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Centre sops for growth
- Union minister promises Bengal a share of Nathu-la pie and more

Siliguri, July 10: After declaring his plans for the tea industry yesterday, Union minister of state for commerce and industries Jairam Ramesh today came up with a number of commitments to develop trade in Siliguri and Jalpaiguri.

Ramesh, who attended a meeting organised by Focin at the tea auction hall, said from now on, the state government and trade bodies of north Bengal will be included in every negotiation related to Nathu-la. 'We feel that along with Sikkim, they also need to be included in the meetings related to Nathu-la,' Ramesh said.

Representatives of Focin, Siliguri mayor Bikash Ghosh, Jalpaiguri MLA D.P. Roy and state urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya also spoke on trade and commerce of the region.

Bhattacharya placed a number of projects (see chart) before Ramesh, urging his intervention for their early implementation. 'Keeping in mind the location, it is essential to develop Siliguri and Jalpaiguri, for which the Centre should sanction funds,' Bhattacharya said.

Ramesh, who came to the podium in the end, said the Centre has already decided to form the Land Port Authority of India, which would run under the Union home ministry. 'We have planned to spend around Rs 850 crore to develop the infrastructure of 14 land ports near the Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar borders,' he said. 'In Bengal, ' Petrapole, Changrabanda, Hili and Fulbari ports ' have been included.' He assured that funds for infrastructure development can flow in from the Centre, provided the state comes up with concrete proposals.

Members of Focin appeared satisfied with the minister's speech. 'North Bengal towns are close to four international borders and so the Centre needs to concentrate on their development,' said Biswajit Das, the Focin general secretary.

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