Kolkata: West Bengal has formed a committee of secretaries to review and hasten the implementation of industrial projects proposed by Indonesia’s Salim Group and its Indian partners.
The committee, chaired by chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakraborty, will review progress at projects proposed by New Kolkata International Development Pvt. Ltd (NKID), a venture of the Salim Group, Universal Success Enterprises Ltd (Usel) and Unitech Ltd. These include a 54 sq. km chemical industries hub at Nayachar island on the Hooghly river, a bridge to better access the island and a deep sea port near the industrial complex.
“The committee has been formed for better coordination between various departments such as land, environment and finance,” the state’s commerce and industries minister, Nirupam Sen, told Mint.
Previous delays: Nirupam Sen says the committee will review the projects and ‘suggest ways of implementing them fast’, adding that time has already been lost in moving the chemical hub from one site to another. Indranil Bhoumik / Mint
“The committee will review the projects in the pipeline and suggest ways of implementing them fast. Already a lot of time has gone in moving the chemical hub from one site to another,” Sen said.
The complex for chemical industries was initially proposed to be located at Nandigram in East Midnapore district, but after violent local protests that led to at least 14 deaths, the government shifted the site to the sparsely populated Nayachar.
However, a member of the committee said the move could be aimed at pushing NKID to start work on the proposed projects immediately. “Both the projects that the Salim Group and its partner Prasoon Mukherjee (founder and chairman of Usel) are currently implementing are way behind schedule,” he said on condition of anonymity.
He was referring to the Kolkata West International City—a 390-acre township, construction of which started three-and-a-half years ago—and Mahabharat Motors Manufacturing Co. Pvt. Ltd, which proposes to manufacture motorcycles for TVS Motor Co. Ltd. The state government had given 64 acres for the factory almost three years ago, and construction started in early 2007, but it isn’t ready yet.
NKID declined to comment on the review of its projects. A spokesperson for the consortium said: “You should speak to the state government.”
In January, the state government transferred 54 sq. km in Nayachar to PC Ray Chemicals Pvt. Ltd—a 51:49 joint venture of NKID and West Bengal Industrial Development Corp. Ltd—for the chemical hub. Various feasibility studies are currently being conducted.
The committee is also going to “examine how the change in the political scenario” in the state since the recently held general election could affect the projects, the secretary quoted earlier said.
The ruling Left Front alliance, led by Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, won only 15 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, compared with 35 in 2004.
“Almost all the projects of the Salim Group are in East Midnapore, which earlier used to be a CPM stronghold. But things are different now. Also, it is impossible for the state government to acquire large tracts of land now,” the bureaucrat said. “The Salim Group’s projects will have to be reviewed in the light of these developments.”
In the general election, the Trinamool Congress, the state’s main opposition party, made significant inroads into East Midnapore, where it won two Lok Sabha seats.
On 16 July, the state’s finance minister Asim Dasgupta announced in the assembly that the proposed 100km highway connecting Kolkata with Haldia port city, which was to be built by NKID, had been shelved because the state government wouldn’t forcibly acquire land for any industrial or infrastructure project.
Under an agreement signed in 2006, the state government had agreed to allot land to NKID for the chemical hub in return for building the Barasat-Raichak highway. Since the highway is unlikely to be built for want of land, the agreement between the state government and NKID to develop the chemical hub would also have to be reworked.
“The agreement signed with NKID in 2006 had envisaged various projects, some of which might not materialize,” said Subesh Das, principal secretary to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and a member of the committee. “In the given situation, the agreement between the state government and NKID might have to be rewritten.”