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Salims pull out of big Bengal projects.

LESS than a year after the Tatas announced the decision to withdraw the Nano project from the Left- ruled West Bengal, it is the turn of the Indonesia's Salim Group to inform the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government that it wants to pull out from the expressway and township project in the state.

Chief minister Bhattacharjee had personally visited Indonesia in 2005 to woo the manufacturing giant Salim Group to invest in various projects in West Bengal.

Four year down the line, Bhattacharjee's dream has turned sour as the Indonesian group, led by Anthony Salim, has formally written to the chief minister's office that they wanted to withdraw from the muchhyped 108 km- long Expressway project because of the government's failure to hand them the required land for the project.

Now, a shocked but helpless government has decided to place an agenda in the cabinet meeting to be held next week to pass a resolution to return Rs 70 crore, which had been submitted by the Salim Group as " development fee." State commerce and industries department sources said this was the first time that a major international group expressed its intention to withdraw from the state after the exit of Tata Motors' Nano because of continuing political disturbances over land acquisition and this could send " very wrong signals." The state government had assured the Salim Group executive director, Benny Santoso, that the company would be given 5000 acres in South 24- Parganas district to build the Expressway and also a cluster of townships along the road in 2006. The Expressway would have connected the industrial township of Haldia with National Highway 34.

Yet after the Left Front suffered repeated jolts in elections mainly because of the government's aggressive land acquisition drive for industries, state finance minister Asim Dasgupta announced in the Assembly in August that the government would not acquire land and the Expressway project was being shelved. The future of the other major Salim Group project -- the proposed Rs 40,000- crore chemical hub -- is also in limbo as it is yet to receive the nod from the Union environment ministry.

West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation ( WBIDC) managing director Subrata Basu said the agreement with the Salim Group was yet to be scrapped. " The situation has not reached that stage. But it is changing fast. If they want back their money, we will have to return it," he said. Salims had first expressed their intention to withdraw from the Expressway during the chief secretary's visit to Indonesia in April.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Oct 17, 2009
Words:434
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