Crushed: Cogs in Nano wheel - Support troops begin to evacuate

Read more below

By IMRAN AHMED SIDDIQUI
  • Published 26.09.08
  •  

Singur, Sept. 25: Ratan Tata has Pune, Pantnagar and a host of other options. But Pronob Chatterjee has hardly any.

The 35-year-old “subcontractor” from nearby Seoraphuli has defaulted on two EMI payments of Rs 1.5 lakh each to his bank because work has stopped at the Nano site.

Chatterjee had bought two road rollers and a dredger — machines needed for construction — at Rs 65-70 lakh seven months ago after taking bank loans, thinking he could make a killing from the Tata project. He had leased his machines to two contractors at the site, who paid him over Rs 2.5 lakh every month in rent.

Today Chatterjee took one of his road rollers out of the complex, having located a nearby construction site where the builders were willing to rent his machine. But he doesn’t know how much rent he will be getting and for how long.

“I have to pay an EMI of Rs 1.5 lakh but have defaulted for the past two months since payments are outstanding. The bank has given me several reminders. I had requested the contractor to allow me to take the machine out, and he agreed today,” Chatterjee said.

He isn’t alone. At least two dozen people in and around Hooghly had taken bank loans and bought machinery, venturing into the subcontracting business for the first time in their lives after the Tatas came to Singur, said Radheshyam, a subcontractor from Chinsurah.

Some of the bigger contractors, too, have been moving machinery out and the Tatas have formally asked a few vendors to shift from Singur, but the conditions of those like Chatterjee are the worst of all.

“We don’t know whether we would ever be able to pay the EMIs,” Radheshyam said.

At least four to five of the subcontractors are from Singur. Gopal Karmakar of Ratanpur, about 1km from the Nano plant, had bought three Hydra cranes at about Rs 1 crore and rented them out. His brother Bikas had bought 10 dumpers. They moved some of their machinery out yesterday.

An officer at Singur police station said the subcontractors had been shifting machines and material over the past few days, but the process gained momentum from yesterday afternoon.

Today, some 15 lorries and matadors took away cranes, welding machines, road rollers, dredgers, beams — even chairs — from the Nano project area. Kanhaiya Lal Shaw’s company moved out its four welding machines, leased to the factory for the past one year, on a matador.

“What is the use of being held up here without getting paid?” Shaw said. “We have got a contract in Himadri Chemicals and these machines will be required there.”

The news of machines leaving the complex has deepened the gloom of many other villagers, already fearful of losing their jobs at the factory.

“We are jobless now and do not know how we will survive. We plan to go to Mumbai and Delhi after the pujas to work in factories,” said Tarun Santra, 27, of Joymollah village, from where over 40 youths worked as day labourers at the Nano site.

Gobinda Santra, a schoolteacher and resident of Pakirapara at Joymollah, said: “We have lost our land and accepted the compensation money with the hope that our children would find jobs in the factory. But now that hope has been dashed.”

A few landlosers had a different take. “We cannot let the government take our land without a better compensation package,” said Atanu Ghosh of Gopalnagar.

About 200 Save Farmland Committee supporters staged a dharna today in front of the block development office in Singur from 3pm to 5pm as part of the Trinamul Congress’s state-wide Singur Divas programme.