March 21, 2009

Power utilities in WB to register a net revenue collection of Rs 8,289.19 cr

KOLKATA, 20 March: State-owned power utilities in West Bengal are slated to register a net revenue collection of Rs 8,289.19 crore during 2008-09 with an estimated net profit of Rs 289.47 crore. Accordingly, enthused by the decent revenue collection projections, the West Bengal government on Friday increased plan allocation for the power sector from Rs 2,061.73 crore during 2008-09 to Rs 2,376.4 crore for 2009-10.
This, however, is inclusive of internal resources of the power utilities. The state-owned power utilities include West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Co, West Bengal State Electricity Transmission Co, West Bengal Power Development Corporation Ltd and Durgapur Projects Ltd.
In his budget speech for 2009-10, West Bengal's finance minister Asim Dasgupta said: "Special emphasis has been given to improve the internal efficiency of power utilities in the state. As a result, the plant load factor of these power utilities has increased from 53.2% in 2001-02 to an estimated 63% in the current year.
In addition, the transmission and distribution loss has also been reduced from 31.1% from 2001-02 to 22% in the current year." Mr Dasgupta also claimed that rural electrification has reached 99.2%. "Out of 37,910 villages in the state, electricity has reached as many as 37,606 villages till February 28, 2009. The state government has now set a deadline for completing the task of providing power to each household of every villages within 11th Plan Period."

Buddha pitches for non-Cong, non-BJP govt at Centre

Kolkata, March 19: Pitching for a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative at the Centre after the Lok Sabha polls, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Thursday said a majority of the people in the country does not want the Congress or BJP to be in power.
Replying to a governor's address in the assembly, he said, "After the last Lok Sabha polls, Left had supported UPA to keep BJP out of power. But the Congress, which led the UPA, reciprocated by "bringing in US into the country". He said Left wanted an alternative government to be based on four principles: pro-people programmes, a balanced federal structure, secularism and independent foreign policy.
Blaming the US for the global recession, he claimed, the Left parties had been able to save the country's insurance and banking sectors from its effect by preventing government from opening these sectors to foreign investments.

Vodafone crosses 7 million subscriber mark in WB

KOLKATA,19 Mar 2009: Vodafone Essar on Thursday crossed the 7 million subscriber mark in West Bengal. With statewide coverage spanning over 3253 cities and towns and some 31,000 villages, the company’s total subscriber base in West Bengal has shot up from 4 million in February 2008 to the present 7 million-plus. Vodafone Essar is the biggest cellular service provider in Kolkata and West Bengal circles.

Land alloted in Singur not cancelled: Buddhadeb

KOLKATA, 19 Mar 2009: West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told the state Assembly on Thursday that the land lease agreement between WBIDC and Tata Motors for the 997 acres alloted in Singur had not yet been cancelled. But he also maintained that the state government is determined to use the Singur land for setting up a cluster of industrial units.
In response to issues raised in governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi’s inaugural address, Mr Bhattacharjee assured the House that his government was unwilling to deprive the people of Singur who had given land for the Tata Nano project. "Our government has received a host of proposals from both domestic and foreign investors who wish to set up their units in Singur. We are working on those proposals and will inform you about our plans after we take a final decision," the chief minister said.
Mr Bhattacharjee also claimed that "the Tatas were forced to quit Singur because of violent and destructive agitation by the irresponsible opposition party" in West Bengal. "Now attempts are being made to confuse the people on the utilisation of the land. Demands are also being made for return of the Singur land. This bit is certain that the land will not be returned as the character of the land has already changed and the land given to the Tatas cannot be used for agriculture. We will use the land for setting up new industry," Mr Bhattacharjee mentioned. "We don’t want to keep the Singur people in absolute darkness and we are very clear about the fact that land at Singur will be used for industrialisation," the chief minister said.
The chief minister also assured the House that his government would proceed with plans for setting up the proposed chemical hub at Nayachara. "Setting up the chemical hub at Nayachara is not our government’s proposal. The Centre had invited proposals from several states for setting up PCPIRs and we did not wish to miss the opportunity. The Cabinet in its last meeting had cleared the Nayachara chemical hub and we will proceed with this," the chief minister said.
Mr Bhattacharjee also said that he had thanked the external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and chemicals and fertiliser minister Ramvilas Paswan for clearing the Nayachara chemical hub. Interestingly, the principal opposition party, Trinamool Congress had boycotted the chief minister’s reply to the debate on the governor’s address. Trinamool Congress has already announced that they will oppose the chemical hub at Nayachara.

Japan trip for Nayachar

Calcutta, March 19: A state team will travel to Japan and South Korea to net investors for the Nayachar and Haldia chemical hub. Led by industry secretary Sabyasachi Sen, the team will be part of a larger delegation of the Union ministry for chemicals and fertilizers.
It will meet top officials of Mitsubishi Chemicals, Mitsui Chemicals and Itochu Corporation in Tokyo from March 23-25, followed by meetings with Korean companies — LG Chemicals and Hyundai Chemicals — for two days in Seoul. “We are going to meet officials of the rank of president and above of these companies,” Sen said. The team will leave on Saturday night.

The Union ministry delegation will have representatives from Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, too. The trip is part of a marketing support initiative of the Centre to the three states where petrochemical hubs are coming up. Industry chamber Ficci coordinated the initiative. The Bengal team will have Nandini Chakravorty, the executive director of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, which is an infrastructure partner in the Nayachar hub with Indonesia’s Salim Group.

Swapan Bhowmik, the managing director of Haldia Petrochemicals, and Sanjay Malhotra, a director of the Delhi-based Cals Refinery that is setting up a unit in Haldia, will also be in the team. An official of Singapore’s Jurong Corporation, which set up Asia’s largest chemical hub there, will be with the Bengal team. Jurong is preparing the plan for Nayachar.

In order to break the language barrier, the state has prepared all presentations in Japanese and Korean. “We have translated all documents for the project in the two languages,” Chakravorty said.This trip will be followed by a similar one to the US. Today, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told the Assembly that the government was just waiting for a letter from the Centre approving the Nayachar chemical hub. “The hub will change the complexion of the state as many refineries and downstream projects will come up,” he said.

West Bengal yet to receive centre’s formal approval on chemical hub

KOLKATA, 18 Mar 2009: The West Bengal government has not yet received an official communication on the recent Union Cabinet clearance for the proposed Nayachara chemical hub. This was indicated by West Bengal’s commerce & industry minister Nirupam Sen in the state Assembly on Wednesday.
Replying to a question by opposition leader Partha Chatterjee, the state industry minister said: "There is no immediate possibility of laying the foundation stone for the proposed hub. We have not yet received clearance from the environment department for the said chemical hub and there is no real difference between the chemical hub and the Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemicals Investment Region (PCPIR). "I have read in newspapers that the Union Cabinet has given the green signal to the Nayachara chemical hub. But they (the Union government) have not yet informed us in writing," Mr Sen pointed out.
He added that the proposed chemical hub would come up on 250.19 acres and 40 per cent of the land would be used for chemical units. Mr Sen reiterated that 12 lakh people would get direct and indirect employment at the proposed hub which will produce polythene, auto components, synthetic rubber and synthetic fibre which will be used by the garments industry. The Union Cabinet at its last meeting on February 23 had reportedly cleared the proposed chemical hub at Nayachara. The Cabinet session was presided over by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee as the Prime Minister was then indisposed.
Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress has already announced that it will not allow the proposed hub to come up in the pear-shaped Nayachara island near Haldia. Party chief Mamata Banerjee who held an election rally in Nandigram on March 14, had made it clear that her party would not welcome the chemical hub at Nayachara. In fact, the Trinamool Congress candidate from the Kanthi Lok Sabha seat, who also addressed the gathering on March 14, announced that they would everything it took to prevent the Nayachara chem hub from taking off.
However, it is nearly certain that the state government will not step on the gas in expediting the Nayachara venture as Lok Sabha elections have already been announced. But the government might indeed take up the issue after election results are out and the new government in Delhi is formed.