A township proposed by realty major DLF in West Bengal is facing uncertainty because of the general economic downturn that has hit the country's real estate market as well as possible backlash over land acquisition.
"DLF has asked for some more time to start its work in the state," West Bengal Urban Development Minister Asok Bhattacharya said, referring to the project proposed at Dankuni, about 20 km west of the state capital.
"This is predominantly due to the present economic crisis worldwide. There is some uncertainty regarding the project," Bhattacharya told IANS.
The minister admitted that uncertainty prevailed over the Rs.330-billion/Rs.33,000 crore showpiece project, but did not say it will be stalled.
The township, scheduled to be developed over 4,840 acres on a 10-year public-private partnership model, is slated to house both residential and industrial units.
"They (DLF) have already paid us 10 percent of the land price in advance to acquire land," the minister said. The total land cost would be around Rs.27 billion (Rs.2,700 crore).
Referring to speculations that DLF could pull out over land acquisition problems, Bhattacharya said: "We haven't started the acquisition process yet. Land prices are declining, we will start the process when it is feasible."
DLF officials in Delhi and Kolkata refused to comment on the issue when contacted by IANS. However, at a press conference in Delhi Feb 1, DLF vice-chairman Rajiv Singh had said his company had suspended work on a quarter of its projects as demand for homes and offices has slowed.
The state government and DLF have formed a joint venture company, Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority, to acquire land for the project.
"We won't take over land in Dankuni, we will purchase it from the landowner directly," Bhattacharya said.
But a local residents' forum, led by the state's principal opposition party Trinamool Congress, is vehemently opposed to the project.
"We won't allow anybody to take possession of our land in this area," said forum convenor Alik Adak. "If it (the state government) tries to acquire the land forcibly it will face the same consequences as they faced in Nandigram or Singur," Adak told IANS.
The government's efforts to set up a chemical hub project in Nandigram came unstuck in 2007 following stiff resistance from Trinamool-led farmers. The project has since been relocated.
Later, similar resistance forced auto major Tata Motors to relocate its proposed Nano car project from Singur in West Bengal to Sanand in Gujarat.
Adak said 75 percent of the land around Dankuni was agricultural. Moreover, according to him, the township would not create significant employment opportunities for locals.
DLF's net profit has dipped 70.6 percent to Rs.1.78 billion (Rs.178 crore) for the quarter ended Dec 31, as compared to Rs.6.05 billion (Rs.605 crore) in the corresponding period last year.
Total income was down 62.29 percent to Rs.6.83 billion (Rs.683 crore).