|GRAZING GROUND: The site of the DLF IT Park. Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha
The land is still green there, at least parts of it are, and cows graze peacefully, their lazy lunch broken only by the crunch of human feet.
But wait, don’t go away.
This is no bovine country, after all. In fact, if things go according to plan, the cows will soon make way for glitzy structures. New Town, Rajarhat, Calcutta’s planned showpiece township, has the potential to become one of the leading destinations in the country for top business houses.
Industry sources say over the next five years, New Town can attract investments worth Rs 27,000 crore in residential and IT projects.
The investments would mostly be infrastructure-related, according to a study by international real estate consultants Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj.
“New Town, Rajarhat, would emerge the best IT hub in the country. It has attracted the cream of national and international developers. Around 300 acres are currently being developed for IT projects.
“According to our figures, approved projects would account for some 20 lakh square feet in the next two years which would provide employment to over two lakh people,” says Debesh Das, Bengal’s minister for information technology.
While Salt Lake’s IT sector has seen office space grow from 10 lakh to 50 lakh square feet in the last 12 years, New Town is set for an even bigger boom with the Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation and the Bhangar Rajarhat Development Authority planning to develop around 9,334 acres.
“The growth of New Town till date has far exceeded expectations. The projected infrastructure investments, which run into hundreds of crores, are a reflection of the confidence investors and property developers have,” says Abhijit Das, regional director, Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj.
Of the 9,000-odd acres, about 3,000 acres would be developed for residential purposes.
Gautam Mehra of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which came out with a report on emerging trends in real estate in the Asia Pacific region, explained the mood among investors.
“While regulatory restrictions, land titles and limited exit options continue to be challenges for foreign investors, transparency is improving,” Mehra says.
The plan is to develop New Town over four Action Areas.
Action Area I was developed first and adjoins Salt Lake’s Sector V electronic complex.
The area has already become a major business centre, with technology giants like IBM, Philips, Wipro and Tata setting up outsourcing plants.
Action Area II, which borders the airport, should be complete by the end of this year.
Once this area is developed, the government plans to focus on Action Area III, which will be built behind Action Area I, closer to the city’s southern part.
“Rajarhat is on the threshold of major growth, the likes of which Calcutta has not experienced before. The next one year would bring about rapid urbanisation.
“Not only IT, it would also become a showcase township of the country,” says Rahul Saraf, developer of projects like Technopolis I and II.
Nearly 500 acres of residential land has already been developed with an investment of Rs 3,000 crore.
In IT, national players like DLF already have one techno-park that cost about Rs 350 crore to build.
Another special economic zone in IT is being built with an investment of Rs 750 crore.
Other builders like Unitech, Bengal Ambuja, Bengal Peerless and Bengal Shrachi have also queued up for a share of the pie.
Now, who said it was cow country' What a bovine thought!