The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mayavati gambles with casinos in cowbelt

Lucknow, Feb. 9: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati is bringing Las Vegas to her state.

The Cabinet has cleared a proposal to allow “special electronic games” in five-star and luxury hotels in the Taj economic zone comprising Noida, Greater Noida and Agra.

“The additional entertainment facilities will attract international tourists and make private investment in tourism in the area a lucrative proposition,” state industrial development commissioner Shashank Shekhar Singh said.

The licences for the casinos will be issued on the recommendation of a high-level committee after the chief minister gives her approval through the development commissioner.

The Cabinet’s economic development committee has finalised the rules for issuing licences as also the terms and conditions.

The committee has also approved the construction of the Taj expressway by Jai Prakash Industries Ltd at Rs 2,500 crore. The company will meet the cost without any investment from the government.

The 160-km eight-lane Taj expressway, said to be the first of its kind in the country, will connect the proposed Taj international airport in Noida with Agra. The minimum traffic speed on the expressway will be 120 km an hour.

The permission to open casinos — termed special electronic games — is part of an ambitious package to convert the Taj economic zone into a paradise for tourists.

“The government hopes this will lure private investors to set up five- and seven-star hotels on the expressway,” the development commissioner said.

An international standard shopping mall, a golf course, a modern convention centre and a theme park like Disneyland are also in the pipeline.

The government has already earmarked 30 acres for the mall which will be handed to the principal investor on a 90-year lease. The investor will be allowed to sub-lease it to smaller investors.

Another 30 acres have been earmarked for a seven-star hotel. A leading industrial group has shown interest in this project, Singh said. “The most significant thing about the whole project is that the government will not have to spend a paisa on it,” he said.

“But the state will derive immense benefits from tourism, international trade and taxation,” the commissioner added.

Uttar Pradesh is the first state in the country to enact a statutory provision for special economic zones. The Taj economic zone will be the first of the three it plans to set up. The others may come up around Varanasi-Bhadohi and Kanpur.

Investors in the special economic zones will bag tax concessions and be set free from the rigours of labour and environmental laws applicable in the rest of the state.

The government has allocated Rs 25 lakh for acquisition of 500 acres for the Bhadoi project and Rs 1.5 crore for 250 acres for the Taj economic zone.

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