In a sign that all is not lost for Adani’s Tajpur port project, discussions are underway between the West Bengal government and Gautam-Adani led group over the deep-sea port project in the state.
This was disclosed by State minister Shashi Panja on Sunday (26 Nov), while addressing a press conference on “West Bengal Day” at the India-International Trade Fair being held in New Delhi.
“There was a provisional LoI (letter of intent), which was granted to the highest bidder for the development of Tajpur. The requisite permissions were then sought from four departments of the government of India — the departments of shipping, defence, home affairs and external affairs,”.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs has given a conditional security clearance and made certain observations. The state government and the Adani Group are working on this. We have sought clarifications, communications are on,” she added.
The revelation comes even as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced last week that the tender for the project was open for bidding again.
On 21 November, Mamata Banerjee announced that her government will soon reopen the tender process seeking fresh bids for Tajpur deep sea port project.
The announcement surprised everyone, considering that the Bengal government had issued the letter of intent to the Adani group, more than a year ago, for the project that is expected to attract investments worth Rs 25,000 crore.
A Letter of Intent is a written expression of a preliminary commitment between two or more parties, made prior to the completion of a formal agreement.
The state government’s decision to decouple the proposed Tajpur port project from the ports-to-power conglomerate, has led to a cloud of uncertainty around the mega deep-sea port project.
“(There is) a proposed deep sea port at Tajpur which is ready for tender. You can participate in the tender, and this will attract an investment of USD 3 billion or Rs 25,000 crore,” the chief minister said, addressing industrialists present at the inaugural session of the Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS) 2023.
Although an official explanation for the change in stance has not been provided, a report in The Telegraph suggests that the Bengal government opted for caution following the Centre’s issuance of a conditional clearance for the project.
The request for proposal for the development of the Tajpur Port on ‘Design, Build, Operate and Transfer Model’ was published by the state government on 18 October 2021.
In March 2022, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) – India’s largest private port operator – emerged as the highest bidder for the project ahead of Sajjan Jindal-promoted JSW Infrastructure.
At a cabinet meeting held on 19 September 2022, the state government approved the proposal to issue Letter of Intent (LOI) to APSEZ, the highest bidder (H-1) and called it a “historic moment”.
Following that, at a Bijaya Sammilani event held on 12 October last year, Mamata Banerjee handed over the LoI to Gautam Adani’s son and APSEZ CEO Karan Adani
However, since then, there had been little movement on the project, which will be the largest investment in Bengal in decades. It’s important to note that the Adani group has not withdrawn from the project; they are patiently awaiting the issuance of a letter of award, LOA.
“On West Bengal Tajpur port, we are still waiting for a letter of award, LOA. We have received the letter of intent. We are waiting for LOA to come,” said Karan Adani, during a conference call last week.
“Once we get (LoA), it will be 18 to 24 months before we start any construction over there since we have to go through the EC, environment clearance, as well as groundwork over there,” Karan Adani added.
The non-participation of the Adani Group from the BGBS has only deepened the intrigue surrounding their role in the Tajpur port project.
Also, Adani group has not received any official communication from the West Bengal government regarding the fate of the Tajpur deep sea port project , writes ThePrint.