The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ground rules for sick plots
Graphic: Sanjoy

The ground reality has never been spelt out clearer: anything, repeat anything, can be built at the site of a closed or sick industrial unit, as long as it is in conformity with the laws of the land.

The Left Front government read out the realty act to the Opposition on Wednesday, in response to angry noises in the Assembly over mega housing complexes with shopping malls and multiplexes coming up on the compounds of closed or sick state-owned companies, “at the expense” of the workers.

“Our job will be confined to obtaining proper clearances for the sale of the land of closed or sick central or state-owned public sector undertakings, overseeing liquidation of workers’ dues from the sale proceeds, and ensuring a transparent land handover,” said minister of industries Nirupam Sen.

“The new owners will then be free to make use of the land according to their commercial interests,” he asserted.

The minister, thus, laid down the government line in the thorny matter of commercial constructions at the addresses of closed units, after Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress had kicked up a row on the floor over high-end housing projects like “South City, on Prince Anwar Shah Road”.

Sen went on to reiterate that talks were on with the Centre regarding the likely sale of close to 152 acres owned by closed or sick public sector undertakings or private companies to the highest bidders.

“We are constantly in touch with them (in Delhi) on this issue and we expect a favourable response soon,” said the minister.

That a building boom — with mall and multiplex in tow — is a must to steer the city forward has often been stressed by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. “It will be wrong to assume that we are jettisoning the workers of closed factories,” Bhattacharjee had told Metro recently. “We are only reworking a concept so that we can address the needs of investors and workers at once.”

The one complex under construction that has caught the Opposition eye is South City, that paid Rs 41.61 crore towards purchase of approximately 32 acres of the shutdown Jay Engineering on Prince Anwar Shah Road.

Jugal Khetawat, one of the partners in the 1,600-apartment project told Metro: “Jay Engineering used to employ around 800 people at the time of closure. South City will lead to direct employment for around 15,000, with a massive boost to a clutch of ancillary sectors.”

Job anchors like large-format residential developments have an eight-fold economic multiplier effect on investment, feels Sumit Dabriwal, managing director, Calcutta Metropolitan Group, developers of Hiland Park, expected to provide direct employment to 1,500 people.

According to Pradip Chopra, secretary, Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India-Bengal, large-format housing is the way forward. “There is no other way of compensating workers of closed units than selling those plots to big-scale real estate developments.”

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