Tata’s run into Mega Labor Problems

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Sept. 2 – India has a tough choice to make – Industrialize and attract more foreign Direct Investment or give in to the needs of its farmers to sustain a more sociological state. The recent Tata Motors factory controversy has brought this issue to the threshold.Will India decide to give the land in Singur, North east India to Tata to manufacture his US$2,500 Tata Nana, or will it favor the farmers who claim the land and with it their livlihood has been usurped?

Who wins the fight over the Tata factory is likely to have wide-ranging impacts on India's push to complete a China-like economic transformation that the country's leaders say is needed to lift hundreds of millions of its 1.1 billion people out of poverty, reported The International Herald Tribune.

But the battle goes beyond mere economics — it also offers a snapshot of a still poor and largely traditional society in flux as farmers wrestle with the loss of steady, if meager, livings and the uncertainty that comes with being factory workers.

"Tata is saying they will give us jobs. But there is no guarantee that my son or his son will get the same jobs," says Becharam Manna, a 38-year-old farmer. "When we have land, we know every generation is secure."

Manna's sentiment is not universal in Singur, where some gladly sold their land to the government of West Bengal state, which then turned over 997 acres (400 hectares) to Tata.

Officials insist most farmers willingly sold. But many farmers say they gave it up only after being threatened by police and, in some cases, attacked by thugs from the Communist Party of India, which has long governed West Bengal.

Officials say they can't return the land, and Tata is threatening to find a new site if the protests continue, even though it has already poured US$350 million into the project and such a move would certainly push back the planned October launch of the car, called the Nano.

Indian Industrialists are however with Tata. India's big business groups are becoming increasingly frustrated with delays to ambitious projects because of government bureaucracy and frequent problems in acquiring large areas of land from farmers.

"This [unrest] will be counter-productive for the country's economic growth, its global image, as well as our ability to attract investments from across the world," Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, India's biggest private sector company, said this week.

Jamshyd N. Godrej, an-other prominent industrialist, said: "Nano's moving out would be a setback for not just West Bengal but the entire country", reported the Financial Times.