September 26th, 2008
The Dying Fields
Car Companies Veering off the Road in India

Tensions between laborers and corporate India exploded on Monday when an angry mob of recently fired workers attacked the executives of Italian car-parts manufacturer Graziano Transmissioni.  Chief executive Lalit Kishore Choudhary, 47, was fatally injured by blows to the head, and two other senior executives sustained serious head wounds.   Police have arrested 63 people for murder and are investigating the violence.

This incident occurred on the heels of the recent shutdown of the Tata Motors plant in West Bengal.  Tata Motors, India’s largest automobile company, halted production on the plant indefinitely in early September when protests against the plant became increasingly confrontational and violent.  Farmers who had sold land to Tata — land which is known to be fertile given its proximity to the Ganges River -– are demanding it back.  The West Bengal plant was slated to roll out the Nano, the world’s cheapest car, as soon as October.  And there’s certainly a lot riding on the Nano – at the estimated cost of $2,165 to $2,500, it would put India and Tata Motors on the map for producing affordable cars.

On Wednesday, Tata reportedly began moving out of the factory in West Bengal, but Thursday, pro-Tata villagers took to the streets, and today, the state government made a last-ditch appeal to the company to stay put. Industry Minister Nirupam Sen said that if Tata leaves, it would be a “big loss” to the poor agricultural region. “There might be some people who were creating problems but that is not the voice of all the people and we want to convey it to the Tatas,” he said.

With one of the world’s fastest growing economies, India is experiencing a lot of growing pains.  WIDE ANGLE explored the difficulties of keeping up with India’s rapid economic growth in the 2007 film, The Dying Fields.  Cotton farmers in Vidarbha face a grim reality of crop failures, sinking global cotton prices and crushing debts, pushing many of them to suicide.

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