Tatas set 2-week Singur deadline

NEW DELHI: The top management of Tata Motors has reportedly indicated internally that the company will pull the plug on Singur, if the situation does not improve within the next fortnight.

According to sources, even though the company can possibly dismantle its Singur plant and install it somewhere else, it will definitely lose Rs 100-200 crore on account of expenses incurred in laying the foundation, besides the inevitable delay in full-scale production of the Nano.

Auto industry sources say that the Nano launch may not get affected by the agitation in Singur, because the first batch of around 4,000-5,000 cars is reportedly already ready at Tata Motors’ Pantnagar and Pune plants.

ET was the first to report that Pantnagar might be the alternative site option for the Nano in its edition dated November 29, 2007. When contacted, a Tata Motors spokesperson said: “We would not like to comment on speculation.” But even if the launch deadline is met, the overall rollout schedule will definitely get disrupted by the Singur agitation.

The mood in the company continues to be gloomy, as the top officials are upset at the turn that the agitation took as well as the personal attacks on Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata.

Sources in Singur say that agitators have blocked all trucks from entering not just Singur, but also Kolkata. As a result, all supplies to the plant site have been seriously affected. Meanwhile, Tata Motors officials are tight-lipped about the future of the project. However, sources add that the factory itself is a “readymade construction, which can be moved, though the plinth loss will be substantial”.

The real challenge, should the project move out, would be to transfer the hydraulic presses and the other bulky machinery.

Although no one in the company is officially “even thinking” about the next course of action should Singur come a cropper, sources say that one option for the company could be to crank out the first couple of batches of the Nano from Pantnagar and Pune before the new site is up and running. Mr Tata’s public announcement that he might pull the plug on Singur late last week attracted immediate counter offers from a number of state governments, including Maharashtra, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Uttaranchal.

The Rs 1,000-crore Nano plant in Singur has been in trouble right from the word go. When it was first announced late 2006, it sparked off protests in the area and ever since, the company has had to battle both the agitation and flooding in the plant site.

Currently, the bone of contention is 400 acres earmarked for the ancillary units of the project. The total project has been granted 1,000 acres by the state government on lease. The agitationists are pushing for the return of the 400 acres to farmers who are unwilling to give up their land for the project.

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