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Salim ground work grinds to a halt
- But motorbike plan rolling to meet deadline

Calcutta, Feb. 14: With the government applying brakes on land acquisition and the Centre re-examining its SEZ (special economic zone) policy, the Salim Group will have to stall the groundwork for its projects in Bengal.

A meeting with the company’s representatives from Indonesia on the 98-km Barasat-Raichak Expressway was called off this evening in view of the uncertainty over SEZs.

The expressway would have led to Haldia, where the Salims had proposed two such zones — a chemical hub and a multi-product one.

“I can’t say when the work on the Salim projects will begin. But the chief minister has made it clear that consensus would have to be built among all concerned before any land acquisition in the future. We’ll begin the consensus-building process soon,” commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen said.

He added that none of the Salim projects had to be started in a hurry. “All the projects in our agreement are time bound, but the clock will start ticking only after we hand over the land to them. As of now, we haven’t even started the acquisition process.”

Industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen said the company had “no option but to keep all the ground work pending until the land is acquired and allotted to them”.

The government, he added, was not sure about when that would be done.

However, Salim China, the name by which the Indonesian company’s Chinese avatar is known, finalised plans for the Mahabharat motorcycle plant with the government today.

Prasun Mukherjee, a Salim partner, said construction of the factory will begin in June and take a year to complete.

“We’ll need another three months to set up the ancillary units. Production will begin by the end of 2008. We’ll produce five lakh motorcycles in the first lot,” said Mukherjee.

Justifying the 11-month delay in the project since the chief minister laid the foundation stone, the industries secretary said the group had been scouting for cheap technology.

“Since the motorcycles will cost only Rs 20,000-25,000, they were looking for cheap technology. They also spent time on research on the kind of two-wheeler suitable for Bengal,” he said.

Officials of Zong Shen, the Salims’ Chinese technical partner, and its design consultant, CNGC, attended the meeting to discuss facilities with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation.

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