The Mamata Banerjee government has decided to develop a number of industrial and economic corridors in Bengal over the next few years as part of its attempt to attract investments, which the state needs to address the problem of unemployment.
Initially, the state had plans to develop three industrial corridors from Dankuni, which will be the termination point of the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor, a broad gauge freight corridor between Ludhiana and Dankuni, via Khurja in Uttar Pradesh. It will be developed by the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd, a public sector unit under the Ministry of Railways.
"The scale and the scope of the plan has been expanded and the state government has decided to extend its effort and develop a total of six economic and industrial corridors across the state. In the first phase, four economic corridors will be developed.... And in the second phase, two more economic corridors will be created," said a source.
In the first phase, the state will develop Raghunathpur-Dankuni-Tajpur (398km) corridor, along with Dankuni-Kalyani (43km) and Dankuni-Jhargram (160km) corridors. The state has also taken up a fourth corridor — Darjeeling More at Panagarh in East Burdwan to Cooch Behar (639km) — in the first phase.
In the second phase, the state will develop two more industrial corridors — a 234km stretch between Gurudi in Purulia and Joka, and a stretch of 230km between Kharagpur and Moregram on the Birbhum-Murshidabad border (see map).
A senior government official explained why the state had laid stress on developing industrial corridors across Bengal.
"As Dankuni will be the terminal station of the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor, it can act as a port that will felicitate different industries in its nearby areas. The state has decided to use the opportunity to develop corridors along the industrial corridors connecting Dankuni. The state has several land parcels along the proposed corridors, which can be offered to investors to set up industrial units," said the official.
In the case of other corridors that are not connected to Dankuni, the state expects that these corridors will attract investment as they connect major national highways linking Northeast, Delhi or Mumbai.
"Industrial corridors recognise the inter-dependence of various sectors of the economy and offer effective integration between industry and infrastructure leading to overall economic and social development. The state wants to use the opportunity to generate jobs," said another official.
Senior officials said as the proposed corridors had been planned along the existing state and national highways, there would not be much trouble in arranging land.
"Majority of the existing highways are two-lane or seven-metre wide. If the highways are to be developed as industrial corridors, these have to be widened to 10-metre-wide roads," said a source.
In the first phase, the investments will be to the tune of Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,000 crore, which the state hopes can raise over the next two-three years. Around Rs 4,000-8,000 crore will be needed for the second phase. The state coffers are stretched and it is tough for the government to cough up a huge sum at one go.