Posted by: Frederik Balfour on August 25, 2008
Here’s an admittedly controversial suggestion for Ratan Tata: Why not build the Nano minicar in China? That would be a nifty way to side-step the problems plaguing his one lakh [$2500] car plant where he hopes to build the world’s cheapest car. On Sunday about 30,000 people demonstrated outside the company’s manufacturing facilities in the state of West Bengal to prevent the project from going ahead on land they say was obtained without paying adequate compensation to the farmers it was acquired from. Tata said on August 22 that he would consider relocating the factory rather than continue with the hassles the current site has created.
Hard to imagine somebody as powerful of Tata having these kind of troubles in China. Now I’m the first to recognize that China has huge problems with human rights, environmental problems and corruption when it comes to industrialization and land-use, but there’s no denying that when there’s a project to be built, the government gets the job done. That’s the main reason why India’s infrastructure is in tatters while China boasts state-of-the-art rail lines, highways, ports and airports. I’m sure if Tata let it be known among Chinese provincial governors that he was looking for a nice piece of land on which to build his factory, he would have a few dozens proposals on his desk by the next morning.
Of course the notion that Tata would build its Nano on Chinese soil rather than Indian is purely theoretical, as it would make no sense to build a car overseas that is aimed entirely at the domestic Indian market. But the case does make you wonder if India could find a middle ground between the rights of poor farmers and the needs of industrial investors.