West Bengal govt to rework land transfer

West Bengal govt to rework land transfer

Kolkata: Acceding to a request by Coal India Ltd, or CIL, West Bengal will allot smaller plots to three steel plants and a township around a proposed airport in Asansol-Raniganj to ensure coal reserves were not wasted.

The state government has also said that it would not give clearance to or allot land for any industrial project in that area in Burdwan district without consulting Coal India, capping years of unplanned development that cost the country “at least 280 million tonnes of best quality coal," according to Partha S. Bhattacharyya, chairman of the state-owned mining firm. “It was not mandatory for the state government to seek our permission for any industrial project," he said.

“But it wasn’t good practice and we have set things right by intervening this time," Bhattacharyya added.

The executive was referring to a controversy over allotment of land to Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Ltd (BAPL), which will build an airport and a township around it, and to three steel plants to be constructed by Bhushan Steel Ltd, Videocon Ltd and Abhijeet Group.

When the projects were announced, Coal India had said the land offered held huge coal reserves.

For years, the state government has been building townships, markets and industrial infrastructure in the Asansol-Raniganj area without consulting the company, which says at least 2,500 acres of coal-bearing areas have been used up to build the Mangalpur township, the Jamuria Estate—an industrial hub and real estate project being built by a local civic body—and the Raniganj market.

It was also found that the state proposed to allot to BAPL 2.64 sq. km that had already been leased to Coal India’s subsidiary Eastern Coalfields Ltd.

By protesting against the land allotment, Coal India managed to “rescue" 1.92 sq. km, saving “at least 120 million tonnes of extractable coal," Bhattacharyya said.

Bengal Aerotropolis—a company in which Singapore’s Changi Airports International Pte Ltd holds 26% equity stake—is to be given around 2,300 acres. Last week it received 533 acres from West Bengal Industrial Development Corp. (WBIDC)—the key facilitator for industrial projects in the state—to start the first phase of construction.

The three steel plants together have asked for 7,500-8,000 acres, but the state government may not allot more than 6,500 acres to protect the state miner’s interests, Bhattacharyya said.

“What these companies had asked for was more than what they actually need," said a WBIDC official, who declined to be identified because he isn’t authorized to speak with the media.

“Some of them have on their own scaled down the project size," the official added.

Videocon may get 2,300 of the 3,000 acres it had sought. Bhushan Steel and the Abhijeet Group could get 500 and 400 acres, respectively, less than what they asked for, the official said.