| Santoso in his hotel (Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya) , Business Telegraph
Calcutta, Oct. 21: Yesterday, he witnessed Mamata Banerjee’s “tamasha” and was told to ignore it. Today, for about an hour Benny Santoso sat through a briefing by senior state officials on bandhs plaguing the state and was told not to be deterred by these.
At the end of the day, the Salim Group representative told The Telegraph: “We are happy with the way things progressed during our stay in the city. The agitation that we witnessed yesterday has not affected our plans in any way. We shall proceed with our investments in the state in the manner that has been planned and discussed.”
Finally, he promised, “I shall be back next year.”
The managing director of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, Gopal Krishna, who spent the afternoon with Santoso and his team along with commerce and industry secretary Sabyasachi Sen, said the Salim Group had “no apprehensions” about investing in the state.
“Bandhs are not a factor for them,” Krishna said.
“They asked us all about it but we received no negative vibes from them. Neither were they shaken by yesterday’s agitation. They understand that problems do arise in big projects involving a lot of land. They are a multinational, they are used to tackling such issues.”
The Bengal government is expected to say this, nor will Santoso publicly admit having been influenced in a negative way by Mamata’s protest ' flop, though, it was. But any investor coming from a different culture will be at least a little apprehensive. Whether this apprehension grows or not will depend on what Mamata does next. Today, she remained behind closed doors.
According to Sen, the Salim Group will prepare detailed reports on the other projects in the pipeline: the proposed health city, knowledge city, industrial township and an 87-km highway. “We would like to know what exactly the Salim Group has in mind about these projects, the finances involved and time frame they are looking at,” Sen said.
“We would also like a clearer picture of what these projects would finally look like.”
“If we know all this, it will also help us in scouting for the land,” Sen added. “We are not sure whether they want the land in one chunk for locating all their projects at one place or in separate plots. In our talks today we also explored whether it was possible to have the industrial township in one place and the other projects located elsewhere.”
Sen added that land would be allotted in phases as it would not be possible to “hand over 2,500 acres for the industrial township at one go”. Sen also said the Salim group was told that an alternative settlement colony would have to be built for those who are displaced by the projects.
Yesterday, the Salim Group had handed over a cheque for Rs 3.42 crores for the land for setting up the motorcycle factory in Uluberia. The remaining amount will be paid in two equal instalments in the next one year.
This afternoon the land transfer documents were handed over to Santoso. “The construction of the unit will begin next year,” Santoso said. “We are sure things will go well.”
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, too, seemed satisfied with the way Santoso’s visit went. While leaving Writers’ Buildings, he did not have any harsh words for Mamata.
“What had to happen, has happened,” he signed off.