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Can a contractor at Haldia be compared to an MNC at Singur: Partha Chatterjee

Q&A with West Bengal industry and commerce minister

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For a state where industrial sentiment is hit by law and order issues and land acquisition rules, the pullout of Bulk Terminals (HBT) which was compared to the Nano issue in Singur, was salt added to its wounds. West Bengal industry and commerce minister Partha Chatterjee speaks about the ABG issue, upcoming and investments in an interview with Shine Jacob.

What is your take on the pullout of ABG Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT) from Haldia, as it is being compared to the pullout of Tata from Singur?

The issue was blown out of proportion by the media. Regarding comparison to Singur, can a contractor at Haldia port can be compared to a multinational?

Secondly, at Singur, it was a struggle for agricultural land, here it is an issue of a contractor. I do believe that what happened at Haldia has not discouraged the industry. I had personally visited there, no one has complained.

The company has not approached us, instead, it politicised the issue and went back to Mumbai.

ABG came out in public hinting the name of a company — Ripley & co — managed by the family of the TMC MP Srinjoy Bose, for the law and order problems there. What is your take on linking this with your party?

That is why I said they politicised the issue. I would not like to comment on this, as it is not connected with me, but with the Centre. We are working in a transparent manner. But, even the Kolkata port has taken action against this company (HBT). I think their plan to retrench employees had triggered the issues there.

In Haldia, however, the issue that the industrialists are concerned with is not this. Industrialists are concerned about the embargo on establishment of new industries in that region by the Centre. A lot of investments, worth Rs 10,000 crore are in the pipline at Haldia.

Apart from this, on January 17, we are organising this year’s investor meet at Haldia.

The state government is coming out with a new industrial policy, what would be its highlights? Will there be any provision for land acquisition?

Yes, we are in the process of drafting a new industrial policy. The details will be ready within a month. Whatever be its model, since our election manifesto had promised the people of West Bengal that there will be no forcible land acquisition, we will not deviate from that. As we said before, the industry can acquire land by themselves.

We have taken many pro-industry steps like amending of Section 14Y of the West Bengal Land Reforms Act that lifts the land ceiling of 24 acres in several cases of industrial operations — like industrial park, IT Park, financial hub etc. A committee is set up under the chairmanship of chief minister Mamata Banerjee herself which would look into this and give a case-to-case clearance.

You have been claiming that investment proposals worth more than Rs 1,00,000 crore are in hand. But as per critics, these are old wine in the new bottle with majority of them being existing projects — for example a new project in place of Petroleum, Chemicals & Petrochemicals Investment Region (PCPIR) at Nayachar. What is your take on this?

All these investments are new only. One has to understand that permission will not be given to the chemical hub project. So, the project at Nayachar is a completely fresh one with an investment of Rs 26,000 crore. The fresh proposals also include Apeejay Surrendra Group’s shipping sector project, Y K Modi Group’s plan on coal-bed methane and city gas distribution project between Gail, Hindustan Petroleum (HPCL) and Greater Calcutta Gas Supply Company.

The state has initiated the process of auction of West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation's (WBIDC) stake in Haldia Petrochemicals. As the chairman of Haldia Petrochemicals too, how long do you take the process will take?

A committee has beeen set up to facilitate the process. WBIDC board has cleared the proposal and we are on the lookout for appointing a transaction analyst...this will happen soon. However, The Chatterjee Group will get the first right for refusal, based on the highest price on the bidding process.

What about the status of JSW Steel’s Salboni project? Have you set any deadline for them?

We have given the company a draft asking for the deliverable details, including coal linkage, iron ore availability, water usage and all.

I hope that they will respond soon and are working on it. Though there will be a deadline, we will not bulldoze the industry.

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