By Gladson Dungdung
1 July, 2008
According to the latest report, the Tata’s lakh takiya car “Nano”, exaggerated as the people’s car is all set to roll out from Singur factory in October 2008. The “Nano” made Ratan Tata the chairman of the Tata steel, one of the top business titans in the world. The Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh was also quite impressed while attending the Tata Centenary Celebrations at Jamshedpur on April 22, 2008. He coined the Tata Steel as a symbol of growth of Indian industry. He was tireless in appreciating the Tata’s leadership, wealth and employment generation. But is there everything goody-goody about the Tata? One must have to analyze the ground realities to know the foul play of the business titan.
In the first time, the Tata’s real inhuman face was seen in Kalinga Nagar of Orissa in January 2, 2006, where 14 Adivasis had been shot dead by the police while fighting against the Tata steel to protect their lands and livelihoods resources. Ironically, the Tata is still attempting to execute the project. An Adivasi activist Amin Banara was also killed by the bullets of the TATA goons on May 1, 2008 in Kalinga Nagar and there is still tense in the areas as the Tata has deployed dozen of well armed people. They roam in the project areas in motorcycles and abuse, threaten and terrorize the villagers.
The chairman of the Tata Steel, Ratan Tata says that his company is not driven to grow “over anybody’s dead body”. But he was again unmasked in Singur, which was unrest for a month during land acquisition for the Tata Moters in 2006. But even after the huge people’s resistance, the Tata flgged off its small car plant in January 21, 2007. The bhumi puja for the plant was held at the site, a large numbers of police were deployed and the prohibitory order under Section 144 CrPC was enforced. The District Magistrate of Hoogly, Vinod Kumar, justified it by saying that the order was enforced because there was a need to keep the situation under control.
The Tata Motors needs 1000 acre of land in Singur for manufacturing 1 lakh "Nano" cars per annum with the estimated investment of Rs. 1,000. The question comes into one’s mind is why are people opposing Tata’s Singur project though it proposes to manufacture the peole’s car “Nano”? The major reason is the Singur is the most fertile land in West Bengal, where thousands of agriculture families depend for their livelihoods. According to the Minister of Commerce and Industry Nirupam Sen the Tatas were shown five sites including the Singur farmland, which produces four crops annually and they selected it.
The most important point is one must have to check whether the Tata Motors really need 1000 acres of land for its “Nano” car factory? This question arises because the India’s largest automobile factory, Maruti, has an area of only 300 acres in Gurgaon, where the company produces 5 lakhs cars per annum. Therefore it is doubtful that why the Tata need 1000 acres of land for producing merely one lakh “Nano” cars per year. Does the Tata want to make a farm house after snatching land from the farmers? Why the Tata is not ready to take land in other places? And does the Tata want to establish its imperialism in Singur therefore they need such a huge land?
The former Land Reforms Commissioner of West Bengal, Debabrata Bandyopadhyaya says that the Tatas have declared that they would not open an automobile factory in West Bengal unless they are given this land. He questions, “Does Singur have any other auxiliary industries? Henry Ford did not set up his automobile factory in Singur. The Mercedes Benz Company does not manufacture their cars in Singur. Therefore, it is nonsensical to suggest that car factories cannot be located anywhere other than in Singur, he added.
The Tata also cheated the Adivasis of Jamshedpur (who became slum dwellers due to displacement) while signing the renewal lease agreement in August 20, 2005. The Tata had promised them to keep out the land of scheduled areas in renewal lease agreement, where 85 slums are situated and they were hopping to get the entitlement on it. But the sky fell on them when they were asked to leave the areas last year. They filed an RTI petition to know the real status of the land. They were informed by the Collector that the according to renewal agreement, the Tata steel has been given 4391.86.22 hectare of land including the land of the scheduled areas at the rate of Rs 2 to Rs. 400 per acres (the current rate of land in Jamshedpur is Rs 2 to 3 crore per acre) for the next 30 years. They are stunned to know the Tata's hidden inhuman face.
According to a senior Journalist Faisal Anurag, the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act was ready in 1904 but it was not enacted because of the Tata’s steel plant was in pipeline therefore it would have been very difficult for the Tata to acquire land for the plant as the CNT Act 1908 prohibits sale and transfer of the Adivasis' land. But Tata was given the land of scheduled areas and the CNT Act was enforced in 1908 after the establishment of the Tata steel in 1907”. The Adivasis were completely betrayed by the government and the Tata steel also betrayed them during renewal agreement, he added.
The Tata also gets huge tax exemption from the government each and every year. But when it violated the norms, the Jharkhand state government had asked the Tata to pay sale tax of Rs 60 crore in 2003. But instead of paying tax the Tata Steel challenged the order of the Commissioner before the Jharkhand High Court. After hearing the matter, the court remanded the same to the Commissioner to decide on the issue. The Tata again filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court. Finally, the Tata was given the benefit of tax exemption of Rs 60 crore. It clearly shows that the Tata can never be the people’s Tata, it can only do the business for profit.
The Tata steel claims of spending about 66 percent of the profits in CSR programmes through its NGOs - Tata Steel Rural Development Society, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Chemicals, Tata Tea's education programme and Tata Relief Committee. But in reality, the whole benefit goes to its employees and the actual beneficiaries get nothing out of it. The Adivasis and Moolvasi, who have lost their lands, forests, livelihood resources, culture and identity due to the Tata steel, do not get the taste of the Tata’s welfare programmes, their grievances never become the media headlines and even do not get the PM's attention in the welfare state. But the corporate houses like Tatas are always privileged even after playing the foul.
Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist associated with the "Child Rights and You". He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org