The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Soft on Dalmiya, tough on tanner

Tanners operating from their old units at Tangra, Topsia and Tiljala are refusing to relocate to the newly-created facility at the Bantala Leather Complex, according to the latest status report prepared by the government, which will be submitted to the Supreme Court on Friday.

Advocate-general Balai Ray left for New Delhi on Thursday evening to present the report in the apex court, which had set an October 31 deadline for the tanneries to shift.

The 21st status report contains the developments that have taken place in the last two months (the period since the previous report was drawn up) over the shifting of tanneries and the setting up and commencement of production at the new site. It has been prepared by Romit Mutsuddi, joint secretary in the commerce and industries department.

The report points out that the land acquisition process for 535 of the 1,100 acres has been completed. It also says that the government has “fully developed all the components” of the off-site infrastructure, except the solid waste management network.

Tanners, on the other hand, point out that production cannot commence unless the Pollution Control Board has tested the effluents after they are treated through the waste management network.

The report says the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority has concluded that almost all the on-site infrastructure work required to run the leather complex has been completed in eight zones. It has, however, warned that the various mechanical equipment would become inoperative if the entire system remained idle for long.

The report, however, does not seem critical of M.L. Dalmiya and Company, the agency that is in charge of implementing the Build-Operate-Transfer project at Bantala, even though chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Wednesday hauled up the company for the delay in setting up the project. The leather complex was supposed to have been completed in October, but the report says it will take another three months for Zone IX to be developed completely.

The government, meanwhile, has provided police protection to the Dalmiya residence, in Alipore, following a threat by tannery-workers to gherao Jagmohan Dalmiya over the disconnection of electricity lines to the old tannery units.

A three-member team of Trinamul Congress legislators on Thursday submitted a letter to commerce and industry minister Nirupam Sen after visiting the Bantala site. They said the government was abiding by the Supreme Court’s directive of completing the shift by cutting off power supply, it was also ignoring the directive by not completing the mandatory waste treatment network at Bantala.

The MLAs — Shobhandeb Chattopadhyay, Tapas Roy and Paras Dutta — also claimed that the earth-filling process at the new site was incomplete, as was the proper demarcation of the plots. They added that no police outpost had been set up at the complex. So, the old units “should not be asked to pull down their shutters”.

Calcutta Leather and Tannery Manufacturers’ Association spokesman Javed Khan said association members would challenge the status report in the apex court. “How is the government saying that we are not willing to shift when we have already paid for the land at Bantala at the rate of Rs 1,671 per square metre' And what about the infrastructure that the government is supposed to provide there'” Javed Khan asked.

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