A cautious Bengal government has included Singur on a list of sites being weighed by communist China’s largest automobile maker for a car plant.
Representatives of First Automobile Works (FAW) today called on chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and industries minister Nirupam Sen at the Writers’ Buildings.
“FAW is China’s largest automobile manufacturing company and has shown interest in setting up an automobile unit in Bengal. It will make all kinds of cars, including heavy vehicles,” Sen said.
Asked if the Singur plot would be given to the company, he said: “We discussed all possible locations, including Singur. But don’t spoil the project’s prospects by mentioning Singur as a possible location.”
The plot in Singur was developed for Tata Motors’ Nano plant but the project moved to Gujarat after land agitation by the Opposition. Sites in Kalyani, Haldia and Kharagpur were also discussed with the FAW delegation.
FAW Corporation and Ural India want to set up a joint venture to manufacture small cars and buses. The plan is to make 5,000 small cars a month priced at Rs 1.6 lakh each, said J.K. Saraff, chairman of Ural India, which makes heavy trucks in Haldia especially for the defence sector. Tata’s Nano has captured the world’s imagination because of its price: Rs 1 lakh.
“We need 600 acres,” Saraff said. “Today’s discussion was a preliminary one.”
Asked if he wanted the land in Singur, Saraff said the state would have to decide that. “One advantage in Singur is that the land is developed. But at the same time, it is not vacant. It has been leased out to another company.”
He said the ancillary plants could come up elsewhere. The location of the Nano project’s ancillary units had become a bone of contention, with Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee demanding they be moved out of the main project area and their part of the land be returned to “unwilling” landlosers.
An official in the chief minister’s secretariat said FAW had an annual manufacturing capacity of 20 lakh cars. “It will be good if such a foreign auto giant comes to the state. The company’s officials may shortly visit some of the possible locations for a spot inspection,” he said.
The 15-member Chinese team, led by Li Xiansheng, executive governor of Hubei province in China, also met urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya and power minister Mrinal Banerjee.
“We discussed many things with the chief minister, including investment opportunities in Bengal. The purpose of our visit is to promote co-operation between the countries,” Xiansheng said.
Power minister Banerjee said the delegation had shown interest in investing in the power sector. The Chinese officials discussed investment in infrastructure with the urban development minister.
Profile of the Chinese automobile company
Founded in 1953
Makes light, medium and heavy trucks, automobiles, buses and luxury tourist coaches, custom bus chassis and mini-vehicles
Global sales over 7 million
Employs 133,000 people across the world
Sells products in over 70 countries
Company’s assets valued at $14.27 billion
Source: FAW website & The Telegraph