June 3, 2009

DLF to scrap Rs 700-cr IT project at Rajarhat

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. 

Buddhadeb urges Sundarbans locals to re-build damaged embankments

Kolkata, June 1: Paying a visit to the cyclone-ravaged areas of coastal West Bengal, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Tuesday proposed that residents of various islands in the Sundarbans help rebuild the embankments damaged by Cyclone Aila. They would be paid for the work they do, he said.

“More than 400 km of embankments have been totally damaged in the devastating cyclone. We ask the people to join hands immediately and rebuild the embankments before the coming high tide next week,” Bhattacharjee said at a press conference at Hingalganj in North 24 Parganas district.

“If we can involve a large number of people in the process, we’ll be able to stop at least 70-80 percent of water during the high tide. We’ve decided that the entire work for rebuilding the embankment would be carried out by the villagers. The government will pay them for their efforts. The engineers will just give instructions,” he said.

Bhattacharjee Tuesday visited several cyclone-ravaged areas of North 24 Parganas district. Besides Hingalganj, he went to Hasanabad, Sandeshkhali and Basirhat area that were hit by Cyclone Aila last week.

“We’re not getting enough soil to use for rebuilding the embankments. This is the major problem we’re facing now. But the government is trying to procure adequate soil,” the chief minister said, adding that the relief materials are reaching remote parts of the Sundarbans. He also said the state government is in talks with the centre on how to provide succour to the impoverished.

“We’ve sent our memorandum to the centre listing our demands for carrying out the relief operation in the Sundarbans. I also had talks with the union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee this morning (Tuesday) and will also give him a detailed feedback later.

“Our Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta will also hold meetings with Mukherjee and the union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on the matter,” he said.

West Bengal FM to discuss cyclone aid with Pranab, Chidambaram

KOLKATA,1st June: West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta is leaving for Delhi on Monday night to discuss the State government's demand for at least Rs 1,000 crore as cyclone relief with Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram.

A memorandum has already been prepared on the basis of sectorwise inputs on destruction caused by cyclone Aila across several districts.

Chief Secretary Asok Mohan Chakraborty, who has been asked to submit the memorandum to the Centre, has already rushed to Delhi.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will visit the cyclone-hit areas of Hingalganj and Sandeshkhali in North 24-Parganas district on Tuesday, State's Irrigation Minister Subhas Naskar told reporters after reviewing the situation with Mr. Bhattacharjee. He visited Gosaba and Basanti in South 24-Parganas district recently.

State's Disaster Management Minister Mortaza Hossain, who was also in the review meeting with the CM, said the State government had released Rs 67 crore so far. Steps had been taken to ensure relief material reaches the grassroot level immediately.

Giving details, Mr. Hossain said the death toll had climbed to 126. A total of 67 lakh people have been affected and 8.94 lakh houses destroyed.

Over 3.78 lakh people have taken shelter in 765 relief camps, he said. 

West Bengal demands Rs 1,000 cr for Aila-hit areas

New Delhi, June 02: West Bengal on Tuesday demanded at least Rs 1,000 crore from the Centre's National Calamity Contingency Fund immediately to step up relief work in the wake of the damage caused by cyclone Aila. 

After submitting a memorandum to Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram in this regard, state Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta expressed hopes that the Centre would soon send a committee to assess the damage caused by the cyclone, so that the required funds from NCCF can be obtained.

 "After this meeting, it appeared that Chidambaram will form this central team very quickly," Dasgupta told reporters here. He said the central team will visit cyclone-affected parts and make a recommendation to the home ministry. To a query over Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's demand that funds should be routed from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh through gram panchayats instead of the state government, Dasgupta said, "I do not comment on everybody's comment."  Dasgupta said the total requirement for relief works is huge, estimated at Rs 1,934 crore. 

Aila loss assessed at Rs 1,300 crore: WB chief secretary

Kolkata, June 2: The West Bengal Government today assessed the damage wrought by Cyclone Aila, putting it at Rs 1,300 crore. This was stated by the state's Chief Secretary Asok Mohan Chakraborty after a review meeting with state government officials and several other bodies.

Chakraborty said Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta today discussed the state government's demand for at least Rs 1,000 crore as cyclone relief with Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram. A central team would soon visit the cyclone-hit areas in the state, he said, adding that the state government had released Rs 210 crore so far for relief materials. Giving details, he said the death toll had climbed to 126. A total of 67 lakh people have been affected and nearly nine lakh houses destroyed. Over 3.78 lakh people have taken shelter in 765 relief camps, he said.

JSW Steel defers Rs 35,000 cr West Bengal project

New Delhi,2nd June: After cutting investment in the first phase of the its ambitious 10-MTPA West Bengal project by almost a third, JSW Steel on Tuesday said the commencement of construction work at the site of the mega steel plant will now be deferred on account of the current "economic situation."

"There is a slight deferral for some time (on the commencement of construction work) till the economic situation improves," JSW Steel Vice-Chairman and MD Sajjan Jindal told reporters on the sidelines of an Assocham conference here.

Construction work at the site of the steel project in Salboni, West Bengal was scheduled to start in March next year, but is likely to be delayed by 6-8 months.

Faced with a liquidity crunch JSW Steel has earlier this year said that it is cutting its proposed investment by nearly one-third to about Rs 4,000 crore for the first phase of the Rs 35,000-crore mega steel project in West Bengal.

In November last year, the company had laid the foundation stone for the project and said the first phase with three million tonne capacity would come up at the cost of Rs 10,000-12,000 crore.

When asked if its another 10-MTPA proposed steel project in Jharkhand would also be delayed on account of the current economic environment, Mr. Jindal said the firm is working to get all the regulatory approvals, "which is a long process." 


KOLKATA, 1st JUNE: The killing continues, of CPI (M) workers and their relations, at the hands of Trinamuli goons.  The latest tragic victim has been young Sayantika Rakhshit (13) of Harinabari village near Tamluk Township in Midnapore east.  From the morning of 1st June, Trinamuli gangs, armed to the teeth, started to attack houses and shops of CPI (M) workers and sympathisers. 

The attackers first shot and critically wounded CPI (M) supporter Ujjwal Sheet.  Next, they pounced on the Rakhshit household and opened fire.  Young Sayantika, panic-struck at the gunfire, came out of the confines of the house and started to run helter-skelter-- and was promptly shot on the side of the head.  She died in a pool of blood. 

Elsewhere up in central Bengal, at Berhampore, Murshidabad, two youth were killed in broad daylight by Congress miscreants.  Comrades Biswanath Chakraborty (38) and Gautam Das (40) were having quiet adda with their families in Gautam’s house.

Several Congress goons barged in, shot both men in broad daylight, and fled after bursting a series of powerful countrymade bombs.  Comrade Biswanath was a crucial witness to the murder of DYFI leader, comrade Debashis Ghoshal of Khagra of the same district.  Biman Basu has condemned all three killings and has urged upon the state administration to bring the guilty to book, and has asked the CPI (M) workers and sympathisers to move with revolutionary caution everywhere. 



KOLKATA, 1st JUNE: The full measure of the widespread impact of the cyclonic storm and rising tides that hit Bengal on the night of 25 May is now being felt in full measure.  The wide picture emerges because of the comprehensive relief and rehabilitation that have been under way under the aegis of the Left Front and the Left Front government.  The former organised the mass of the people into relief efforts.  The latter looked primarily but not confined to help of every kind to the people in dire, unprecedented distress.

Let us begin the report with a few statistical figures.  130 people have perished in the fury of nature until date.  Nearly 70 lakh people mostly in the coastal or littoral areas have been adversely affected by the cyclone – and they have been suddenly deprived of, in the space of a few hours, of shelter, food, drinking water, communications, and medical assistance.  All these are well on their way to being restored.

We who have reported on the disastrous floods of 1978 -- and the natural disasters that have followed since, especially those that occurred in the late 1980s and the early 1990s of the past century can state with a touch of pardonable pride that never had the mass of the people been more pro-active in coming to the help of the neighbourhood they dwell, despite being afflicted themselves. 

The Gram Panchayats and the CPI (M) local committees -- as well as branches – with participation of the Left mass frontal organisations, struggling bravely together, virtually waged a war of relief during the first 24 hours of the calamity, offering water, food, shelter, and the ubiquitous flashlight or ‘torches,’ to bring luminosity in a wider sense amongst the fearful and cowering who stood under the open yawn of the sky from which rain poured, stopped, and poured again, and they stood bereft of every material possession, and were surrounded by that horrible, mind-boggling stench of death – of men, women, children, and of dearly held household animals, small and large, single or in a herd. 

Added to this was the overpowering stench of rotting trees and vegetations and crops of every form.  We should know.  We have been there. The fearfulness that we felt started to overwhelm us, but a stranger in a strange landscape, when darkness fell—and it stayed dark amidst of harsh crackling of thunder and lightening overhead as the remnants of the storm roared past fairly regularly in single blasts of hot air, bringing more destruction in its wake.  Life had virtually to be started anew amongst so many of the families of the littoral areas that we lost count long, long back, and these were the families we had a chance to visit over what were three days of disquiet of the horrific.

Let us go back to the statistics.  Several thousand crores of property and cattle have been lost forever.  Road networks have been reshaped as in an earthquake.  Innumerable bridges, viaducts, overpasses, and countrymade bamboo cross-overs have been obliterated.  Built up areas resembled unending stretches of rice paddies with not a single vertical structure standing.  The green cover has been blown with the uprooting of limitless number of trees, thick in trunk, large in shade, that were weathering veterans of storms over the past hundred years, and who finally failed in their old age to fight the fresh onslaught that emerged rushing out from the darkening horizon for a period of but a few hours at the destructive peak.

The LF government has distributed just under 30 lakh litres of potable water in plastic pouches and bags.  Jerrycans of water are carried to the more accessible areas.  Dropped, 3400 thousand MT of dry food, as well as an equal amount of rice has been dropped from the air using the means available to the state LF government.  700 large relief centres and many more thousand smaller relief ‘camps’ are up and running where cooked food is supplied to the hungry and the underfed.  Temporary godowns have been set up in strategic places to load up on relief materials for gradual feeding into the distribution system.

Millions of halazone tablets have been distributed to keep the water safe for drinking.  Bengal is proud that not a single case of water-borne diseases has broken out even as we tap these words out from the heart of the disaster zone in north 24 Parganas, and today in the nine days that have gone by, have been nine crucially busy days for the members of rescue teams of the departments of power, PHE, health, rural development, Panchayat, and urban development. 

Over every form of infrastructure be it power or health facilities, overpasses or roads, water supply or guise-building hangs the threat of total collapse – the engineers, the doctors, the technicians, and the construction workers are at it day and night without a pause that would refresh them, in order to bring normalcy -- and the comfort that comes with it, to the affected people.  Gigantic and massive are the words that spring to mind, as we are witness to the relief efforts in action.

It is important to note that the LF government ministers led by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee have made unobtrusive presences felt to lead the relief work and bring comfort and assurance of the elderly and the experienced to the people in dire distress.  Finance Minister Professor Asim Dasgupta like in the past was a tireless monitor at first hand of the relief efforts throughout Bengal.

‘Do not teach me geography,’ Buddhadeb was heard to snap at a state government official, ‘just tell me how many heads of cattle have been killed and how many carcases could be interned.’  He was at the remoter and rendered almost impassable Balidwip island of Gosaba in south 24 Parganas.  Buddhadeb indeed made a hurricane tour of sorts across everyone of the storm centres with the maximum number of casualties, heartening the simple village folk with new hope, and left them amidst tears of joy.

Left Front workers collected funds throughout the state from 28 May and the effort continues as we file this report.  Biman Basu himself led the first wave of LF volunteers out in the streets of Kolkata to collect funds and material help.  The LF government has called upon the UPA-led Congress government up in Delhi to declare the present natural calamity aftermath in Bengal as a ‘national disaster,’ and it has also cited the 12th Finance Commission report to demand a minimum of Rs 1000 crore as relief.

All this has left the Trinamuli chief in a huff and a puff.  She has lambasted every effort made at relief by the LF and the LF government as ‘bogus,’ without citing concrete proof, and has called upon the UPA government to send the relief funds straight to the district magistrates bypassing the state government.  This is nothing new.  One late Congress prime minister had created this odious dictum of PM-to-DM-minus-CM.  The Trinamuli chief is merely iterating that anti-people formulae.  The Panchayats run by the Trinamul Congress and  the Congress have stayed away from the entire relief-and-rehabilitation network, and south 24 Parganas and Midnapore east are glaring example of this betrayal of the people’s trust.

Biman Basu has been strident against the demand of the Trinamuli supremo.  He warned saying that nobody should dare transgress the federal structure.  The state government can never be bypassed.(INN)  

Lab on cheaper solar power to be set up

KOLAKTA, 31 MAY: In a bid to reduce the price of photovoltaic solar cells, the Green Energy Corporation, in collaboration with the West Bengal Science and Technology Council, will set up a Nano solar cell laboratory. The laboratory will come up on the Calcutta University campus in Salt Lake. 

The corporation has recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Catholic University of America to provide technological support and the project is expected to be completed within six months. Researchers from abroad and scientists working in the corporation will work in the new laboratory. 

Mr SP Gon Chaudhuri, managing director of the corporation, said there was a need to set up such a laboratory for Nano solar cell research as various studies claimed that efficiency of the Nano solar cell was higher compared to ordinary solar cells. 

Experts are of the opinion that if Nano technology can be used to prepare photovoltaic solar cells, the price will be cheaper. The cost of one watt of a solar cell is Rs 120 but using Nano technology the cost will go down to Rs 80 per watt. 

The members of the corporation have also decided to send a proposal to the Union ministry of new and renewable energy so that they can provide funds for the project. 

The project cost is Rs 6 crore and till now they have managed to procure Rs one crore. With the increase in demand for power supply, experts feel there is a need to set up more such laboratories in collaboration with private bodies to meet the dearth of electricity. The advantages of using solar cells is that residents can get electric power directly from the sun without polluting the atmosphere.