| A view of the leather complex at Bantala
Another ultimatum. Another deadline. Commerce and industry minister Nirupam Sen on Wednesday assured that construction of the Calcutta Leather Complex at Bantala will be over in October and after that all tannery owners will have to shift their units to the new premises.
Announcing it in the Assembly, Sen told the House that the preliminary infrastructure in the leather complex was “almost ready” and tannery owners could start work there. However, he said only the effluent treatment plant (ETP) was still under construction.
Earlier, during the question hour session, RSP legislator Tapan Hore wanted to know from the minister the latest status of the leather complex. He expressed concern over slow progress of the construction and reluctance of the tannery owners to relocate their units to the new premises. Echoing him, leader of the Opposition Pankaj Banerjee and Trinamul Congress MLA Saugata Roy said the infrastructure in the leather complex was not sufficient and a lot of work was yet to be done.
The Opposition MLAs blamed the government for not taking action against ML Dalmiya and Company, entrusted to construct the complex on a build-operate-transfer basis, for not completing the project in time.
“The ETP is essential for the leather complex and according to the agreement, Dalmiya and Company was supposed to have constructed it at its own cost, but did not. As the Supreme Court had set a deadline for relocation, the state government took the responsibility to construct the plant for the sake of quick action,’’ the minister said.
He added that two modules of the ETP were ready and construction of another two would start soon.
Despite repeated appeals from the state government, tannery owners are reluctant to shift their units on the ground of “inadequate infrastructure’’. A lot of work has to be done before production can start, they allege. Besides, some basic infrastructure — school, market, transportation, drinking water, housing — needed to be in place for the thousands of employees who will be working in the complex.
Sen told the Assembly that 523 tannery owners had applied for plots in the leather complex and 138 acres of land had been allotted to 319 tannery owners. Of them, 212 owners have started construction.
The industry minister said the government would ensure that the tannery owners and the workers would not face problems at the new premises. “We are making arrangements for a bus terminus at Bantala and will introduce frequent bus services. Besides, there will be a separate police station and a fire brigade, for which work will start soon.”
But Sen also sounded a word of caution. It will take “some time to get all this ready”, he said, and requested tannery owners to “bear with us”.