Controversy has dogged Tata Motors' Rs 100,000-car project at Singur right from the beginning. With Trinamool Congress, under the aegis of Mamata Banerjee, spearheading the movement against allegedly wrong acquisition of land from the farmers of Singur and the Bengal intelligentsia lending a supporting hand, rumours were agog that the Tatas would pull out of Singur.
Debasis Ray, head, corporate communications, Tata Motors, not only dismissed such claims but also provided some useful information about the small car project. He spoke to Senior Associate Editor Indrani Roy Mitra in Singur.
Why did the Tatas choose Singur for the car plant?
This particular area is most amenable for setting up a factory. Singur's topographical location and its proximity to Kona Expressway, one of the best roads of West Bengal, easily make it the finest spot for setting up the car unit.
Tatas are always known to have a very clean image. They do not like controversy. However, they have not backed out of Singur despite the odds. Why?
Our conscience is very clear as far as this project is concerned. When protests poured in from every direction, we asked ourselves: Are we doing anything wrong? Our minds answered in the negative and therein lay the foundation of the project.
Could you please tell us about the financial deal between the Tatas and the West Bengal government?
No comments. I can only say that the total investment is likely to be over Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion), including direct investment by Tata Motors and its vendors.
Those protesting against the project claim that acquisition of farmlands in Singur have resulted in unemployment. Your comment.
Such an allegation is untrue. The Tata project will directly and indirectly create about 10,000 jobs, while Tata Motors itself will generate about 2,000 jobs. I wonder why those against us are not looking into it.
As a matter of fact about 300-odd jobs have already been created since January 21, as people of Singur are busy building the boundary walls of the proposed factory.
Tata Motors' contractors and sub-contractors are deploying people from the area on various skilled and unskilled assignments. The response is indicative of the benefits of the project, as also its acceptance in the community.
It is often alleged that 900-odd acres of land is too huge an area for the proposed Tata factory. What do you have to say about that?
This allegation too is baseless. For, we not only plan to build a factory but a huge complex, which will house it. If you want to ask me whether we would sell a part of the acquired land to the realtors, the answer is a vehement no. We need the exact amount of land that has been acquired. There is no foul play.
Tatas are promising a job a family for the farmers and tillers of Singur whose lands have been bought over. How do these farmers fit into a manufacturing plant?
Tata Motors is initiating various steps to train people of Singur villages, who had earlier registered with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, to improve their employability. People in the area will be trained and the training will vary according to an individual's educational qualification and skills.
Training will be imparted in areas like house-keeping, gardening, canteen service, carpentry, plumbing, electricity and welding. Those preferring self-employment will be taught the skills to set up kiosks for vegetables, fruits, laundry shops and cycle repair units.
Have such training programmes started?
On December 25, a batch of 30 ITI-trained local youth was called for a written technical test. They had earlier registered their names at the WBIDC Singur camp office.
On January 4, Tata Motors announced the names of 11 trainees from among those who appeared for the test. The company will give them an extensive 6-month training. The company will provide them hostel accommodation and pay a monthly stipend during the training. On successful completion of the programme, the trainees will be eligible for employment in the small car project.
The candidates who did not qualify in the December 25 examination will they be trained in other areas to enhance their employability?
Another group of 179 residents of Singur, selected by the WBIDC, are at present being trained by the Ramakrishna Shilpa Mandir (Belur).
How do you plan to employ the women of the area?
Tata Motors is organising groups of women from Singur to supply food for the construction workers.
Women will be trained in activities like tailoring, making gloves, garments, food products (pickles, condiments etc), handicrafts, cable harnessing and electronic items so that they too can contribute to their families' income.
Tata Motors will also undertake direct social development activities like setting up community centres, primary health care units, supporting primary and secondary schools.
Please tell us something about the car prototype.Though we are not supposed to divulge the details, we can only say it will be a four- to five seater car with a rear engine and will run on petrol to start with. We would prefer to leave the rest to your imagination.