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Rs 500-crore Future Group project on govt land

Calcutta, May 21: Amit Mitra today announced a Rs 500-crore food-processing unit to be set up by the Future Group in Kharagpur, in an attempt to showcase the government’s success in attracting private investment at a time Trinamul has swept the Lok Sabha polls.

The cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure and industries today approved the allotment of 60 acres to set up the food-processing unit at the government-owned Vidyasagar Industrial Park in Kharagpur. The company will be allowed to procure farm produce directly from farmers.

The Kishore Biyani-owned Rs 14,000-crore Future Group’s proposal is one of the few noteworthy investment commitments the Trinamul government has been able to secure in its three years in office.

“The company will buy land in the park and 1,500 jobs will be generated. Collection centres will be set up to buy farm produce directly from farmers,” finance and industries minister Mitra said at Nabanna this afternoon.

Senior state government officials said that if implemented, the project could be the biggest food-processing unit in Bengal.

Mitra took care to explain that the project was significant for the state, saying it captured the interest of the large private investor in the food-processing sector.

A Nabanna official said: “The government will have to highlight this project. Till now, its performance on the industrial front has been dismal.”

Not only have fresh investment eluded Bengal, the government has failed to resolve uncertainty over several business proposals received during the Left Front regime.

There is still no clarity on the plan to revive Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd. The proposed Jindal steel and power project in West Midnapore’s Salboni has hardly made any progress. The state government’s decision to return land acquired for the Tata Nano project in Singur is caught in a legal tangle.

A section of senior officials and prominent businessmen have blamed the Bengal government’s hands-off land policy for investors’ lack of interest in the state.

“The problem posed by such a land policy was evident when the state’s Brihat Krishak Bazaar project failed to take off as investors shied away realising they would have to buy land directly from farmers,” said a Nabanna official.

As part of the Brihat Krishak Bazaar project, announced by the chief minister last year, the government had tried to set up seven markets with private investment. The plan was that the markets would act as both collection and distribution centres for farm produce and would be linked to the food-processing industry.

Although tenders were floated and several assistance programmes — such as setting up allied infrastructure around the markets — announced, not a single private player expressed interest, sources in the agriculture department said.

“The Future Group proposal could have been accommodated in the projectů. But it seems the group preferred the industrial park because land was readily available,” an agriculture department official said.