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Salim boss eyes food project

Siliguri, June 18: The executive director of Salim Group, Benny Santoso, will be visiting Siliguri in July to examine the possibilities of investing in north Bengal.

This was disclosed today by urban development and municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya during his address at Vision North Bengal, an interactive session with elected representatives of the region organised by the zonal office of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

The Indonesia-based group, which expressed intentions of building and investing in south Bengal, mainly Haldia, two days ago, has proposed the setting up of a branch of its Indo-Food project in Siliguri, the minister said later. 'I spoke to Santoso in Calcutta recently and he told me he would be visiting Siliguri in July or early August.'

The Salim Group is also apparently interested in building a township here, an aspect which will be examined during Santoso's visit, Bhattacharya said.

'We have to accept reality and, realising that the government alone cannot build industry, we have started inviting investment from within and outside the country,' said the minister, conceding a change from the outlook of previous Left Front governments. He added that 'adequate social infrastructure like good hospitals, schools, recreational facilities like malls, multiplexes, golf courses and five-star hotels, were also required' to woo big investors.

Bhattacharya urged the CII to take up various issues at the Centre. These include the upgrade of Bagdogra to an international airport and commissioning the Cooch Behar airport as early as possible, transport subsidy for the region, early construction of the East-West Corridor, upgrade of the Sevoke-Nathu-la road, opening of the Fulbari trade route to Bangladesh and the quick establishment of the proposed dry port here.

'If all this happens, then the mental make-up of investors, who still prefer to invest in and around Calcutta, will change. We need the cooperation of all concerned'my efforts alone cannot bring about development in the region. Organisations like the CII and Focin (Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in North Bengal) have to stick to their proposals. Then alone can the future roadmap be drawn.'

The meet was also attended by minister for civil defence Srikumar Mukherjee, who invited entrepreneurs in the audience to North Dinajpur, where several concessions were being offered, especially in the Raiganj region.

Earlier, CII's North Bengal Zonal Council chairman Kamal Mittal said today's gathering was to 'deliberate on charting a roadmap for the social and economic development of north Bengal.' He said there was 'tremendous growth potential in the six districts which needed to be tapped effectively'.

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