The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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On the table: hunt for land and cash
Cabinet kickoff today

Calcutta, May 30: Meeting tomorrow for the first time after the elections, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government will consider a host of land acquisition proposals for projects ranging from Tata Motors' small-car plant to the knowledge city at Uluberia.

Till late this evening, officers of the commerce and industries department were drafting proposals that will be tabled at the cabinet meeting.

Officials said the last minute paperwork was to avoid attracting media attention in the wake of the controversy regarding land acquisition at Singur.

Tomorrow's talks table will have many proposals, which the commerce and industries department wants to handle on a priority basis.

The government wants to acquire more than 31,000 acres over the next six months for the projects.

This includes acquisition of around 4,884 acres for the Dankuni township by Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA). Around 1,000 acres here will be reserved for industry.

The cabinet will also deliberate on acquiring 400 acres for a food park at Uluberia, Howrah, around 850 acres for a knowledge city, a health city and a biotech park between Rajarhat and Dum Dum air-port, around 500 acres for the Eastern Expressway from Barasat to Raichak, 1,000 acres for Telcon's payloader unit near Kharagpur and 3,000 acres for a minor port at Kulpi.

According to rules, any land acquisition of over 100 acres has to have the cabinet's nod.

Faced with a burgeoning demand for land from prospective investors, Bhattacharjee's government is running short of funds required to acquire the land.

'Given the vast requirement of land, the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) wants to acquire some more land in areas where the demand is high and keep it in reserve after developing the infrastructure,' said commerce and industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen.

This, according to Sen, can only happen if the WBIDC has a corpus of funds.

The WBIDC will try to work out a commercial relationship with banks for seeking loans to acquire land for industrial projects.

'Once the funds are assured, they can acquire land, develop quality infrastructure and hand over land to the best bidder or the most prestigious investor,' Sen added.

Officials, however, said the idea is at a conceptual stage and will need the cabinet's approval before it can be formally adopted.

The acquisition model will not work for Haldia. 'For the chemical hub at Haldia, we will have to select a developer first. Of course, we're expecting IOC to be the anchor investor,' said Sen.

In addition to the various land acquisition proposals, the cabinet will deliberate on the compensation package drawn up for farmers to be displaced by the major projects in the future.

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