The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Highway travel to get smarter
Salim plazas to dot road to Raichak

Calcutta, July 5: The “mini-townships” which the Salim Group will build along the Barasat-Raichak expressway would be clusters of commercial complexes with resorts, shops, motels, food courts, rest-rooms and gas stations, industries minister Nirupam Sen told The Telegraph today.

These clusters would also have provisions for marginal farmers, whose land would be acquired for industry and infrastructure projects, to set up business and earn a living.

Around 9,000 acres would be leased to the Indonesia-based group in North and South 24-Parganas for a string of projects. The government has also agreed to engage the Salim Group as the anchor developer of the proposed 10,000-acre chemical hub at Haldia and the special economic zone there, the minister said.

The SEZ, including its adjoining township, is likely to sprawl across 10,000 acres.

“Instead of dhabas and hotels that have mushroomed along national highways, facilities available in these commercial complexes will be a welcome change for those who use the 100-km expressway,’’ Sen said, anticipating a major increase in cargo and passenger traffic to and from Haldia.

Within the complexes, 10-15 acres will be earmarked for “land-losers” who depended entirely on the land for their livelihood. “Clusters of structures would be built so that these people can set up their own small business.

“My idea is to ensure decentralised spatial development along the expressway and land-losers would not be compelled to look for a livelihood far from where they belong,” Sen explained.

According to him, around 1,000 acres would be acquired for this project. The Salim Group will develop 10 complexes. Five of them will be handed over to the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation later, possibly under a build-operate-transfer pact.

“It is a give-and-take bet-ween us and the Salim Group. They have agreed to our idea. We will emulate this model for projects elsewhere,’’ said Sen.

Elaborating on his give-and-take policy, he said the Salim Group would be given 5,000 acres on lease to construct a satellite township at Baruipur, 26 km south of Calcutta, which will house the new South 24-Parganas district headquarters. “Although the land will be on lease, the group will be allowed to commercially exploit the project and sell flats.”

The land to be acquired for the township would be “mostly mono-crop or low”, and has already been identified by district CPM leaders.

Similarly, around 3,000 acres will be leased to the Salims to build the Barasat-Raichak Road and the bridge connecting Raichak and Kukrahati on the way to Haldia. Sen said: “The Salim Group will bear the cost of the land acquisition and constructions. But it will hand over ownership of the expressway to the government after a certain period.”

The Salims will also develop the “physical infrastructure” of the chemical hub. Sen said: “They are also interested in being the anchor investor there. But now we are in talks with the Indian Oil Corporation and have offered it the role.’’

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