"We have a fondness for the people of West Bengal"
Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata indicated here on Tuesday that the group is not comfortable about making fresh investments in West Bengal till the circumstances become more conducive. “New investments will come when opportunities arise,” he said, adding that while at present there are no fresh investment plans, the group does not have anything “negative” against the State.
On the issue of returning land at Singur he said that allocation (return) of land should not be done till the court decides on the matter. He was also unwilling to comment on the issue of an out-of-court settlement.
Mr. Tata, who was here for the annual general meeting of Tata Global Beverages (erstwhile Tata Tea), also met Governor M. K. Narayanan for nearly an hour-and-a-half.
Replying to a query raised by a shareholder at the AGM he said: “In many ways we have a fondness for the people of West Bengal and that feeling still exists. But there is a need for us to satisfy ourselves that there is no hostility towards us and when we feel that way… we will undoubtedly, like anywhere else, invest in the State.”
He said it was out of a feeling for West Bengal that the Tatas had planned the Nano project here to increase the group's investment in the State. “We did that…. due to the fact the industry have ignored investing in this part of the country. That is why we invested here.”
Pointing out that the Tatas have several investments in West Bengal – through Tata Steel, TCS and the hotel business -- he said new investments would come when opportunities arise.
Referring to the Rs. 300-crore investment made in the recently-inaugurated cancer hospital, Mr. Tata said: “That investment was a reflection of the affection for the people of West Bengal. It will also save lives in West Bengal and in the region. It will bring doctors to work in the cancer research centre here. We wanted to bring Calcutta in the limelight in terms of cancer research.”
On the aborted Singur project, the Tata Group chief said the group was very keen to set up the project and it would have created 8,000 jobs in and around the region. “I think it was good for the State and we would not have exploited people who did not want to wish to participate in the project.”
On the issue of land return, he said the land does not belong to the Tatas; it was leased from the government of the day which happened to be a different government. “A legal government gave us the land.” Reacting to a suggestion from a shareholder that the Tatas could perhaps talk directly with the Singur farmers, Mr Tata said: “There is no question of talking to the farmers directly. The lease was between the government and the farmers, not with us. We are not the owners of the land -- only lessees.”