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Page last updated at 14:28 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 15:28 UK

Protests close Nano car factory

People marching outside the car factory
The plant has been besieged by protesters and farmers

The factory in eastern India where the world's cheapest car, the Nano, is being built was closed on Friday.

Workers stayed away, reportedly on the orders of executives from the factory owners, Tata.

Tata has faced violent protests and political opposition over the acquisition of farmland for the factory in Singur in the state of West Bengal.

The protests began after the state government took away hundreds of acres of farmland for the factory.

A Tata spokesman said the company was "assessing the situation as of now".

'Evicted'

Tata, which is one of India's biggest firms, plans to launch the Nano later this year, priced at about $2,500 (1,370).

The government acquired 997 acres for the plant - which it says is 85% complete - but activists insist the project needs only about 600 acres and are demanding the return of the rest of the land.

Earlier, Becharam Manna, a member of the Save Farmland Committee, said no-one would be allowed to enter Tata's plant on Friday. He also said poor farmers were forcibly evicted to make way for the factory, and want the land returned.

Mr Manna said that protesters would surround the plant and lay siege on roads across West Bengal.

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said he was ready for talks with farmers but could not return the portion of land they were demanding, as it was earmarked for ancillary units and their loss would make the project unviable.

Tata's owner, Ratan Tata, has previously said he will consider moving production of the Nano out of West Bengal if unrest around the plant continues.

More than 3,600 employees had to be escorted by police out of the Singur factory on Thursday, after political activists and farmers threatened to assault them if they returned.




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