on the ground, Shoma Chaudhury asked Ravi Kant,
MD, Tata Motors, some hard questions on the company’s role in
Singur. He fielded them all
1) How do you
read the situation in Singur? Has the government made mistakes? Have you
made mistakes? Would you do some things differently if you had the chance
follow a Tata Code of Conduct. This translates into being fair and
civic minded in all our projects
Ans: It is rather
unfortunate that the entire project has been dragged into a political
controversy. West Bengal was one of the states, which were keen to locate
the plant. As you would be aware there has been de-industrialisation
in the state for the last several decades, and the present government
is keen for rapid re-industrialisation. The state government showed
keenness to host the plant, rightly concluding that it will have a ripple
effect of attracting greater investment for rapid industrialisation.
Incidentally, we had the option of setting up the plant in some other
states as well, where major encouragements are being offered by the
We believe due process
of law has been followed in acquiring the land. This has been confirmed
by the High Court of Calcutta in its judgment of February 14. We also
learn that the state government has announced compensation, and a huge
majority of the affected people have already taken the compensation.
Importantly, at Singur, dwelling units of the affected people are outside
the acquired land and therefore they are not being displaced. The government
had shown us several plots, including some in and around Kolkata, from
which we chose the one which is most amenable to setting up the project
based on several considerations. You would be aware that we have chalked
out and have begun to implement a plan to integrate the community with
the project. The plan includes providing training to enhance employability
of people, supporting women in forming self-help groups to provide items
and services relevant for the plants, and general community development.
Panchayat leaders from Singur have visited our Jamshedpur plant have
seen for themselves what can be achieved. Since the beginning of construction
of the plant on January 21, hundreds from the local community are working
on the site every day. We are confident that as the project progresses,
people will begin to see even greater benefit. We are satisfied with
our decision to locate the project in Singur – it will help in
the revitalisation of the automotive industry in West Bengal.
2) Is there
a Tata code of conduct in business? Are there any general practices, situations,
unfair advantages other companies may be comfortable with, but you would
like to remain disassociated from?
Motors has not used state force, or caused it to be used. We believe
the local community is with us
Ans: True to the
tradition of the Tata Group, Tata Motors strictly adheres to the corporate
governance principles practised by the Tata Group.
It translates into
being fair and civic-minded, fulfilling its duties to the entire spectrum
of stakeholders, and, most importantly, making integrity an article
of faith across all its operations. These norms have been articulated
in the 'Tata Code of Conduct', which guides the actions and decisions
of the group's companies and employees. The ethics code in the Tata
Group covers much more than financial dealings – it sets out the
terms of transaction with customers, suppliers, vendors, shareholders,
and above all the community. It has been the tradition of the Tata Group
to ensure that its manufacturing centres and operations are beneficial
to communities, among which they exist. A project plan, from the very
beginning, is so conceived that it forges a bond with the community.
This has been our principle for Singur too.
This can be amply
demonstrated by visiting any of our plants, like Jamshedpur, Pune, or
are many questions being raised about your project in Singur. Some seem
very valid. Could you comment on them?
that the Tata Motors small car project is a private, profit making enterprise,
why has the government been used as an intermediary?
Ans: We wish to
point out that the land does not belong to the Tatas. The Government
of West Bengal has acquired the land for the West Bengal Industrial
Development Corporation (WBIDC), which will lease it. The state government
decided to follow this process, which we had no objection to. Every
state we were talking to had committed to give us land either acquired
or to be acquired by them. We do not see the acquisition by the West
Bengal government as an exception or something special done for us.
the government is spending close to Rs 140 crore of public funds to
acquire that land for your project. However, Tata will pay only Rs 20
crore back after 5 years of receiving the land, and at minimal interest.
How is this justified? Is the government a shareholder in the project?
Ans: The commercial
terms are not in the public domain, and therefore I will not comment
on whether your facts are correct or incorrect. The land is being leased
to us. It is part of the benefit, the state government is providing
to match incentives being offered by other competing states. As I have
said earlier, it is not an exception but in line with what other states
are willing to do in view of the long-term benefits being accrued to
Motors was apparently shown 4 other sites for the factory. What were
they? On what grounds were they rejected?
Ans: The Government
showed us several plots. Our expert team, considering the unique requirements
of the plant site, including physical characteristics, logistics, cost
etc, selected the plot in Singur.
have been demanding that the MOU between you and the government be made
public. Why is this not being done?
Ans: The Government
of West Bengal has stated its position on this issue.
is being acquired for your factory under the clause that it is for “public
purpose”? What is the “public purpose” of a car factory,
set up with the aim of earning private profit?
Ans: It is for the
government to explain. This is not the first time a government –
state or central – has acquired land for industrialisation and
has given it to private or public parties.
In Singur, besides
Tata Motors plant, several ancillaries are coming up on the land that
is being leased. Tata Motors itself is investing about Rs.1500 crores,
and the ancillaries will make additional investment.
The project, in
its totality, in Singur will restore to West Bengal, once one of the
three centres of auto manufacturing, a place in the industry’s
expanding map, gaining for the state a share of direct and indirect
benefits in employment creation and overall economic development supplementing
the advances in agriculture. The project includes some of the best-known
names from the auto component industry, who will set up facilities,
in the adjacent vendor park. It is not inconceivable how this first
initiative can induce a whole host of other organisations, cutting across
industries, to recognise the attractiveness of the state. This actually
has been noticed in recent times in Uttaranchal, where the entry of
one company has induced several others to follow suit.
lead to ancillarisation, support industries and services, thereby leading
to a multiplier effect, through small scale units, a variety of services
on overall economic development, much beyond the project area.
In the next 10 years,
the automobile industry will generate an additional 25 million jobs
across the country. The investments we are talking about will help the
state get a share of this job creation.
car factories take up only 300 acres or less. Why are you acquiring
997 acres? What use is that land gong to be put to? Why is all of it
being subsidized by the government?
Ans: Out of the
about 997 acres of land that is being acquired by the West Bengal government,
the Tata Motors small car factory will be set up on around 650 acres.
The remaining about 300 acres would be used for setting up the vendor
park, where ancillaries will set up their plants. These are the auto
component manufacturers who would be supplying the critical parts for
the small car. They are free to supply to other organisations as well.
7) The other
clause in the Land Acquisition Act being used in your favour is the
“socio-economic development” of the region. Singur is already
a rich, self-sufficient, agrarian economy. Your project will evict thousands
of farmers and landless labours. The compensation will turn their rich,
perennial capital of land to pretty meager temporary monetary wealth.
Turn a rooted agrarian economy to floating migrant urban population.
How can this be deemed socio economic development?
Ans: The acquired
plot excludes homesteads. So no resident of Singur is getting displaced.
Secondly, farming there mostly employed seasonal labour. In contrast,
the project will generate in the initial few years, over 10,000 jobs
which are not seasonal.
8) If you
claim governmental subsidies on the grounds of “public purpose
and socio-economic development”, are you not morally bound to
set up factories in backward regions? Why take up prime land close to
a metropolis and existing infrastructure? Why do you need to be subsidized
to do his?
Ans: Tata Motors
and Tata Group have historically invested in setting up facilities when
none existed. Jamshedpur, Pune, Babrala, Mithapur and recently Uttranchal
are examples of manufacturing facilities set up by Group companies which
have had a very positive impact on the local economy and the well-being
of people living in the area.
9) How many
jobs do you envisage your factory will create? What kind of people will
it employ? What is the break-up of this? How many local people will
it be able to absorb?
Ans: The Tata Motors’
plant operation is expected to create employment in excess of 10,000
direct and indirect jobs within the plant, amongst vendors and service
providers in the vicinity. Essential to generating employment for the
Singur community is enhancing employability.
Tata Motors is initiating
various steps to train people of the Singur villages, who had earlier
registered with the WBIDC, to improve their employability. It has already
selected a batch of individuals, on the basis of a test and interview,
for extensive 6-month training. Another group of residents of Singur,
selected by the WBIDC, is at present being trained by the Ramakrishna
Shilpa Mandir (Belur). The company is in the process of organising more
extensive training for them based on a selection process. Arrangements
will also be made to impart relevant training to other individuals,
in the WBIDC list, appropriate to their educational background and skills
and based on a selection process.
As part of the project,
Tata Motors will also organise groups of women from Singur families
and enable them to produce various items, which will be required during
the construction phase and when the Tata Motors and vendor plants are
operational. Last week, the first self-help group of women from Singur
villages started a canteen to supply food for the Tata Motors Small
Car project site. This is part of the company’s plan to increase
income-generation for the families. Other such group activities could
include tailoring to manufacture personal gear, cable harnessing, electronic
The Tata Group
has also decided to support community development in the area. Plans
are to establish a community centre, offer support in primary health,
factory will only be able to create 1000 jobs, if that. Not all of these
jobs will be awarded to local people. The project will displace at least
11,000 families, i.e., an average of 44,000 people, conservatively speaking.
The government has no rehabilitation plan for them. Are you comfortable
Ans: There is no
displacement of families or houses in the acquisition of the land. The
project will generate over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs. Our focus
is on enhancing employability as well as creating opportunities for
has been violence and police action, and section 144 in Singur. Are
you comfortable associating with this? Why have you not taken the initiative
to speak to villagers and build consensus rather than use State force
to wall off the land.
Ans: Tata Motors
has not used state force, or caused it to be used. In fact, for some
time now, Tata Motors has been directly engaging with the Singur community,
and we find overwhelming support for the project. The participation
of people from the villages in the construction of the plant, the participation
of women in starting the self-help group for food supply indicates that.
are 56,000 factories in Bengal lying defunct. People want to know why
new industries cannot be started in those places. What is your response
Ans: I think it
would be best for the West Bengal Government to answer it.
in Singur say they would have welcomed agro-industries in the region,
something related to the local economy rather than a car factory that
displaces their economy to set up something else. Would you concede
some fairness in this?
Ans: As I have stated
and what we see on the ground is that people of Singur have welcomed
our project – they are actively participating in it.
have been reports that Tata feels the opposition in Singur has been
engineered by rival companies and political parties. Even if that were
really the case, the questions posed here still remain valid to a neutral
party like me. Would you concede that?
Ans: We would not
like to say anything beyond what our Chairman, Mr. Ratan Tata, has already
stated on the aspect.
continuing with economic reforms, would you agree the time has come
to rethink some of the directions the new economy is moving in?
Ans: There has
to be continuous thinking on how we can learn and improve. It is important
to look at issues and developments on a continuous basis.
resistance to SEZs and industrial plants and projects across the country
is being projected as a factory vs. farm, industry vs agriculture divide.
How do you see it? Would you agree people’s resistance is against
the arbitrary processes involved rather than to industry itself? Amongst
reformers and capitalists, there is often very easy talk about “collateral
damage”, the “pain” of growth. What is your view on
Ans: Any kind of
change will evoke concerns. It is important to engage with the community
and give them the confidence that the change will impact their lives
projects have run into violent resistance at Kalinganagar and Chattisgarh.
What are your learnings from all this?
Ans: The violence
in the protest has always been beyond our understanding. However, what
is important is the change management that has helped people to appreciate
the genuine efforts put by the Group in enhancing the quality of life
of the local community.