tata on Mamata stage

Calcutta, Nov. 28: Mamata Banerjee today laid the foundation stone for the country’s first automobile logistic hub at Shalimar station but the event was overshadowed by the presence of an official from a Tata Motors subsidiary.

Neither the railways nor the Tatas saw anything extraordinary but the official’s attendance generated much interest because Mamata’s agitation had driven the automobile company out of Singur. Since then, at least two Tata officials were seen at industry events addressed by Mamata, though it was not clear whether they represented the business group or business chambers.

Today, G.S. Mekan, head of logistics at Tata Motors Distribution Co Ltd, a 100 per cent subsidiary of Tata Motors, was on the dais as part of a Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam) team that had flown in from Pune.

“Siam, as an organisation, was invited since the railways are setting up the hub with them. The individual company representatives were invited by Siam,” a railway ministry official said.

Asked about the official’s presence, a Tata Motors spokesperson said: “I don’t know. Absolutely no idea.”

Representatives from other automobile manufacturers — including Maruti, Hyundai, Hero Honda and TVS Motors — also flew in from Mumbai and Pune for the ceremony.

The railways are setting up auto logistic hubs at 10 places in collaboration with Siam, and the 4.5-acre Shalimar unit is the pilot project. Automobiles fresh from the factories will be brought to the hubs in bulk by rail — a cheaper, faster and greener mode of travel — to be later distributed among retailers in the region.

The other hubs will be built in Siliguri, Delhi, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Pune, Chennai, Nashik, Guwahati and Kerala. The hubs will have service stations and repair shops, Siam director-general Dilip Chenoy said from Delhi. They may later also house ancillary industries, such as those making auto components.

“The auto hubs will create employment in the area. Vehicles make up two per cent of the railways’ freight, but once the 10 hubs start operating the figure will rise to 15 per cent,” Mamata said. She said the hubs would earn the railways an additional Rs 1,000 crore every year.

Bhel Singur damper

Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (Bhel) has sent a letter to the Bengal government stating that its proposal to set up a thermal power plant in Singur was not “feasible”. Another proposal for a power equipment factory is pending.

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