India’s cheap car plant remains shut, Tata mulls plant’s future

SINGUR, August 30, 2008 (AFP) – Protests against a factory being built in eastern India to make the world’s cheapest car forced work to halt for a second day Saturday as vehicle giant Tata Motors mulled abandoning the plant.

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“There has been no improvement in the ground situation so far, hence the conditions are still not conducive for resuming work today,” Tata Motors said in a statement.

“We continue to assess the situation closely” at the plant in Singur in the Marxist-ruled West Bengal state, said the company making the 2,500-dollar compact car, known as the “Nano” and billed as the world’s cheapest.

The protesters say poor farmers were forcibly evicted to make way for the factory and want 400 acres (160 hectares) returned. The government acquired 997 acres for the project but activists insist the project needs only 600 acres.

The halt to work came a week after Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata conglomerate, warned he would move the plant from the state if the protests kept up at Singur, on the outskirts of state capital Kolkata.

Tata Motors, India’s top vehicle maker, was e