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Didi's Ma Mati Manush policies keep investors away

Last updated on: May 21, 2013 16:26 IST

Didi's Ma Mati Manush policies keep investors away

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Probal Basak and Ishita Ayan Dutt in Kolkata

On April 15, to mark Poila Baisakh, the first day of the Bengali calendar, chief minister Mamata Banerjee passed on a message to the people of West Bengal: in the last two years, her government might have made some mistakes and that it would learn from them.

It is uncharacteristic of Banerjee to specify the 'mistakes', but a closer look at the state under her rule would suggest that lack of industrialisation is a key challenge the government faces.

The perception is backed by the Economic Review, which said in 2012, only 12 industrial units were set up at an investment of Rs 312 crore (Rs 3.12 billion), compared with 322 units that accounted for around Rs 15,000 crore (Rs 150 billion) investment in 2011.

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Image: A boy plays with a tyre in front of electric pylons installed at a power house in Kolkata.
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

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But the hoardings and stalls that dot the city and districts find no mention of these figures.

On the contrary, the figure offered by the industries department is Rs 1.12 lakh-crore (Rs 1.12-trillion) worth of proposals made in the past two years.

The figure has raised more questions than answers.

According to industry minister Partha Chatterjee, in 2011, the government had secured proposals worth Rs 95,000 crore (Rs 950 billion), which compares poorly with 2012.

Moreover, Chatterjee claimed the government had brought in investors, who were leaving the state during the previous Left Front regime.

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Image: Mamata Banerjee.
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

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"Projects do not roll out in a year.

"We have brought many investments back, which were almost leaving during the earlier regime.

"The new government has taken forward many 'vague proposals' made during the earlier regime," Chatterjee said.

Though no break-up detail is available of such projects, it includes JSW Steel's Salboni project, which was first proposed in 2007.

Incidentally, the Left Front government had signed 222 investment proposals that accounted for investments worth more than Rs 1 lakh crore (Rs 1 trillion).

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Image: Eight-year-old Rupa performs on a tightrope at a roadside in Kolkata.
Photographs: Reuters

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One of the biggest handicaps has been Banerjee's land policy.

The state government has stayed away from acquiring land for industrial projects. "Around five power projects are stalled due to this policy," a bureaucrat said, requesting anonymity.

Added a top official of a private sector company: "Foreign companies have been advised by their representative offices in India that West Bengal is not an investor-friendly destination."

Industry's woes don't just end with the government's land policy.

Banerjee is staunchly against special economic zones, and her policy has kept Infosys and Wipro's plans to build second campuses in the state in a perpetual wait mode.


Image: A hand rickshaw puller rests on a pavement in Kolkata.
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters

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