The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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IT hub off Rajarhat to beat Rajarhat

Salt Lake is saturated. Present rates render Rajarhat non-viable. Enter, the city's 'third' information technology (IT) hub.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's Cabinet on Thursday cleared a proposal pushed by the IT department to set up a new tech address, between Rajarhat and the airport. State IT minister Manab Mukherjee announced the decision at a meeting later in the day.

The IT hub, effectively nosing out 'second' hub Rajarhat for now, will be spread over 500 acres and the government wants it up and clicking by mid-2007.

The minister's official line for the new destination was: 'We are flooded with applications for land and the demand is expected to go up in future. The decision on the third IT hub was taken to facilitate the growth of the state's IT and IT-enabled services industry.'

The ground reality, however, tracks a twist in the tale. Sources said the third-hub proposal has been speeded up by the IT department's failure to convince the Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (Hidco) to lower land prices at Rajarhat.

The Telegraph had reported last month (see above) how the Rajarhat land price ' Rs 2.16 crore per acre ' could slam the brakes on the state's dream IT run, with Wipro taking up the matter with the chief minister.

The company said its plan of setting up a 40-acre campus in Rajarhat was not 'viable' at such 'high rates'. Land prices for IT companies range between Rs 25 lakh and Rs 50 lakh per acre in cities like Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai and Gurgaon ' reason enough for the Wipros to rethink their Rajarhat plans.

'Spiralling real estate prices is an issue and the new hub will be a solution to that problem,' admitted Mukherjee on Thursday, promising 'competitive pricing' at the latest tech centre.

Refusing to write off Rajarhat, the minister also observed that the row over rates would be resolved soon. The matter lies with the chief minister's office.

Following the formal representation from Wipro and informal requests for realistic plot pricing from companies interested in expanding or setting up centres in Calcutta, Mukherjee's department got cracking in the first week of June to work out the proposal for the new IT hub.

'Around 500 acres will be acquired with help from the housing department and we are looking at a public-private partnership model for developing and allotting the land,' said Mukherjee. A global tender will be floated to identify the private partner.

As for the companies queuing up for a plot at Rajarhat, they can 'either wait for the rate issue to be resolved' or 'seek a transfer to the new IT hub', observed Mukherjee, hinting at the transfer of tech power from Rajarhat to 'off Rajarhat'.

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