The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CM sop for regional expansion

Calcutta, Nov. 7: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has sought an excise exemption from the Centre for the six north Bengal districts.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Bhattacharjee had cited “unhealthy competition” from states like Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh as reason for his request. Previously only the Northeast was eligible for exemption. Later, the benefit was extended to Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Sikkim.

“We had almost lost the Tata project because of the excise issue. It has created an unhealthy competition. I have asked Pranab Mukherjee (the external affairs minister) to either include north Bengal in this category or exclude those states that later became beneficiaries of this exemption,” Bhattacharjee said at Writers’ Buildings here today after a meeting with the representatives of North Bengal Development Council.

The budget for the development of the region next year has been fixed at Rs 42 crore, of which Rs 10 crore will come from the Centre. The rest, the chief minister said, will be given by the state government. So far the state has released Rs 20 crore.

About the Cooch Behar airport, Bhattacharjee said the only issue that needs to be addressed now is encroachment. The encroachers include a government building and a tower.

“For the last two months, I have been asking the airports authority to issue a notification. After it is done, it will take another month before the encroachers can be removed,” the chief minister said.

Bhattacharjee has also written to HRD minister Arjun Singh, proposing the setting up of a central university in the region. The Panjipara (in North Dinajpur) tannery plan was also finalised in the meeting that was attended by district magistrates and ministers from north Bengal.

Dabur is also expected to diversify its products, said Bhattacharjee. “So far the company bought pineapples and mangoes. This winter, we have asked them to buy tomatoes from Haldibari,” he added.

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