Salim Group chief meets Buddhadeb

From the Hindu Special Correspondent

Motorcycle manufacturing plant coming up in Howrah district

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Trinamool Congress fails to carry out its threat of laying siege to parts of Kolkata
Left Front Government accused of striking `a shady deal with a blacklisted company’
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HOTEL TURNS FORTRESS: Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee at the gates of theTaj Bengal Hotel in Kolkata protesting the visit of Indonesian Salim Group’s Chief, Benny Santoso, on Thursday. Photo: the Hindu (Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury )


KOLKATA: West Bengal’s main Opposition, the Trinamool Congress, failed to carry out its threat of laying siege on Thursday to parts of Kolkata to disrupt the visit of Benny Santoso, chief of the Indonesian major, Salim Group. He went ahead with his schedule and held a meeting with Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to finalise the setting up of a Rs. 250-crore motorcycle manufacturing plant.

The plant, spread over 65 acres, will come up at Uluberia in Howrah district. Mr. Santoso handed over to the Chief Minister a cheque for Rs. 3.82 crores as part payment for the land. Construction work will begin in January 2006 and manufacturing is expected to commence 18 months thereafter.

The Trinamool leadership had called for demonstrations in protest against the proposed Salim Group projects, saying prime agricultural land was being taken away from farmers for setting up industries.

Mr. Bhattacharjee described the party’s protest programme as a “gimmick.”

Trinamoolchairperson Mamata Banerjee and her supporters were prevented from demonstrating inside the hotel, where Mr. Santoso had checked in. Later in the afternoon, outside Writers’ Building — venue of the meeting between him and the Chief Minister — she charged the Left Front Government with striking “a shady deal with a blacklisted Indonesian company.”

Thursday’s meeting was a follow-up of the talks between Mr. Santosoand the Chief Minister in Jakarta in August. Details of the Uluberia plant were finalised. But discussions on the proposed projects involving the Salim Group in two other districts — a health city, a special economic zone and a highway — were put on hold.

At a meeting with Left Front leaders in the morning, Mr Bhattacharjee allayed the misgivings expressed by some constituents over using agricultural land for industrial projects. He said a board would soon be formed to earmark land for industrial purposes.

According to Left Front chairman Biman Bose, Mr. Bhattacharjee said fears of agricultural plots being acquired [for the projects involving the Salim Group] were unfounded. For, land was yet to be identified. The Front constituents were unanimous on the need for greater industrialisation, Mr. Bose said. “We need to move forward for more industries and at the same time sustain the success of our agricultural economy.”

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