The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham)'s report says West Bengal has slipped from the fourth to 13th position as investment destination. When did that report come?
Around two weeks ago.
How do you view the situation?
I don't think the situation is so bad. There may be some negative perceptions about our state but if we look at facts, West Bengal is still in the front row as far as investments are concerned. In 2008, West Bengal got the highest numbers of industrial entrepreneurs memorandum (IEMs) among different states. The proposals amount to almost Rs 95,000 crore.
I am not saying that all the IEMs convert into real investments. Had the situation been so bad, so many people would not have shown interest in the state. And remember, these IEMs have come after the Singur row started and the Nandigram episode took place.
We had received a lot of proposals in the iron and steel sector. As the global meltdown has affected the economy, especially this sector, some companies have reduced their capacity. But no one has withdrawn from Bengal. Same is the situation in the aluminum industry.
We have got the PCPIR (Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemical Investment Regions) approval. Only in real estate, we have seen some withdrawal due to the meltdown. Other states are also facing similar problems. But West Bengal has faced more negative campaign.
Tata Metaliks is shifting its billet plant to Karnataka as you couldn't provide land to the pig iron manufacturer.
We had told the company to directly purchase the land. It started buying but then some elements held back few plots. There was a problem of contiguity. It can be solved.
You had announced that you would use the Singur land to build an alternative industry, preferably an automobile industry. Is there any progress?
We will definitely build an industry there. The land has been acquired for that purpose only.
But the Tatas had already built some structure and installed highly sophisticated and expensive machines. The company has told us it needs one more year to shift its machineries and clear the land.
Did you get offer from any company for an automobile industry in Singur?
A Chinese company came but we didn't find it suitable. Don't forget that in the recessionary market, automobile companies are not keen in making big investments.
Last year, the Central Committee of the CPI(M) resolved that the party's state unit and the administration would find ways to clear the 'confusion' on land issues and development in West Bengal. How are you working in this regard?
We are trying to talk directly to those who will be affected by land acquisition. We are also talking to evolve a consensus among the political parties before going ahead with a project. We are offering good compensation and rehabilitation packages.
These are showing results. We have not faced any problem in acquiring land at Panagarh (in Bardhaman district) for an airport, in Durgapur for aerotropolis, in Katwa for a power plant.
You said you were trying to build consensus with other political parties. But the main opposition Trinamool Congress is opposed to most of your projects.
At ground level, Trinamool leaders are quite reasonable and supportive. But TC is such a party where opinions of the grassroot-level people don't matter. The party has decided to oppose whatever development work we undertake.