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Investors strike cautious note

By Niladri Bhattacharya in Kolkata
November 23, 2007 10:31 IST
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The current violent political situation in West Bengal is attracting adverse media coverage, so much so that while industries here felt chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee was the only man who could maintain the industrialization drive, repeats of incidents like Nandigram could send out a negative message to investors in future.

Sanjiv Goenka, vice-chairman of the Rs 12,000 crore (Rs 120 billion) RPG Group, said, "I have had confidence and I continue to have confidence in the economic future of West Bengal.  My investments will carry on with the same vigour and enthusiasm."

A foreign visitor to Kolkata agreed, but with a note of caution. "West Bengal as an investment destination remains to be first on the list for the Australian mining companies as this state is rich in minerals," said John McCarthy, Australian High Commissioner to India, in Kolkata to attend a seminar.

However, he made it very clear that though many Australian companies are eying investment in the state particularly in the mining sector but prior to any major projects they would take the "local" situation under consideration.

"Before investing, the companies would look into the cost of extraction and most importantly consider the local environment which includes political situation, attitude of the people, requirement of the displaced people and the employment and welfare prospects of the local people," he added.

Underground mining rather than opencast mining can be an option as it dislocated relatively lower number of people and Australian companies could look into this possibility as well. Terming recent developments as unfortunate, S C Gupta, chairman and managing director of Hindustan Copper Ltd, said such incidents were uncalled for.

"I believe it is temporary as these types of violent situation would not stay for long but it should be avoided, perhaps  it is sending wrong signals to the outside people waiting to invest in the state," he added.

Speaking on the issue, Anil Ahuja, vice president of Bhushan Steel, said that no industry group could support deterioration in law and order situation in the state.

"For the last month or so West Bengal has been in the news for all wrong reasons and this is sending negative vibes to prospective investors across the world," he added.

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Niladri Bhattacharya in Kolkata
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