The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Another 5000 acres on Salim plate
We won’t release land for their (Salim Group’s) townships at one go. It will be in sync with the progress in the infrastructure projects, for which we are offering land for housing
as incentive — Nirupam Sen

Calcutta, July 25: The government will acquire another 5,000 acres for the Salim Group at Kukrahati in East Midnapore, near Haldia, to develop a township in addition to its proposed 5,000-acre project in Baruipur, industry minister Nirupam Sen told The Telegraph today.

The decision is part of the ongoing 'give-and-take' negotiations with the Indonesian group that has agreed to fund land acquisition and construct the 100-km Barasat-Raichak expressway and the Raichak-Kukrahati bridge, connecting Haldia and National Highway 34, he said. The group will also construct 10 small commercial hubs along the proposed expressway.

In return for the 10,000 acres, the Salim Group will act as anchor developer for the special economic zone (SEZ) and mega chemical hub in Haldia as well as the roads connecting the two, the minister said.

'We won't release land for their townships at one go. It will be in sync with the progress in the infrastructure projects, for which we are offering land for housing as incentive,' Sen said. 'Unless the roads are ready, people are not going to buy flats in Baruipur or Kukrahati. So it's in the Salim Group's interest to work fast.'

The proposed township at Baruipur, the site of the new headquarters for South 24-Parganas, would be spread over a large area, apparently to avoid the acquisition of multi-crop land.

The government would get back 1,000 acres out of the 5,000 acres to be developed in Baruipur after some time. While the Kukrahati township would come up on low and saline land close to the banks of the Hooghly, the Baruipur township will be on mostly mono-crop land, the minister added.

Justifying the government's move to hand over a huge tract of land to the Salim Group without inviting tenders, Sen said the National Highway Authority had declined to take up the construction of the road and bridge despite the state's repeated requests over the last four years.

'Our plan to connect the 250-sq-km Haldia investment zone' to the Kulpi port-cum-SEZ and National Highway 34 is an integrated one. The deal with a single group gave us more scope for bargaining. Also, we are keen to complete the infrastructure projects early since the success of the mega chemical hub and the SEZs depend on it,' he said.

The minister said he 'expected' the negotiations with the Salim Group to be over soon and the agreement to be inked by July 31 in the presence of the group's top officials, Anthony Salim and Benny Santoso.

Denying the charge that land for real estate promotion is being offered to woo investors, Sen said: 'Our policy to give land as incentive is project-specific and not blanket. We will give this incentive more in case of infrastructure projects as the state would benefit in the long run. The government is making efforts to bargain and extract more social benefits from investors.'

He said the Tata Motors small car unit at Singur would not include any housing project as was envisaged in the original plan.

Land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Molla had earlier told the Assembly that the 43,180 acres the government wanted to acquire for investors included 1,253 acres in Singur for the Tata unit plus a housing project.

Sen today said Tata Motors had asked for additional land for housing its workers when the company had thought of setting up shop in Kharagpur.

'Now Tata Motors has dropped its housing project as the skilled workers needed at Singur will come from neighbouring districts, including Calcutta and Howrah, who can commute from home. We told them that the company may find accommodation at the 5,000-acre Dankuni township,' Sen said.

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