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When in distress, dial Infy
Rajarhat deal as Mamata warms up

Calcutta, Nov. 23: The Bengal government today announced that Infosys had bought 50 acres in Rajarhat to set up a development centre, holding the deal aloft as a “major boost” just when the Trinamul Congress was rolling up its sleeves for a land campaign in the township.

Keen to live down its Singur reputation, Trinamul too claimed credit, saying Mamata Banerjee’s pressure had forced the government to wake up and act. The party had already said it was not against IT hubs in Rajarhat.

The information technology company confirmed the move that has ended a six-year wait for Bengal but was far more guarded than the state government.

“Infosys has been allocated 50 acres of land in Rajarhat by the West Bengal state government. The state government has assured us of their support in this project,” the company said in a statement.

Sources in Infosys told The Telegraph that the company was yet to firm up any project plan for the plot, which was acquired “just to keep an option open for future expansions”.

However, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said: “The decision of Infosys to invest in West Bengal is a major boost for the IT industry in the state.”

The Infosys land deal is valued at Rs 75 crore (Rs 1.5 crore an acre, the same price Hidco had asked from TCS and Wipro). The Infosys plot is adjacent to that earmarked for Wipro, where Azim Premji’s company has not yet started construction.

“We are very happy that a global IT major like Infosys has decided to set up its base here after IBM, TCS, Wipro and Accenture,” said housing minister Gautam Deb, who also doubles as Hidco chairman, adding that the company would create 15,000 to 20,000 jobs.

However, as Infosys has not yet rolled out plans for commissioning the development centre, it will take time for the impact to be felt on the job market.

The timing of the government announcement — in the middle of an agitation by Mamata to ensure a better deal for farmers who have given land for the township — has created an impression that blunting the Trinamul campaign was the main factor that breathed fresh life into the project.

“Our leader Mamata Banerjee has successfully created pressure on Hidco with her Rajarhat agitation plan…. That’s why you see this flurry of activity and they are trying to give land to everybody. What were they doing all these years?” asked Partha Chatterjee, leader of the Opposition.

Infosys had shown interest in Bengal since 2004. The company’s first attempt drew a blank when Hidco asked for Rs 2.16 crore an acre. The next bid in 2008 went nowhere after the government scrapped an IT hub project following the Vedic Village controversy.

Besides the Infosys plot, the Hidco board today approved land allotment for the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Central Bureau of Investigation, Bengal Engineering and Science University, National Thermal Power Corporation, Toyota, Jindal Steel and Pipes and TCG Life Sciences.

A senior government official said the rash of allotments was aimed at checkmating Mamata. The Trinamul leader has called a march to the Hidco office on December 9 to highlight the plight of farmers whose land was taken away at “throwaway prices”.

But Trinamul’s Chatterjee stressed that the IT industry would not suffer. “Our leader has made it clear that she is not opposed to IT hubs in Rajarhat. So, canards should not be spread against us,” he said.

The reassurance has done little to assuage the concerns of IT companies. “A sustained movement in and around Rajarhat will create an uncertain environment and will affect all of us,” said an official of a software services company.

According to minister Deb, Infosys would pay 25 per cent of the total amount within a month from now and cough up the rest after the creation of support infrastructure — like roads and culverts — by Hidco. “We will lay the necessary infrastructure very soon,” Deb said.

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