Videocon Group of companies chairman Venugopal Dhoot says he is willing to offer farmers displaced by the three special economic zones he plans to build in West Bengal equity in the projects that come up there.
However, Dhoot, who recently took over as president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham), said the chamber wants the Centre to put on hold all SEZ proposals till it works out a land acquisition policy and a compensation package.
“Pending proposals on SEZs should be put on hold until the government puts in place its land acquisition policy and an adequate compensation package,” he said.
The chamber had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting that land should not be taken without farmers’ consent.
About his offer, Dhoot said the extent of equity participation will be decided by the company and the farmer whose land is acquired, on a case-by-case basis.
The Videcon Group is into consumer electronics, television sets, picture tubes and oil and gas. It has obtained formal approval to set up three SEZs in West Bengal, where it expects to invest Rs2,000 crore on 2,224 acres of land in Siliguri, Rajarhat and on the Kalyani Expressway.
However, these have been put on the back burner following the recent outcry against acquisition of agricultural land for the Tata Motors plant in Singur and the SEZ in Nandigram in the state.
The sugggestion to make stakeholders out of displaced farmers is one of the significant ones that might find a place in the land acquisition policy being prepared jointly by various central ministries such as rural development, labour and agriculture.
The demand for a coherent nation-wide land acquisition policy rose a couple of months ago amid concerns that SEZs didn’t have a uniform policy on compensating for land that they were acquiring from farmers.
Separately, an Assocham study has projected that West Bengal has the potential to attract additional investments of Rs1 lakh crore by 2010. This would be in chemicals, petrochemicals, engineering, automobiles, food processing, agri-business, biotech, IT and ITeS and create three lakh job opportunities.
Assocham is preparing a blueprint called ‘Look East Development Council’ and proposes to reach out to 50 top Indian companies and multinationals in countries such as the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan to apprise them of the investment opportunities in the state.
Also involved in this project are Deloitte Consulting and Yes Bank. The chamber also plans to organize a road show ‘West Bengal Mart’ in September. Over 500 business leaders are expected to participate.