The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Red tape red lights home investor

Behrampore, June 12: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee might be on a investment-wooing blitz beyond Bengal but his mantra does not seem to be working in favour of home-grown entrepreneurs because of the infamous red tape.

Zakir Hussain of Aurangabad in Murshidabad is one of the biggest bidi manufacturers in the state with a turnover of over Rs 30 crore but the 32-year-old’s dream to open a mustard oil mill beside National Highway 34 has hit the administrative hurdle.

A year after spending about Rs 21 lakh planning and ordering equipment for his pet project, Hussain has given up. The land and land reforms department is yet to release to him the plot for the plant.

“From purchasing the plot, getting licences and the power department’s consent to paying an advance of Rs 20 lakh to a firm in Calcutta for the equipment, I’ve done it all. But my application for converting the agricultural land to industrial fell on deaf ears,” Hussain said, disillusioned at the delay in these times of fast-track growth.

The entrepreneur had appealed to the Murshidabad district magistrate, the cottage and small industries minister and the secretary of the department, without the land tangle being sorted out.

“The previous chairman of the Murshidabad zilla parishad made me sit outside his office for four hours and did not meet me,” alleged Hussain.

District magistrate Manoj Panth said he knew about the proposed oil mill. “The Union government has frozen any development on both sides of National Highway 34 at a stretch of 75 m and, therefore, we could not hand over the land,” Panth said.

“I have asked Zakir Hussain not to shelve the project and, instead, have patience as we are looking for an alternative for him,” the district magistrate said.

The young entrepreneur said he had planned a “modern” mill with an investment of Rs 1 crore in the first phase and five more in three years. “I had planned to procure the raw material from Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, from where my bidi-laden trucks return empty,” he said.

In its first phase, the mill would have provided employment to 100 people and 300 more jobs would have been created in the next three years.

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