The Telegraph
Saturday , February 5 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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Minister faces small industry heat

Siliguri, Feb. 4: Urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya today walked into an interaction with small-scale industrialists here only to meet with a barrage of complaints against the state’s Small Scale Industries Development Corporation.

Bhattacharya, the Siliguri MLA, had to quickly assure the owners of about 100 small and medium industries who had gathered on the industrial estate here that he would take up their complaints with micro and small enterprises minister, Manab Mukherjee.

The minister was told that the leases of the plots where the units were located in the 25-year-old estate had expired 10 to 15 years ago and the SIDC was dragging its feet in getting them renewed.

Salil Mukherjee, an entrepreneur and a member of the Siliguri Industrial Estate Developers’ Association, said: “The non-renewal of leases has left us insecure as we are not sure of our land rights. Also, the SIDC, without consulting with us, has increased the lease rent from Rs 26 per cottah to Rs 650 per cottah last month.”

It was unfair, the entrepreneurs said, on the part of the SIDC not to renew the lease deeds for the smooth running of the units that engage around 10,000 people. “It seems that the state government is interested only in big investments and does not have time for first generation entrepreneurs like us,” one of the members said after meeting the minister.

The 23-acres estate, which stands at a prime location off Sevoke Road, faces the problem of water logging every year. “The garbage dumped on the premises is not carried away by the Siliguri Municipal Corporation, further polluting the estate,” an SIEDA member said.

Uma Maheswari, a woman who runs a pipe manufacturing unit on the estate, said while ministers and officials encouraged small entrepreneurs, they were never given an opportunity to supply raw material to government departments.

“We are appreciated for running units but under no circumstances, government purchases are made from our firms to provide some backup,” she said.

Bhattacharya said he would take up the “main problem” of lease renewal with the minister concerned.

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