The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Big business on table

Calcutta, Aug. 21: Forget the nuclear noise for a day, a more substantial blast could be round the corner.

The Bengal cabinet is expected to take up tomorrow the biggest chunk of investment proposals in its history.

Four projects that propose a cumulative expenditure of Rs 38,200 crore could come up before the cabinet unless eleventh-hour changes hit the schedule. The projects cover core sectors like steel, power and cement.

Another path-breaker: economically backward Purulia will be the biggest beneficiary if the clutch of proposals is cleared.

Bengal has one more reason to smile. Three of the four prospective investors — Jai Balaji Group, Adhunik Corporation and Abhijit Group — are home-grown entrepreneurs. Bhushan Steel of Delhi is the lone “guest” investor.

If and when the projects go on stream, up to 10.1 million tonnes of steel, 4 million tonnes of cement and 2,200mw will be produced and generated a year.

However, with every opportunity comes a threat. The four companies have demanded close to 12,000 acres in Purulia and Burdwan for the projects. Purulia has fallow land but finding such tracts in Burdwan will not be easy.

The biggest of the four proposals has been mooted by Jai Balaji Group, which wants to invest Rs 16,000 crore to set up a 5-million-tonne steel plant, a 3-million-tonne cement unit and a 1,250mw power plant at Raghunathpur in Purulia.

Aditya Jajodia, the chairman and managing director of Jai Balaji, said the project would require about 4,000 acres initially.

Adhunik Corporation has also shortlisted Raghunathpur. Mahesh Agarwal, the director, said his company had sought 2,400 acres.

Abhijit Group has proposed a plant at Jamuria in Burdwan and sought 2,500 acres.

Bhushan has chosen Asansol for a 2-million-tonne steel plant and North 24-Parganas for a cold-rolling mill.

If these projects, coupled with the Jindals’ Salboni project and the modernisation of IISCO, come through, Bengal will become one of the biggest iron and steel producers in the country.

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