The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bus smoke in Tata car wake

Calcutta, May 15: Not just the small car, the Tatas could also make in Bengal what state government officials call “bus”.

The more optimistic in officialdom believe that on Thursday evening, when chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Ratan Tata together announce the small-car project, there could be a surprise by way of a “bus” manufacturing unit.

Commerce and industry secretary Sabyasachi Sen, however, cautioned that only preliminary talks had taken place on the second project and it might be too early to expect an announcement on the evening of the day of the swearing-in of Bhattacharjee and his new “development” team.

“We’ve placed a proposal before the company since they are about to enter bus manufacturing. Hopefully, they will consider Bengal when they make their final decision. However, we don’t expect the bus unit to be finalised so soon. If an announcement is made for both the projects, we’ll be pleasantly surprised,” Sen said.

Tata will not be able to attend the swearing-in that is scheduled for earlier in the day but arrive in the evening for talks with the chief minister on the small-car project.

A Tata team that is here is believed to have finalised the site for the project at Singur, about 35 km from Calcutta, in Hooghly district.

“The chief minister and Tata are likely to announce this project at a joint press conference that (Thursday) evening at Writers’ Buildings,” said a senior government official.

The Tata team had also seen sites at Guptamani in Midnapore, Haldia, Dankuni in Hooghly and Sankrail and Uluberia in Howrah.

Government officials ' the more optimistic ones ' expected the “bus” unit to be located at Guptamani, near Kharagpur.

The site at Singur the Tatas appear to have zeroed in on for their Rs 1-lakh car could be as big as 1,000 acres by an estimate and about 500 acres by another.

After the inspection of the site, Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant held a meeting with the chief minister on May 12, following which Bhattacharjee said the project was “almost final”.

Tata Motors top executives were not available for comment but sources said what government officials were calling a “bus” manufacturing unit might actually be a production centre for light commercial vehicles.

Tata will not be the only one who will miss Bhattacharjee’s swearing-in. Some 3,000 invitations have been sent out for the ceremony that will take place at Raj Bhavan. Some 150 of them are industrialists like N.R. Narayana Murthy (Infosys), Azim Premji (Wipro), Benny Santoso (Salim), Naveen Jindal (Jindal Steel), Anand Mahindra (Mahindra and Mahindra) and the two Ambani brothers ' Mukesh and Anil.

Santoso is in US and will not be able to come. Neither of the Ambani brothers has confirmed attendance.

“We haven’t received any confirmations from the businessmen we’ve invited from outside Bengal yet. They’ve been asked to send us their response by May 17,” said an official of the commerce and industries ministry, which has been talking to them.

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