The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Burnpur alight with hope

Burnpur, Dec. 24: Bablu Pareek had to fight with finance companies to give loans to buyers of TV sets or refrigerators from his showroom on Burnpur Station Road.

Today, finance companies and banks are chasing his customers with loans.

“In less than three years, things have changed and the credit-rating of consumers in Burnpur has improved,” said the 29-year-old businessman, busy even on a Sunday.

Brand Burnpur got a further boost today with the Prime Minister setting IISCO’s modernisation rolling in the township that got its name from British managing agency Burn & Co.

“Everything in this town is linked to IISCO. Now that the company has made profits for two consecutive years and is poised for growth, everyone is bullish,” said businessman Basudeb Chaudhry.

A shopping complex, a slew of housing projects and northward movement of real estate prices are signs of growth, coinciding with IISCO’s turnaround.

“Every section of society should benefit from the spin-off from industrialisation,” the Prime Minister said.

So it is hoped to happen in Singur, where the Tatas are to set up a car plant.

Amid the hustle and bustle, however, over 3,000 contract workers of the plant complained about being paid only Rs 60 a day by contractors.

“There is no point working for them,” said Sanjoy Roy, who grew up hearing stories of IISCO’s uncertain future.

“The late ’90s were difficult. Everyone was sceptical and some people left Burnpur,” said Chaudhry, who owns a hardware store and a computer training centre.

His father had migrated from Rajasthan to Burnpur in the heyday of the steel company, when its shares used to be traded on the London Stock Exchange.

From the sixties, the problems started and the government took over IISCO. In 1994, it became a sick company.

“We are expecting around Rs 5,000-crore investment in the region,” said Bangsha Gopal Chowdhury, the chairman of the Asansol Durgapur Development Authority and the local MP.

This is besides the nearly Rs 10,000 crore to be spent on IISCO’s modernisation.

A turnout of over 15,000 people was an indication of the appeal of that dream. Sushanta Ruidas — son of a wage labourer — was one of them.

“Good that IISCO is expanding.… We will get jobs,” said the unemployed youth.

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