Ratan Tata, India`s top industrialist
AN INDIAN court ruled today that West Bengal state had acted legally in reclaiming land where a car plant had been planned, in a decision seen as a significant defeat for big business.Tata Motors had wanted to build a factory at the Singur site near Kolkata, but it pulled out in 2008 after violent protests by activists and evicted farmers who claimed they had been poorly compensated.The clash between industrial expansion and small landowners has become a key test of how India deals with the massive economic development transforming the country over recent years.Tata moved its plant for the Nano, billed as the world’s cheapest new car, to Gujarat, which has attracted investment from companies around the world due to its business-friendly policies.At the same time Tata, India’s leading vehicle maker, wanted to retain the 1,000-acre (400-hectare) Singur site, where it pumped $350m (£223.81m) into the factory which was 90 per cent complete when abandoned.But the High Court in Kolkata ruled that the new West Bengal government, elected in May, was within its rights to reclaim the site from Tata.The court added that Tata was free to apply for compensation, which would be set by a district judge.“Today’s verdict is a historic verdict,” West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters. “Agitation of the farmers in Singur has not only shown the path to other parts of India, but also to the whole world.”She said the site would be partially developed and the rest returned to farmers who did not want to leave their land.Banerjee’s regional Trinamool Congress party was at the forefront of the angry protests in 2008 and it campaigned in the state elections on the promise of reclaiming the Singur land.Tata said today it would review the court’s decision.
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