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Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Saturday, 4 October 2008 14:34 UK

Anger over Tata car factory move

Mr Ratan Tata at the launch of Nano car
Mr Tata unveiled the car in January

Thousands of people have been protesting in the Indian state of West Bengal after the Tata group abandoned its plans to manufacture cars there.

Tata, one of India's leading industrial groups, had planned to make what it said would be the world's cheapest car, the Nano, at a factory in Singur.

But the project was disrupted by a row over land on which the plant was built.

Tata's decision to find an alternative location for the plant met with dismay from thousands of its supporters.

After weeks of sustained and sometimes violent protests, Tata announced on Friday that it would scrap the venture and shift production of the Nano elsewhere.

"You cannot run a plant when bombs are being thrown," said the firm's chairman, Ratan Tata. "You cannot run a plant when workers are being intimidated."

The plant was seen as a key part of efforts to regenerate what was once India's most industrialised state, but which is now one of its least developed.

This is a black day for Bengal
Industry Minister Nirupam Sen

Protests

Local supporters of Tata's West Bengal project were bitterly disappointed with the decision and thousands of them took to the streets around the plant.

Some were armed with sticks and iron bars and they blocked roads and disrupted traffic.

Among them were labourers and contractors who had hoped that the Tata factory would provide them with sustained employment.

They vowed to take on those who had opposed the plant, and effigies were burnt of the opposition leader, Mamata Banerji, who was a major force in the campaign against it.

For her part Ms Banerji has accused Tata of conspiring with her political rivals to discredit her.

"We had stopped the agitation for more than a month, so why are the Tatas pulling out now?" she said.

Uncertain future

Meanwhile the state authorities have greeted the collapse of the project with dismay.

"This is a black day for Bengal," said the Industry Minister, Nirupam Sen. "We will have so much more difficulty getting investment now."

Local economists and others have expressed similar misgivings.

An editorial in the Indian Express newspaper talked of Tata's withdrawal as being a grave loss for West Bengal.

"A door to its future has just closed," it said.

Controversy over the project was seen as a reflection of wider tensions in India.

Efforts to acquire land for factories have run into opposition from farming communities in a number of places.

The battle over the site at Singur on the outskirts of Calcutta was particularly high-profile and seen as something of a test case.


SEE ALSO
The joy of nano
11 Jan 08 |  Magazine
Protests close Nano car factory
29 Aug 08 |  South Asia
Work stopped at Nano car factory
02 Sep 08 |  Business
Tata abandons cheapest car plant
03 Oct 08 |  South Asia

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