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Mamata admits land clog in industry

Calcutta, May 8: Mamata Banerjee today tacitly admitted that the government’s hands-off land policy would be a deterrent to attracting big-ticket investment to Bengal.

In the first meeting of the core committee on industry chaired by chief minister and attended by the heads of several business chambers, industry captains, ministers and bureaucrats, Mamata said it would be difficult to provide large land parcels for industry.

“The chief minister said there could be problems in providing 1,000 acres or more of contiguous land for setting up industry. She, however, said 100-200 acres could easily be made available,” a chamber official said.

Industry observers said the government had never been so candid in admitting its inability to provide land despite its claim that it had created a 3 lakh-acre land bank.

An official of the land and land reforms department said that of the land bank, only plots measuring between 100 acres and 500 acres could be used for industry. The number of such plots would not be more than 120 and more than 75 of them are located in faraway islands in South 24-Parganas, the official said.

During the meeting, the chief minister turned down a proposal by Chandra Kant Dhanuka of Dhunseri Petrochem to review the entry tax on some industrial inputs.

However, Mamata assured the industrialists that clearance under the West Bengal Land Reforms Act’s Section 14Y — which allows companies to hold ceiling-excess land, would be given in a month’s time.

Sources said the chief minister promised to upload the state’s new draft industrial and textile policies on the website of the industries department. The sources said suggestions would be sought on the drafts.

Some industrialists suggested at today’s meeting that special economic zones should not be clubbed with IT-related SEZs as the land requirement for the latter was “near zero”. The sources said Mamata, whose is opposed to SEZ, did not utter a word on the suggestion.

A paper on the achievements of the government in the year 2012-13 was circulated among those who attended the meeting. In the beginning, the chief minister spoke on the business opportunities available in Bengal.

Mamata said the emphasis of the government was on education, tourism, health care, film cities and entertainment centres and eco and tea tourism. She added that a “world-class” convention centre was being built in Rajarhat.

Industries minister Partha Chatterjee, who earlier used to chair core committee meetings, finance minister Amit Mitra, panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee, power minister Manish Gupta, urban development minister Firhad Hakim, environment minister Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar and transport minister Madan Mitra attended the meeting.

ITC chairman Y.C. Deveshwar and Ambuja Realty chairman Harsh Neotia were present at the meeting besides chamber heads. After the meeting, Deveshwar said the state should evaluate its strengths and suggested that the government seek investments in the steel and fisheries sectors.

The next meeting will be held on July 3.