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Tuesday, Nov 14, 2006

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Uncertainty over trade fair venue irks Bengal chamber

Santanu Sanyal

Industrial India Trade Fair not to be held in the Maidan

Fair woes
The Defence authorities, who have to give the permission to hold any fair at the Maidan, are opposed to holding any fair because of environmental reasons.
Bengal chamber yet to identify new venue and new dates.
Uncertainty over Vietnam's participation as partner country.

Kolkata , Nov. 13

The office-bearers of the 119-year old Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BNCCI) are a demoralised lot today. The Industrial India Trade Fair (IITF), which the chamber has been holding every year for the past 20 years at the Maidan — for 10 days beginning December 22 every year — will not be held this year at the same venue and on the same dates. The reason: uncertainty over venue.

The Defence authorities, who have to give the permission to hold any fair at the Maidan, have said they are opposed to holding any fair because of environment protection. The authorities are particularly upset at the way the greenery of the place is being affected every year after the book fair. The fair, organised by Publishers' and Book Sellers' Guild, is held every year in end-January and early February. The matter has gone to court. It is of some interest that, despite the allegation of destruction of greenery, the West Bengal Government has expressed itself strongly in favour of holding the book fair at the Maidan.

"We hold IITF every year but there has been no complaint against us so far. But now we have to suffer because of others," said a spokesman for BNCCI. "We take enough care to protect the greenery of the area and, out of 8,00,000 sq ft of the total fair ground, only around 2,50,000 sq ft are made available for setting up stalls and the balance is kept open."

The uncertainty over IITF this year, apart from causing mental agony to the organisers, has also thrown up a plethora of problems. For example, the new venue has to be identified and the new dates have to be finalised for holding the fair. BNCCI is still in the process of identifying a new location. "It could be Salt Lake Stadium or other place but nothing has yet been finalised," said the spokesman pointing out that it was not easy to get 8,00,000 sq ft of space at one place. Again, finalising new dates would not be easy as so many issues, including the Chief Minister's availability, had to be sorted out. Traditionally, the Chief Minister inaugurates IITF every year, the practice beginning with Mr Jyoti Basu when he was Chief Minister.

Then there are other problems. Vietnam was supposed to be partner country for this year's fair. It is not known whether, with the inevitable change of dates, Vietnam will still be interested in participating in the fair. Further, with the change of venue, many participants might not want to come. Nearly 800 firms participate in the fair every year and most of them have confirmed their participation in this year's fair also. Many of them, it is feared, may change their minds.

There is another factor. Maidan is centrally located and well-connected transport-wise. It is also on the Metro Rail route. The new venue may not be as conveniently located. "We're in a real mess," lamented the spokesman.

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