Sunday, August 31

It Happens Only In India

Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group had a vision. He had seen the struggle of the Indian middle-class, a family of four traveling on a two-wheeler. He wanted to provide succor to the millions of such families. He wanted to give them a car that would be affordable, safe, meet pollution norms and of course be fuel efficient. Tata’s brainchild, came to life, christened as “Nano.” Tata accredited this to the teamwork. I agree and look on in awe.

But it did not end there. Nano was confronted with many hurdles. From skeptics in the industry who questioned the feasibility of such a project to environmentalists who cried hoarse about the potential pollution boogey that would rear its ugly head. Tata and his team of young engineers and designers silenced all critics convincingly.

But, they were not prepared for the Singur hurdle. I guess they had shot themselves in their foot by completely depending upon the current West Bengal government.

Majority of the land acquired by the West Bengal government for the factory did not belong to the people who tilled the land. The land owners had rented out the land to laborers and sharecroppers.  Hence, when the government acquired the land, the hardest hit were these laborers and sharecroppers. They had no-where else to go as the landowners got the moolah from the government, while these sharecroppers were left staring at the wrong end of the barrel. Their only means of livelihood taken away, they became prime targets for the opposing politicians in the state. These politicians played on their emotions and caused a civil rift in the small village of Singur and its surroundings.

I can understand the plight and anger of these people whose livelihood was stolen from them. I can understand their fight for their livelihood. But I also understand that these people would end up losing any way. It is the politicians who are playing this dirty game who are to gain from this.

And the biggest losers are the Tata’s. They are currently mulling to pull out of Singur and construct the plant elsewhere. Their initial move to set up the plant in West Bengal was a leap of faith and a sign of their confidence in the leadership in the state. I think they are paying dearly now. The delay would cost them dear. Spiraling steel prices and inflation would make it difficult to sell the Nano at Rs 1 lakh.

But if you would ask me, the real losers are we: Indians. Here was a vision by one man envied by the rest of the world. Yet we, Indians are the ones who are derailing this vision. As someone had rightly pointed out, it happens only in India.


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