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Direct land-buy plan
- Policy shift may prompt changes in deal with Salim

Calcutta, April 4: The government is contemplating whether to allow developers of infrastructure projects to buy land directly from individuals.

If it gives the nod to such an arrangement, the deal with the Salim group for a string of projects might have to be reworked.

“Direct purchase is a quicker option for all projects, including those by the Salim Group. We want to implement them, creating the minimum ripple,” commerce and industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen said today.

The government had recently asked the Jindal Group to directly purchase 500 acres in West Midnapore’s Salboni for its steel plant.

“We are asking steel investors like Bhushan and Balaji to buy the land on their own. The government of India is also thinking on this line for its SEZ policy,” Sen added after a 45-minute meeting with NRI businessman Prasun Mukherjee, a partner in the consortium New Kolkata International Development, which will implement the Salim projects.

Mukherjee met the chief minister this evening and was formally told that the SEZ plan for Nandigram was being shelved. It would be developed elsewhere.

Neighbouring Haldia could be the new chemical hub site.

The Centre had granted in- principle approval for a chemical hub spread over 10,000 acres, but the state has indicated that the size may vary according to the availability of land at the new location.

“If the size is revised, the agreement we had signed with the investor has to be reopened,” Sen said.

The Centre is mulling suggestions from various quarters, including the CPM, on the size of SEZs.

Bengal wants it to be capped at 5,000 acres. It also wants Delhi to bring down the minimum size of a multi-product SEZ to 1,000 acres from 2,500.

The Salim Group is not opposed to the changes, but wants to begin early, Sen said.

“We want to begin with the expressway. Over 60 per cent field survey for the road is complete. The consultants have also submitted plans for the Canning and Lakshmikantapur railway intersections to the railways,” he added.

The design for the proposed Raichak-Kukrahati bridge has been finalised and the structure’s two extreme points have been fixed.

A rethink on the Salim Group’s two proposed SEZs will be done in October this year, when the yearlong in-principle approval period expires. For this, the Centre will also hear views of the developer as well as the state government before deciding on granting extension.

Earlier in the day, land minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah welcomed the possible move to allow all investors to buy land on their own. His department, Mollah promised, would grant permission for land conversion if the commerce and industries department clears the proposal.

The government today sought a status report from the Salim Group on the two-wheeler manufacturing unit in Dankuni for which land was allotted a year ago.

“We’ve asked them to begin construction at the earliest,” Sen said.

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