The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tatas push, Buddha preaches

Calcutta, Sept. 27: As the Buddha proclaimed like Jesus — “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”, or a variation of it — not everyone seemed to be in a merciful mood.

Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant said from Pune that if Bengal could not provide the land by the end of this year, the company could look at locations elsewhere.

The threat would have struck Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee like a sharp nail at other times but, with Mamata Banerjee hitting the warpath over land acquisition in Singur where the Tata factory is to come up, it will be more like a hammer blow.

On paper, the administration today handed over the land, about 1,000 acres, to the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC), the agency that, in turn, will transfer it to the Tatas. But the process can only be said to have been completed when possession is taken.

Kant said the company was under tremendous pressure to meet the deadline to bring the Rs 1-lakh car to the market by 2008.

He said land should have been handed over by now whereas the Bengal government expects to wrap up the acquisition after the Pujas. That is quick by any standards because the process started only about two months ago.

Kant, obviously, doesn’t think so. “We are treating Bengal in a very special manner. We had other options. For instance, we could have gone to Uttaranchal,” he said when asked if any other state could have done a better job with land acquisition.

The news wasn’t all bad from Pune, though.

When asked in Writers’ Buildings if the Mamata-led agitation suggested that the Opposition did not wish Bengal to develop, the chief minister forgave them using Jesus’s words.

Addressing the concerns about farmers losing their occupation in the context of this agitation, Tata Motors promised to “do more in Bengal than anywhere else” by way of corporate social responsibility.

Kant said a number of schemes had been prepared for the local people to improve their employability. “We want to connect to society,” he said.

Under the schemes, a two-week programme will be started for early dropouts to train them in non-skilled jobs like gardening. Tata Motors will also help set up a cooperative for women for tailoring.

While Kant announced these plans, in Singur the government started distributing pamphlets to spread the word as cheques continued to be given out to farmers who have handed over land.

The WBIDC and Ramakrishna Mission will offer vocational courses for members of families who have given up land. In the first phase, training will be offered in house wiring and electrical gadget repairing, welding and fabrication, machine operation and auto mechanics.

“There is now a glimmer of hope. I am sure my son will find a job at the Tata Motors’ factory,” Sujit Das, 87, said in Singur.

A WBIDC official, however, warned: “We do not guarantee a job as the decision rests entirely with the Tatas.”

See Bengal

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