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Private push for Kulpi project

Calcutta, June 4: The Bengal government is working on the possibility of reducing its financial commitment in the Kulpi port and the special economic zone (SEZ) project.

International development and construction company P& Developers — one of the three private partners in the project other than Keventer Agro and Mukand Iron — will pick up the equity to be diluted by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC).

Though government officials are tight-lipped, sources indicate dthat the idea of WBIDC reducing its financial obligation is the brainchild of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. After charming industrialists in Mumbai during his first promotional roadshow, the proposed dilution is being seen by many as another indication of the Left Front government’s new-found faith in private capital for the state’s industrialisation.

“The government’s intention of moving out from business will do good to the state. I think this is just the beginning and we can expect more such moves in the future,” said an industrialist.

According to the new investment sharing equation, P& Developers will be the majority stakeholder. Earlier, WBIDC’s stake was pegged at 11 per cent, while Keventer Agro and Mukand Iron together were to pick up 89 per cent of the equity of the prestigious port and SEZ project in Kulpi, 78 km from Calcutta. The port and the SEZ — for industries dependent on port-based activities — are expected to boost the state’s economy.

When contacted, commerce and industries secretary Sabysachi Sen declined to comment on the equity issue. “A lot of issues were discussed during the meetings and the discussions were very positive. We can’t divulge the specifics unless the agreement is signed,” he said.

But there are signs that the prestigious project will finally come out of the cold storage with the government promising “best of its efforts” to resolve problems regarding land acquisition, rehabilitation and compensation for the farmers and infrastructure bottlenecks around Kulpi.

Accompanied by government officials, senior P& Port officials from London — Tom Broadley, chief commercial officer, Simon Edsell, development director, and Nikhil Nayak, regional manager, South Asia and Middle East — visited the site and held meetings with the district administration to draw up land acquisition and rehabilitation strategy. The company is expected to send a detailed proposal to the government shortly.

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