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Biz fair bereft of venue
- Banished from Maidan, barred from stadium by prior booking

The oldest trade fair in the city has nowhere to go.

If the Maidan was declared out of bounds for the Industrial India Trade Fair by the government on Thursday, the alternative venue of Salt Lake stadium was ruled out by the sports ministry on Friday as the space had been booked earlier for another event.

Realising that the Maidan would not be available for the trade fair — even as the government fights for the Book Fair on the greens — chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb had requested the sports department to allow the trade fair to be held at Salt Lake stadium.

The Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BNCCI) fair has been held on the Maidan for the past 19 years. The state commerce and industry department is a co-organiser, along with Indian Trade Promotion Organisation.

BNCCI secretary D.P. Nag said: “We were hopeful when the chief secretary said on Friday that Salt Lake stadium would be allotted to us. Now, we have to either cancel or defer the fair.”

Sports minister Subhas Chakraborty was petitioned on Friday morning by the Federation of Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Societies of India about the All-India Congress of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists, from January 6 to 9, not being jeopardised. Chakraborty assured them the bookings would stay.

“We told the minister that shifting the venue now was impossible. We made the stadium bookings in early-2005 and have also made the payment,” said Ashish Kumar Mukhopadhyay, organising secretary of the event.

This has put the commerce and industry department in a fix. Secretary Sabyasachi Sen said: “We will have to discuss this with BNCCI. If the chamber wants a large set-up, the fair will have to wait till the stadium space is free. Otherwise, the fair will have to be held at a smaller venue like the Salt Lake Central Park or Milon Mela, which is under construction now.”

With the book business scoring over business exposition in the government’s priority book, the oldest trade fair in town is in jeopardy.

According to BNCCI officials, the trade fair inaugural date of December 22 was announced nine months ago, following consultation with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. “Our foreign collaborators have started sending us fair merchandise. What do we tell them'” wondered a chamber office-bearer.

“This crisis highlights the urgent need for a proper trade fairground in the city and also the government’s doublespeak on the Maidan,” said an industry observer.

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