Tata Motors may Return Singur Land, Won't Block Development

Kolkata, Sep 1 (IANS) Auto major Tata Motors, which pulled out its small car Nano project from Singur in West Bengal last October amid controversies, Tuesday said it would return the factory land to the state government if it was paid the money it had spent to set up the now-abandoned plant.

At the same time, it emphasised it would not stand in the way of any development on the land, the acquisition of which sparked off violent protests by a section of local farmers led by the main opposition party of the state, the Trinamool Congress.

"Our intention is not to stand in the way of any development that may take place in that place and we will cooperate with the state government to facilitate that to happen. We have no projects ourselves at this time," Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata told reporters after a meeting with state Industry Minister Nirupam Sen.

Earlier in the day, Tata said he expected compensation if the land was to be handed back.

"If they (the government) compensate the total investment we put into the land, we may return it," he told reporters on the sidelines of the annual general meeting of group company Tata Tea here.

"Right now, there are no plans regarding the Singur land. But we don't wish to sit on it," Tata said when asked about the group's plans around the plot after the project was shifted to Gujarat following protests.

"Whatever plan by the state government makes sense, we are okay with it," he said. "We are not submitting any proposal or expecting any proposal from the state government."

Before pulling out of West Bengal, Tata said, the company had pumped in Rs.1,500 crore on the project in Singur, 40 km from the state capital.

Singur had turned into a battleground since May 2006 after the Left Front-ruled state government announced the project to manufacture the world's least expensive car, priced at Rs.100,000 or $2,200, there.

Trinamool Congress-led protestors demanded return of 400 acres of land - of the 997.11 acres acquired - to farmers. Finally, Tata Motors moved the car project out to Gujarat last October.

Tata, however, said the group he heads would not exit West Bengal because of what happened in Singur.

"All our other investments in the state are going smooth. The feeling was other Tata projects in the state would be aborted. But it is not so. We are here."

The group has steel and construction equipment projects in West Bengal along with the Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital in New Town, Kolkata's satellite township, which Tata expects to open by next March.

"West Bengal continues to be in our heart. This hospital opening is just an indication to our commitment to this part of the country," he said.

Industry minister Sen said the land in Singur had been acquired for industrial purpose and that his government was keen on seeing projects there.

"We haven't got any project offer for that land yet," Sen added.


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Title: Tata Motors may Return Singur Land, Won't Block Development

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