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Cleared, Salim first phase in CM court

New Delhi, Feb. 22: The Centre today allowed the Salim Group to bring in foreign direct investment of up to $500 million (Rs 2,250 crore), the amount needed for a package of infrastructure projects in Bengal.

The cabinet approval today means the onus now lies entirely on the Bengal government to remove legislative hurdles before the projects that include an expressway, two bridges and three roads in south Bengal.

The land acquisition process for the infrastructure projects, largely centred around Raichak, could not be started because of the backlash in Nandigram and Left Front allies’ opposition to a bill aimed at easing restrictions on rural holdings.

Until the state government gets the bill passed, the projects will not be able to get off the ground.

The Union government’s cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) entered the picture because of a rule that requires the panel’s approval for foreign direct investment above Rs 600 crore.

Salim also proposes to build two special economic zones and three townships in Bengal but the amount cleared today covers only the first phase of infrastructure projects. The whole bouquet of Salim proposals will need an investment of around Rs 15,000-20,000 crore.

Reacting to initial reports when full details of the central clearance were not available, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said the chemical hub — the Salim SEZ originally meant to come up in Nandigram — would be set up in Bengal.

“We will surely have the chemical hub. But as far as the site of the proposed project is concerned, leave it to me,” he said at Writers’ Buildings.

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