The stalemate for Tata Motors in Singur continues. To make things worse, political bigwigs like Amar Singh and Medha Patkar have also joined in the protests against the Tata factory. Twenty -one protest platforms have come up near the factory site.The bone of contention is the 400-acre piece of land that was meant to construct ancillary units for the Tata factory. The Trinamool Congress-led protestors are demanding that the land should be returned to the farmers who were made to forfeit their property against their wishes. Tata Motors, however, maintains that all the sites were legally acquired.

Faced with uncertainty regarding the prospects of its Nano project worth one lakh , Tata Motors has a tough decision to make: should it continue the project in an area where violent agitations have marred its activities and production targets or should it pull out of a project in which it has already invested around Rs. 1500 crore?

In the recently held Annual General Meeting of Tata Tea Ltd., Ratan Tata has clearly indicated that he would not hesitate to pull out if the disturbance continues. The protests are also making a dent on the company’s brand image as Tata Motors is fast acquiring the image of a corporate bully trying to push its way against the wishes of the locals. Further, Nano suppliers have also become apprehensive of their investment in West Bengal.

Though the controversy has not had any major impact on the price of the company’s shares, Tata Motors is keen to sort out the issue as soon as it can. The company has sought the intervention of the West Bengal government to solve the dispute. The presence of the Nano factory in West Bengal provides a much-needed opportunity to the state to make a comeback in the industrial sector, where it has admittedly been stagnating in recent times. However, the government is also wary of creating another Nandigram in Singur. Judging by the intensity of the Mamata Bannerjee-led protests in the region, such a possibility cannot be completely ruled out.

Conspiracy theorists have often alleged that the Singur imbroglio is the product of a clandestine agreement between the government of West Bengal and the Tata group. In spite of getting several lucrative offers from many parts of the country, the group chose West Bengal as the hub of its operations for the world’s cheapest car that is set to revolutionize the Indian automobile industry. Rumours abound that the decision was made as a result of the cheap- and perhaps illegal – land deal that was offered to the Tatas by the state government.

The fresh wave of protests takes special significance in view of the fact that states like Maharashtra, Orissa and Uttarakhand have indicated their willingness to relocate the Nano factory premises in their states. The West Bengal government has the onerous task of trying to prevent the situation from deteriorating into a Nandigram-like scenario and at the same time, convincing the Tatas to remain in the state. Whether the government succeeds in its motive remains to be seen. Till then, the protest platforms will remain intact.

Namrata Singh