KOLKATA: IT major Infosys has again demanded SEZ statusfor its proposed Rs 75 crore project at Rajarhat New Town, putting the Mamata Banerjee government on a sticky wicket at a time when it is busy finalizing the CM’s London trip to showcase Bengal before foreign investors.
Infosys has been persisting with this demand for five years when Mamata is known to be dead against SEZs. The timing and tenor of the latest Infosys letter sounds like an ultimatum to the state government. The company is learnt to have asked the state to grant SEZ status or refund the advance payment made for the 50-acre plot.
The IT giant got the land in 2010 and the then Left Front government had promised SEZ status to Infosys founder N R Narayanamurthy in the hope of drawing some big names to Rajarhat. Narayanamurthy had promised 15,000 jobs in the IT sector. The Mamata government came to power a year later and refused to give the SEZ tag. In 2012, the then industries minister Partha Chatterjee called on Narayanamurthy in Bangalore to find out an alternative. It was discussed that the state may explore the possibility of allotting space in an existing SEZ. However, Infosys sticks to its demand for SEZ tag.
On Tuesday, after news agencies reported the latest Infosys reminder, the state IT department denied receiving any letter from the company seeking refund of the advance money. “Discussions are on with Infosys on how to resolve the issue,” an IT official said. Hidco chairman Debasis Sen also said that Infosys had not asked for a refund. Urban development minister Firhad Hakim went a step ahead and denied that the government had received any letter from Infosys.
Later in the day, Infosys did an apparent climbdown. “We have asked for SEZ status. We are hopeful that this matter will be resolved,” an Infosys spokesperson said. The company has a presence in 11 states and all of them have granted SEZ tag. In fact, state governments generally do not come in the way of companies seeking SEZ status. They simply forward the proposal to the Centre with a recommendation. But this didn’t happen in Bengal.
What bothers Infosys — and the industry as a whole — is the sudden change in policy with a change in government. There are certain rules for giving incentives to industry or granting them SEZ status that continue irrespective of which party is in power. The break in continuity doesn’t go well with the Bengal’s image, particularly on an issue that is in the Centre’s domain.