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Corporate Crimes & Nano

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, October 10, 2008 | 7:17 AM

Note:Let us first examine the relation between corporate funding of political parties of all colours and their patronage for certain industrial houses before jumping at any conclusion. What else can explain the silence over the massacre in Kalinganagar where TATA's project is sought to be bulldozed down people's throat. Does anyone care to remember the mutilated bodies of the people who did not wish to give their land for TATA project.

The complicity of chief ministers of Orissa, West Bengal and Gujarat with TATA Group is quite manifest. While all the parties and media channels are busy with street crimes, it is high time we showed the courage to seek justice for corporate crimes. Will anyone explain why was Lt. Colonel Pratap Save who led the Kinara Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (Save the Coast Action Committee) killed on 8 April 2000 killed in the police custody under the supervision of one Dr Narendra Amin, SP, Gujarat Police? Lt Col. Save was instrumental in the withdrawal of Unocal, an American company, which had earlier been selected by the Gujarat government to develop the Maroli-Umbergaon port.

In the absence of a rule whereby government funds election campaign expenses of political parties, the incidents of Kalinganagar, Nandigram, Singur, Umbergaon and may be Sanand follow a pattern and maintain a status quo.

How Gujarat managed to bag the Nano deal
R N Bhaskar 09 October , 2008
How Gujarat managed to bag the Nano deal

More than a century ago, Jamsetji Tata had donated Rs 1,000 to develop milch cattle and grazing land for the British army around a 1 km patch in Sanand, 35 km from Ahmedabad.

It was a huge amount of money then. Over a hundred years later, the descendants of the sons of soil remembered the gesture.

But much before that, the Nano deal had almost slipped through Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s hands.

Gujarat Inc welcomes Nano

There were three states shortlisted by Tata Motors for the Nano small car project —- Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Gujarat wasn’t hotly pursued till just a fortnight ago.

When the Tata team met senior officials of the state in the third week of September, they were sure the deal would not go through. Both regions were familiar to the group as Tata Chemicals has a sprawling complex at Mithapur, which makes soda ash and salt.

Then there is the ultra mega power project of 4,000 mw that the Tatas are setting up at Mundra, using the coal import terminal of Mundra Port. What appealed to the team was that land was available aplenty. The port would allow them to import steel and other raw materials at very low cost even from overseas. Transporting the same over land would cost thrice as much.

Then there was the added benefit of power —- the Tatas could draw on power from their own plant in Mundra or from the Tata Chemicals power plant at Mithapur.

Wheeling in power this way is permitted by the Gujarat Government. But talks later floundered on the issue of financial incentives.

'Tata's Gujarat deal will strengthen auto industry'

Modi did not want to disrupt the level playing field he had managed to create for all industry in Gujarat over the years. After all, he had recently even gone on record to say Gujarat would not offer backward-area incentives any more.

Implicit in the statement was the realisation that “backward region” was a slur, and that when concessions were pushed beyond a point, they hurt companies that didn’t benefit. Not the recipe for a “Vibrant Gujarat”.

That being the case, senior state officials thought there was slim chance of pulling in the project. Then three things happened. One, conditions did not improve at Singur.

Two, when the Tata Motors team visited Andhra Pradesh, they were confronted by agitated farmers who did not want to part with their land. That was scary for the Tata folk. Maharashtra automatically became the choice, but the Tatas got mixed signals from several quarters.

And there was also the vexatious due-process that the state administration wanted to follow, which would have derailed the Nano deadline. Gujarat, thus, became the only way out.

Two weeks back, the Tata Motors team re-visited the state. This time they decided to rule out both Bhuj and Kutch, primarily because they had lost a great deal of time and didn’t want to revisit the place.

Also, there was no time to build a township for workers and their families in these sparsely populated regions. Children of the workforce needed good schools so a location near a city became critical. As soon as the Tata team presented its wish list, the Gujarat administration went into the war room, as it were.

The answer to its quest was found in Sanand, 25 km from Ahmedabad. Fortunately, over 2,000 acres of land lying there belonged to the state’s Agricultural University, and hence to the government.

It was land that was meant for grazing, but was good enough to support industrial activity.

Tata's Nano from Gujarat

Could the government carve out 1,000 acres out of this for Tata Motors?

Yes, it could.

The Gujarat team began listing out other advantages. The location was close to the Charodi railway station, it was just 200 km from Rajkot, where the best engineering workforce can be found.

Ports were just 300-400 km away from both Pipavav and Mundra (Mundra had the edge given its container depots for vehicles - Maruti uses them - and a huge ro-ro (or roll on, roll off) terminal for loading and unloading vehicles).

Then there was a 6-lane highway just 1 km away from the land earmarked for Tata Motors. If the Tatas gave the go-ahead, the State could acquire this kilometer of land, too. Last week, Tatas gave their go-ahead. In less than 24 hours, the 1,000 acres owned by the state were transferred to the Tatas at market rate.

The farmers owning the 1 km stretch were approached by the State, which offered double the market price for their land. Some dogged persuasion followed, and there was high emotion when Jamsetji Tata’s Rs 1,000 donation a hundred years ago was brought up.

Sentiment, better price, and awareness that the market price of adjoining land would rise with the Tata Motors plant coming up combined to convince the farmers to sell. Once Gujarat sealed the deal, the Nano project was ready to roll, finally. It was time for Narendra Modi to crow —- and deservingly so.
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