Monday, October 6, 2008

18. Small Car, Big Scam

No sooner had the containers started moving machinery out from troubled Singur, many a skeletons from the Nano's cupboard had started falling. Shocking as these are, some could have easily put the legendary JRD to shame. That business is without the virtues of ethics and morality needs no more `evidence', Tata's Nano has amply demonstrated. Else, the company would not have filed a petition in the Calcutta High Court requesting for a restriant on the State Information Commission from releasing details about the controversial car project. Read on:

1. The company that could buy the British Corus for a whopping Rs 35,000 crore sought a loan of Rs 200 crore from the West Bengal Government - at an unbelievable 1 per cent interest - the first instalment will be due after 20th year. Do you smell `fish'? What does the State stand to gain from such gesture?

2. The fertile land did not become the core issue without reason. Hard to believe that 647 odd acres were leased out at Rs 1 crore for the first 30 years, over a 90 year old lease. At Rs 1,300 per acre it is quite a bargain, any local businessman would have paid more for such a lucrative offer. Without doubt, the beneficiaries list of such a deal could be long?

3. For producing the so-called cheapest car (after so much of cross subsidisation) the West Bengal Government had planned to provide power at Rs 3 per kilowatt hour (as against the prevailing rate of Rs 4.15). Should the rates go up over the next 5 years, the company would be refunded by the state. Why is the state government so liberal with Nano at the cost of its people?

All this will soon be `past', relegated to the history books. It may get referred to as a failed `development' mission by the well-meaning state. It may well also be remembered as a colossal public loss at the hands of `development extremists'. This and much more! If you are one whose chest got filled with nationalistic pride the moment you saw a Tata product across the national boundaries, think about the `public money' and `public pain' that would have contributed to it.

These facts are indeed important now that the project is moving to a new location. What fresh deals get drawn to keep the Nano as cheap, at the cost of exchequer's money need to be carefully monitored. As the country is taken on a ride on the cheapest car, the Small Nano could be the Biggest Scam of the present century!