Nano: the people's car ?
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
The Tatas have finally launched the much awaited People's Car. The Nano is made available to the Indian public in 1000 cities through 30,000 outlets. Eighteen banks, including the giant State Bank of India, are offering financial loans at easy interest rates to every Indian family who wants to fulfil its dream of owning a car. The Nano comes for a magic price of a little more than the promised one lac. The lowest model would cost Indian Rupees 1,23,361 in Delhi to be precise. There has been a great rush by ordinary Indians to book the Nano. Queues are reported since midnight on the auspicious day on Thursday. Indian media is abuzz with reports about ordinary people queuing up for the people's car.
Ratan Tata has been exhorting fellow Indians to "think big" with the "small car". The Nano's launch was delayed by over seven months because the people of Singur in West Bengal were not prepared to barter their land for the people's car. As a result the factory had to be shifted out of the state in the face of a continuous agitation. There has been much controversy around Nano – political and social- in India. The climate justice activists have been warning about the environmental nightmare that the people's car is going to unfold. Apart from the environmental and traffic congestion issues which may arise once Nano begins running on the Indian roads, there have been other concerns. People's concerns to be precise! A rough summation of these would be should people be made to suffer in order that a "people's car" comes about? Should small farmers give away their productive land in order that Tata Motors set up a plant for the dream of a 'people's car'? Politics apart, what about the choice of Singur residents, all ordinary Indians, not to part with their ancestral property? What about their right to resist forceful eviction from their own land? Most of these families have only known life in their village. Where would they go? The communist government in the state would do anything in its power to enable the Tatas to expand the Nano plant which was already set up there. But finally they had to give up in the face of continuous resistance by the people of Singur who refused to give up their land. If this could be called bowing out in the face of people's wish, then perhaps this could happen because it was the communist government led by the CPI (M). Look where the Nano finally found home! After being thrown out of the communist-ruled West Bengal, the Tatas almost overnight set up the Nano plant in Narendra Modi's Gujarat! The Nano plant was set up at Sanand, some 15 kms from Ahmedabad with all clearances being made available by the Gujarat state government within a record 48 hours. Forget the resistance put up by the people of Singur, Gujarat received Nano with celebrations on the streets! The love affair between a capitalist and a communal-fascist materialized so smoothly into a marriage as the progressive and secular sections kept watching!
It is painful the way large sections of our middle class oppose reservations given to the dalits. It is strange that the same sections celebrate when the government gives huge sops to industry. It is estimated that Narendra Modi's government gave a soft loan of Rs 9,570 crores at a negligible interest rate of 0.1 per cent with a waiver - payment deferred for 20 years to Tata Motors. The land has been given at throw-away prices. The total amount of concessions given is estimated to be a whopping 30,000 crores. No wonder, Tata and other notable captains of the Indian industry have voiced their wish for Narendra Modi to become prime minister. That there are thousands of victims of the anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002 languishing in inhuman conditions in Gujarat without rehabilitation, without legal justice, without any help is of no concern. That Narendra Modi and ministers of his cabinet are culpable is of no concern.