Singur Update: Farmer commits suicide, Tata sheilds “trade secret”, faces resistance in Sanand, Gujarat

Farmer suicide in Singur – Dec 2, 2008

A sharecropper who had apparently lost work after nearly 1,000 acres were acquired for Tata Motors hanged himself today.

Bholanath Patra’s wife Shyamali said the family had six cottahs outside the factory site, but that was too little. “After he lost his job, we found it difficult to arrange two square meals a day. He started working in a cold storage unit but his health began to fail,” said Shyamali, a mother of two in Bajemelia.

Hooghly superintendent of police Rajeev Mishra said the 42-year-old farmer “was suffering from depression because of failing health”.

Bholanath was a Save Farmland Committee member during the height of the anti-Tata agitation. “Around noon, he locked himself in the bathroom. When he did not come out even after repeated knocking, I called villagers,” said Shyamali.

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Tata bid to shield agreement between company and West Bengal – Dec 2, 2008

Tata Motors moved a writ petition in the high court today challenging the state information commissioner’s decision to read out the entire agreement between the company and the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) for the Singur plant in an open court.

The company’s lawyer, Samaraditya Pal, told the court: “If the entire agreement is made public, the concept of trade secret will be hard hit.”

In mid-September, Tata Motors had moved court against the WBIDC’s decision to post parts of the agreement on its website following the commissioner’s order.

The court had then asked the commissioner to re-hear the case and allow Tata Motors to be a party to it.

The company had submitted the agreement to the commissioner in a sealed envelope for its hearing, but the official decided to read it out in its court, prompting the Tatas to move the high court. They also challenged the Right to Information Act while demanding a stay on the decision.

The case will be heard again on Friday.

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Tata’s Nano faces another Singur in Sanand, Gujarat – Dec 4, 2008

Could it be the ghost of Singur returning to haunt Ratan Tata?

Well, that may be a bit premature but it is certainly not good news for Tata Motors.

The farmers in Sanand, the site of the Nano project in Gujarat, have filed a case against the Gujarat government and Tata motors seeking greater compensation for their land.

In October this year, Narendra Modi’s government had handed over 1100 acres of land to Tata to relocate its Nano plant.

At that time, Modi had said that the land belonged to the state government that had been acquired in the past for industrial use.

Now the farmers allege that the land in Sanand was forcibly taken from them and they have not been adequately compensated. The Gujarat high court has admitted their petition.

Needless to mention, that a similar protest against land acquisition had forced Tata to move out of Singur in West Bengal.

Yatin Oza, Advocate for Petitioners, said, “The land is undisputedly owned by the farmers. They had given it on lease to the government for 99 years, which are over. We have documents to prove this before the court. We are not coming in the way of the project, but the project cannot proceed unless compensation at the rate of Rs 950 per metre is paid to the farmers.”

Although Tata Motors has refused to comment, NDTV learnt from sources in the company land acquisition and allotment is a state subject and the Modi government must clarify it, not Tata since the company did not independently acquire the land.

However, the larger fear is that this case might cause further delays to Tata’s Nano project.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat government has also refused to comment at this stage, saying that the matter is sub-judice.

But clearly this is another twist in what looks like a very jinxed project for Tata Motors.