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Protests in India's West Bengal Threaten Car Factory

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The industrialist building the world's cheapest car is threatening to pull out of the Indian state of West Bengal if violent protests against his under-construction automobile factory do not cease. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

Indian industrialist Ratan Tata says his automotive manufacturer is prepared to quit West Bengal if demonstrations opposing his car plant continue.

Tata had planned to have the ultra-cheap four-door Nano vehicle in showrooms by October.

The chairman of the century-old family conglomerate met on Friday with officials of the Communist party-led state government to express his frustration, Afterwards Tata told reporters in Kolkata that West Bengal is risking getting a reputation with investors as a "trouble spot."

"It is for the people of West Bengal and Kolkata to decide whether we are going to be an unwanted resident or a good corporate citizen of West Bengal," he said.

The industrialist added that if the safety of his company's employees, equipment and investment cannot be guaranteed then the factory will have to be moved. He said $375 million has already been invested in the plant at Singur.

The factory is supposed to produce a quarter million vehicles a year. But there have been violent protests, backed by strong political opposition, over the appropriation of land for the Tata factory.
 
The leader of the state's main opposition Trinamool Congress political party, Mamata Banerjee, defends the protests, saying those who lost their land must be fairly compensated. She also told reporters Friday that Tata has been shown favoritism by the state government.

"Whatever has been giving to Tata should be given to other industrialists also," he said.

Banerjee's party insists that Tata make use of only 242 hectares of land and return an additional 162 hectares to farmers from whom property was forcibly taken.

Tata plans to sell its sub-compact automobile for the equivalent of $2,500. A prototype was unveiled earlier this year in New Delhi to huge fanfare.

 

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