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Fri, Jun 27, 2008

KOLKATA, India (AFP) — Police on Friday fired teargas at farmers protesting the acquisition of land in eastern India for a Tata Motor plant to build the world's cheapest car, the Nano, officials said.

Some 200 farmers tried to block visiting Tata executives from entering the Nano plant in West Bengal state's Singhur district, police officials said.

Police inspector-general Raj Kanijia said police used teargas and beat back the farmers after they tried to demolish a factory wall.

"Villagers and policeman clashed outside the car factory and some six policemen and a number of villagers have been injured," Kanijia said in state capital Kolkata.

Officials from Tata Motors, which says it will sell the Nano for 2,500 dollars a unit, were not immediately available for comment.

Protests in Marxist-ruled West Bengal erupted after a local court in January approved the Tata group's plan to build the 10-billion-rupee (226 million dollar) plant on nearly 1,000 acres (400 hectares) of farmland in Singhur, located 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Kolkata.

Some farmers have charged that the government took the land against their wishes, and that they had been paid half its market value.

Despite the protests, the company says it is going ahead with plans to roll out the jelly-bean shaped car off assembly lines later this year.

Tata has said the plant, which will have an initial annual production output of 250,000 units, rising later to 350,000, will create more than 10,000 jobs in the area.

Opponents say 1,200 sharecroppers and 300 agricultural labourers in five villages derived their living from the land.

Thirty-four people died in protests in Nandigram village in West Bengal last year as locals clashed with police and local government supporters over plans to acquire land for a low-tax Special Economic Zone.

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