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Money alone can’t buy industrial plot
Investor record & job chances to be checked

Calcutta, Dec. 13: The Bengal government has unveiled a policy to auction state agencies’ plots to industry but included clauses that can deny allotment to the highest bidder.

Announcing that the cabinet today approved the policy, industries minister Partha Chatterjee said: “The highest bidder for a commercial plot will be given the land. But in case of land parcels meant for industrial purpose, offering the highest price would not be the only condition to get the plot.”

Chatterjee said the government would consider several other criteria such as the track record of the investor and employment opportunities the project would generate before allotting the land parcel.

“The new land-allocation policy has been framed to bring transparency in the land allotment process. During the Left Front tenure, there was no transparency,” the minister said.

The announcement, however, created confusion as Chatterjee did not spell out the process to evaluate the criteria.

“There is a lot if subjectivity in the entire process, which may result in favouritism. If an investor who has quoted the highest price is rejected without the government citing a proper reason, it would further dent Bengal’s appeal as an investment destination,” a Writers’ official said.

The government’s hands-off land acquisition policy has already hit its industrialisation plans hard.

Although Chatterjee has claimed that investment proposals worth over Rs 1.09 lakh crore have reached the government in the past 18 months, the rate of implementation of the proposals has been a matter of concern.

In the new allocation policy, agencies such as the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) and the West Bengal Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBIIDC), which have land available for industrial or commercial use, will put the information in the public domain and invite bids from investors.

“The expression of interest will be on websites for at least a month,” Chatterjee said.

While inviting bids for the land parcels, agencies such as the WBIDC and the WBIIDC will announce a floor price.

“After getting the bids, the agencies will look into all the other factors, such as the quantum of investment, nature of industry and its employment potential,” Chatterjee said.

Using such parameters to assess the potential worth of a project will be incomplete unless the government develops a model by assigning proper weightage to each parameter, an official said.

“Unless the investors are told in advance about the model, there will always be an element of subjectivity, which will add to the confusion,” the official added.

Plot for ITC

The cabinet today cleared allotment of 15 acres to ITC Infoctech in Rajarhat to set up its first unit in the state.