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Giant town with lollipop coating

Calcutta, Feb. 19: The government today inked an agreement with a consortium led by real estate giant DLF to build a 4,870-acre township in Dankuni and unveiled a slew of development initiatives for the families to be displaced.

The consortium, which includes HDFC and the Singapore-based Sentosa Group, will build the town over the next 10 years.

Of the 4,870 acres that DLF will get on a 999-year lease, around 770 have been earmarked for an industrial estate that will house food processing, textile and light engineering units.

The residential area will be spread across another 1,862 acres, while the rest will house schools, colleges, professional institutes, universities, medical facilities and commercial plazas.

“Once ready, about 400,000 people will find employment here,” chief minister Buddha- deb Bhattacharjee said after the deal was signed at Writers’ Buildings.

The project — the largest public-private partnership in India, according to Bhattacharjee — will involve an investment of Rs 33,000 crore.

The row over land ceiling will not affect the project as townships are exempt from it.

The CMDA will acquire the land, but Bhattacharjee said “settlements, schools, places of worship or burial grounds” would not be touched.

Six hundred families have to be evicted, but only 22 in the 1,644-acre first phase, an official said.

“Some villages, which have kachcha houses, will also be acquired. All those displaced would be provided alternative plots or flats at a nominal cost. Those living below the poverty line will get them free,” the chief minister added.

The government had earlier promised alternative housing for only those below poverty line.

Five mouzas and portions of another 15, which include Singur where acquisition for a Tata Motors factory has triggered howls of protest, would be part of the new town.

The government promised to sponsor the education of children of displaced families up to Class X. One student from every family would be trained at an Industrial Training Institute, the chief minister said. “Preferential employment would be given to displaced persons in industry and construction jobs generated by the Dankuni project.”

Groundwork for the acquisition had been going on in the area over the past year.

Asked if he was still open to a dialogue with the Opposition on land acquisition, the chief minister said: “In a democracy, the Opposition has every right to know.”

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