Videocon not Abandoning Plans for SEZs in Bengal By Dr Suvrokamal Dutta

It’s quite clear that Videocon has started feeling the pinch of setting up Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Bengal. In an exclusive interview to The India Street, Videocon chairman Venugopal Dhoot said the group has sought a one-year extension from the Board of Approvals (BoA) for acquiring land for three SEZs near Kolkata. In terms of statistic, the combined land requirement of these SEZs is 5,560 acres.

"We have applied to the BoA for an extension," pointed out Dhoot. Though, he did not disclose when the application was made. It is worth mentioning in this regard that Videocon Realty & Infrastructures, the group company slated to undertake the SEZ ventures, was originally supposed to complete land acquisition by September.

In the closing stanza of last year, Videocon Realty & Infrastructures secured 'in-principle SEZ' status for two multi-product SEZs at North 24-Parganas (on 2,700 acres) and Kolkata-Kharagpur stretch (on 2,500 acres), and an electronics and IT SEZ on 360 acres at North 24-Parganas. According to BoA terms and conditions, companies have to get land within a span of one year bagging the 'in-principle' nod. When asked whether there are any plans of abandoning any of the SEZ ventures , Dhoot said that at this moment of time company had no plans of abandoning any of the SEZ ventures. The

pivotal factor here is that Videocon has already announced that it would give shares and jobs to one member of every family who would give up land for India SEZs. Not so long ago, Salarpuria Properties and SEZ Infrastructure Developers too had said they planned to approach the BoA for more time, as they would not be able to finish land acquisition by September. Interestingly, both Salarpuria and SEZ Infrastructure Developers had also obtained 'in-principle' SEZ status for their Bengal projects in October 2006. Early indications are that Salarpuria intends to establish an electronics and services sector SEZ on 250 acres in North 24-Parganas. On the other hand, SEZ Infrastructure Developers' would set up an engineering SEZ at Howrah on 262.5 acres. The state's own SEZ panel, whose main responsibility is to screen all the proposals before recommending these to BoA, is scheduled to meet this month to take stock of the progress made by firms planning to establish duty-free trade hubs. State commerce and industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen has already said in public that Ramky Infrastructure's proposed multi-product SEZ on 2,530 acre at Mahishadal near Haldia would be delayed due to land scarcity. In general, Ramky bagged 'in-principle' SEZ status for the project on June 22. It is worthwhile remembering that protests land acquisition has already forced the state to abandon its plan to develop a chemical hub on 10,000 acre at Nandigram.