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Japan jibe at CM in a hurry

Calcutta, Aug. 22: Japan today called an overzealous Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government’s decision to offer the Raichak-Kukrahati bridge project to the Indonesian Salim Group “regrettable”.

The Japanese consul-general in Calcutta, Yoshikazu Takeuchi, added that he hoped such instances are not repeated in future.

Japan International Co-operation Agency (Jica) was preparing a detailed feasibility report for the bridge on the Haldi. It is expected to bring down the distance between Calcutta and Haldia by 50 km.

The Bengal government, which had been trying to procure funds for Rs 1,500-crore project for a long time, had zeroed in on the Japanese, who had earlier offered funds for flyovers in Calcutta and power projects elsewhere.

Haldia Development Authority chairman Laxman Seth had also announced last year that Japan had agreed to fund the project in principle.

However, on July 17, the state government signed an agreement with a consortium led by the Indonesia-based Salim group for several projects, including the bridge.

“We came to know about it from newspapers. It is regretted that the government took such a measure,” Takeuchi told a Confederation of Indian Industry programme. “We are aware of the passion and enthusiasm of the Bengal chief minister for quicker development. That is why we extended the ODA (official development assistance).”

The Japanese, the consul-general said, are better equipped to handle such projects. Their assistance is the “surest”, “safest” and the “best”.

The Mitsubishi Chemical plant in Haldia was for a long time the only showcase project for industry-starved Bengal, an industry observer said. “Japan stood by Bengal when no one in India gave the state a second thought.”

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