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Nano Car Factory Protests Lead To Suicide

Father of two laborers at Tata Motors' troubled small car factory in eastern India killed himself a day after the company suspended work indefinitely at the site.

CALCUTTA, India (AP) -- The father of two laborers at Tata Motors' troubled small car factory in eastern India killed himself Wednesday, local police said, a day after the company suspended work indefinitely at the site.

The Tata factory halted work on the much-anticipated Nano, which has been billed the world's cheapest car, because of increasingly violent protests by farmers demanding the return of some of the land on which the plant was built.

Sushen Santra, 65, was largely supported by his two sons who worked at the Tata factory in Singur in West Bengal state. The men had not been paid since work was suspended Friday, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Santra, a farmer, swallowed pesticide in his village just outside the plant and died in a Singur hospital Wednesday, said police official Priyabrata Bakshi. It was unclear why Santra killed himself, and police declined to speculate.

Tata has poured US$350 million into its factory in Singur. About 60 key suppliers have invested millions of dollars more for plants and equipment in the area.

Tata officials have said they are exploring whether Nano production could be relocated to the company's other six factories scattered across India in an effort to meet production deadlines. The company has trained over 762 workers in West Bengal and says it is considering sending those employees to its other plants. It was not clear whether Santra's sons would qualify to be relocated.

Tata has pledged to launch the Nano by the end of the year, but moving the factory would almost certainly delay the car's debut.

State officials who supported the project have expressed dismay at the developments, saying they will discourage investment in India. On Wednesday software professionals in Calcutta, the state's capital, marched with black cloths tied around their mouths, waving signs that read, "We want industry," and "Yes to Tata."

In Singur, Tata supporters clashed with workers from the Trinamool Congress, the party that opposed the project, but there were no reported injuries.

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