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Tata focus on Bengal

Calcutta, Sept. 8: In a sign that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's campaign is bearing fruit, Ratan Tata today turned the eyes of his sprawling business empire towards Bengal.

Tata said: 'Our feeling is that we have not done as much as we should have done in this state. So (we) are looking to Bengal.'

Earlier, at the annual general meeting of Tata Tea, he announced that the group would set up a cancer hospital here.

It will be modelled on Tata Memorial Centre in Mumbai, one of the country's leading cancer treatment hospitals.

Tata said: 'We are planning to set up a cancer hospital in Calcutta. This reflects our confidence and interest in this part of the country.'

He added that he had assured the chief minister of further investments.

Tata's announcement comes less than three weeks after Bhattacharjee's meeting with industry leaders in Mumbai where he appealed to them to keep Bengal on their business horizon.

'We are examining whether there is any opportunity in the state for setting up an automobile or automobile component manufacturing unit,' he said.

Commerce and industry ministry sources added that the Tatas would inform the government by the end of next month about their investment plan in the auto industry.

The Tatas' commitment to the state is reflected also in the decision to sell their stake in Haldia Petrochemicals (HPL) at par to the Bengal government.

'We will not seek any premium from the Bengal government for selling our stake in HPL to them. We will sell our stake at par. We will, however, remain on the HPL board with a token stake of 3 per cent. I will also join the HPL board shortly,' Tata said.

He would not comment on the size of investment in the cancer hospital now. 'We are currently examining the project. It will have an alliance with the Tata Memorial Centre. The whole idea of setting up another cancer hospital is that if cancer can be detected at an early stage, it can be cured. The proposed hospital will help in doing that.'

At any given time, 2.5 million people in the country suffer from cancer.

Thousands of cancer patients from Bengal head to Mumbai and the South for treatment in the absence of proper facilities in the state.

Many of them are treated at Tata Memorial Centre, which was set up by Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, but was taken over by the health ministry in 1957.

Administrative control of the hospital and the cancer research institute, which, too, the Tatas had established in 1952, was handed to the department of atomic energy in 1962. Starting in 1941 as an 80-bed hospital, the hospital now has 440 beds.

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