KOLKATA, 3 Jun 2009: DLF has decided to scrap its Rs 700-crore IT SEZ at Rajarhat, putting paid to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's dreams of 40,000 jobs and hopes of boosting the state's sunrise sector. The decision comes just four months after DLF, India's largest property developer, cancelled the Rs 40,000-crore Dankuni township project.
DLF has asked the Centre to free the 25 acres on which the IT project was to come up of SEZ status. This means that the firm wants the tax holidays given to SEZ projects revoked so that it can develop the land as realty.
While the reason for scrapping the Dankuni Township was land (or lack of it), the logic behind opting out of the IT SEZ was the lack of IT investors in Bengal. Industry department sources said the Board of Approval (BoA) in the ministry of commerce and industries will communicate its denotification message to DLF by the end of this week. A DLF spokesperson said, "We shall get to know about it in two or three days."
If the industries ministry, which approves SEZ projects, allows the derecognition, the land can be used for other purposes provided that no construction work has started on the site.
Riding high on the Brand Buddha surge in 2007, DLF had announced it would develop a state-of-the-art, world-class facility offering 2.5 million square feet of IT/ITeS workspace. "Not many IT investors have been coming to West Bengal for the last two years." He was dropping big hints on the Singur and Nandigram effect on the investment scenario in West Bengal. Adding to the state's woes is the global meltdown which has put a full stop on the investment front completely.
State IT minister Debesh Das, however, attributed DLF's decision to global meltdown. "Anyway, stripping the IT park of SEZ status will come as a boon to the company because they can now concentrate on getting domestic IT clients instead of those who are involved in IT exports, which is a major requirement for SEZs."
Incidentally, India's largest property developer has also sought denotification of four IT SEZs planned in Sonepat and Gandhinagar. The reason cited was the economic slowdown and lack of demand for IT space.
But Kolkata's reasons have been more than the current slowdown. An IT department official said, "DLF has not been able to pull enough clients for the already existing IT park project at Rajarhat." The official added, "The company had a lot of confidence in the state then. It wanted to be a part of the new IT Corridor at Rajarhat's New Town."
The IT SEZ had offered developed workspace clubbed with serviced apartments, retail and recreational. It would have been designed by renowned architects to create ready-built IT workspace offering unmatched scalable advantages. Developed in phases, the IT SEZ would have been functional by this year.