West Bengal govt pulls the plug on proposed IT park

West Bengal govt pulls the plug on proposed IT park

Kolkata: The West Bengal government on Monday formally announced its decision to scrap the proposed 1,600 acre information technology (IT) park that it was building in partnership with two real estate developers and where it had allotted 90 acres each to Infosys Technologies Ltd and Wipro Ltd.

“At this moment, we are unable to stick to our assurances of providing land to Wipro and Infosys," a statement issued by the state’s IT department said, adding that the two firms had been informed of the decision.

Infosys director T.V. Mohandas Pai said it is “very sad for West Bengal, very sad for IT". “We had committed significant investment in West Bengal... Chances that we would consider something in West Bengal in the foreseeable future are very dim," Pai told Mint.

Laxman Badiga, CIO, Wipro said in a statement the firm, which already has a presence in the state, was assessing the government’s announcement. “We are...are confident that West Bengal can provide sufficient opportunities for the IT industry to grow and expand."

The decision to shelve the project follows arson on 23 August at the Vedic Village resort and condominium around which the IT park was being built. The next day, state home secretary Ardhendu Sen said Vedic Realty Pvt. Ltd—a private developer with which the IT department had got into a partnership in early 2008—was acquiring land “at gunpoint".

The state secretariat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on 4 September asked the government to scrap the project. Mint had reported on 25 August that the unrest and disclosure of forcible acquisition could scupper the project.

Unable to acquire land on its own, the IT department had tied up with with Vedic and Diamond Group, another Kolkata-based developer, to jointly promote the park. The developers were to acquire land and transfer 600 acres for free to the department. In return, the government would build the civic infrastructure there and a 7km road linking it to Kolkata.

Before he was arrested on various charges on 29 August, Vedic Realty managing director Raj K. Modi had said around 500 acres had been acquired, but the land was not contiguous.

Explaining why it teamed up with Vedic, the IT department said: “When the (state) government failed to provide land...a private company on its own contacted Infosys and offered land in the area close to (the) airport and Rajarhat New Town. Infosys visited the area a number of times and agreed to take the land...provided the (state) government was involved in the project."

IT minister Debesh Das said his department decided to abandon the project because it did not “want to be involved in any illegal activity". “Already some departments have opined to scrap the project... It is impossible for the IT department to proceed with the project if any of the six departments (land and land reforms, housing, urban development, public works, irrigation and waterways and power) refuses to facilitate," the IT department said in its statement.

This is the third major industrial project shelved in 30 months because of problems with land acquisition. In early 2007, the government said it would move a proposed chemical hub from Nandigram in East Midnapore district after 14 died in a police action. In October 2008, Tata Motors Ltd decided to move its small car factory from Singur in Hooghly district to Sanand in Gujarat because of violent protests.