Bengal govt asks NRI to take over Bengali daily

Last Updated: Sat, Apr 20, 2013 06:17 hrs

Kolkata: The West Bengal government has approached Non-Resident Indian (NRI) businessman Prasoon Mukherjee for taking over the Saradha group's Bengali newspaper, Sakalbela.

"We have approached him and have requested him to help. Talks are on, let's see if we can resolve the matter," said industry minister, Partha Chatterjee, When contacted, Mukherjee, the founder of Universal Success Enterprise (USE), a diversified conglomerate, said, "I am not in a position to comment on this now."

The state government extended a helping hand after complaints poured in from about 1,000 employees across the Saradha group's media outfits: Bengal Post, Sakalbela, Tara Music, Tara News and Seven Sisters Post. However, officials close to the development said, talks with Mukherjee were for just Sakalbela. Sakalbela had a circulation of around 22,000, but it was in decline and the latest figures were 12,000-13,000 copies. Sakalbela has an employee strength of about 200.

Political observers felt if the government managed to convince Mukherjee, then apart from rehabilitating the employees, it could work in favour of the government. All Saradha media outfits were known to side with the Trinamool Congress (TMC)-led state government. Mukherjee is known to be very close to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her cabinet ministers.

Interestingly, before the TMC toppled the Left front government in the state, Mukherjee was the blue-eyed investor of former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Mukherjee's entry into Bengal was with Indonesia's Salim group for the chemical hub project at Nandigram that caused widespread agitation and eventually, the Left Front was routed in the elections even after the project was relocated. Chemical hub apart, a slew of infrastructure projects were announced then.

However, the Salim group has exited since, and the projects have been taken over by the USE. The chemical hub project has been scrapped, though, by the current regime and Mukherjee will be constructing a power plant and eco tourism park instead. The USE has exposure in businesses like ports, power, tourism, hospitality and townships across the country.

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