| Bhattacharjee with Salim group chairman Anthony Salim in Jakarta on Thursday. (AFP)
Jakarta, Aug. 25: “A historic day for Bengal and the happiest in my life.”
That was all a moved Buddhadeb Bhattcharjee could say moments after the agreement was signed.
The Indonesia-based Salim Group’s multi-dimensional international economic zone promises to bring to Bengal one of the biggest foreign direct investments anywhere in India. The project is modelled on the Salim Group’s Batam Industrial Park in Singapore.
Neither Bhattacharjee nor Salim representatives pinpointed the exact amount of investments, since this would be known as the work progresses. But officials from both the Bengal government and the Indonesian group indicated that the investments would run into thousands of crores.
Of equal importance was the land deal Bhattacharjee struck with the Salim Group that the chief minister hoped would silence critics within and outside his party. Unlike in any other project before, the Salim Group would pay for the acquisition of land it would require. It will also pick up the tab for resettling people displaced by the project. Those who lose the land from which they make a living will be given “alternative means of livelihood” in the project.
The project includes an industrial zone to be set up over 2,500 acres, complete with a new township, a “knowledge city” and the infrastructure and facilities of a special economic zone.
The Salim Group, one of the biggest business conglomerates in southeast Asia, in collaboration with another Indonesian company, Ciputra, recently signed another agreement to build a township in west Howrah. Preliminary work on the project, such as acquisition of land, has already been started.
Salim too called it a “great day”. His sole partner in the group, Benny Santosa, who had done most of the groundwork for the project in close association with the Jakarta-based Bengali entrepreneur, Prasoon Mukherjee, who had introduced the Salim Group to Bengal and to the chief minister, hailed it as a “big, new beginning for Bengal”.
The agreement, which, according to the chief minister, was a “memorandum of action”, also includes the setting up of a health city with a super-speciality hospital and training centres formedical professionals.
While the economic zone will be set up in South 24 Parganas, the health city will come upclose to Calcutta airport in North 24 Parganas. Also part of the agreement was an 85-km expressway the Salim Group will build to connect the Barasat bypass in North 24 Parganas to Raichak in the south.
The Indonesian group will build the four-lane highway at its cost, maintain it for a specific number of years (to be fixed later) and then hand it over to the state government.
The agreement provides for the road to be upgraded to six lanes in the future. Although it was not part of the agreement, the Salim group has agreed to consider the chief minister’s proposal to build a bridge over the Hooghly between Raichak and Kukrahati close to theHaldia port.
The agreement signed here this evening between the executive director of the Salim group, Benny Santosa, and Bengal’s commerce and industries secretary, Sabyasachi Sen, will be followed by another after the Indonesian group completes a detailed project report.
Before that, however, both sides will identify the exact areas and location of the land to be made available for the project.
The government would however have to modify some laws such as the Land Reforms Act and the Town and Country Planning Act to make land available for the project. “There will no problem with that,” the chief minister said.