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Fiery protest over Tata's Nano

An opposition group in India burns the $2,500 "people's car" in effigy, charging that Tata Motors usurped farmers' lands for a factory.

Tata Nano, burning in effigy.
The Tata Nano, burning in effigy. Strdel/AFP/Getty Images)

Tata Motors is billing its tiny, ultracheap Nano as the "people's car," but some people would just as soon not see it get built--at least under current conditions.

The Tata Nano made an outsized splash at its debut Thursday as the world's automotive press disseminated details and photos of the $2,500 car, which the giant company ($7.2 billion in revenue for its most recent fiscal year) said it designed to give Indian families an alternative to overcrowded scooters and to "set a new benchmark among small cars." The Nano is roughly half as expensive as the next lowest-priced car on sale in India.

But while the bright lights of the New Delhi Auto Expo were trained on Tata's minicar, activists near Kolkata were burning the car in effigy. The Trinamool Congress, a West Bengal opposition group, torched a mockup of the Nano in protest over land rights at the factory location. "Until farmers get back their land forcibly acquired for the Tata Motors small car plant at Singur, we will not allow the company to manufacture cars there," opposition leader Partha Chatterjee decreed, according to The Economic Times of India.

In New Delhi, a small group of protesters made a less dramatic showing, but their T-shirt slogans were bold, The Times of India reported: "The ($2,500) car has Singur people's blood on it."

Pundits in the Indian media, meanwhile, debated whether the Nano offers more in the way of marketing hype than real consumer value.

Tata Motors makes cars, trucks, and buses for both the domestic market and for export, and has tie-ups with Italy's Fiat and Korea's Daewoo.