Big names might be absent from 'Bengal Leads' | SupportBiz


Big names might be absent from 'Bengal Leads'

In its bid to attract big ticket investments in the industry-hungry state, the West Bengal government is organising its annual investors' meet - the second edition of 'Bengal Leads' - from Tuesday, but the likely absence of big names is proving a major dampener.

While the maiden edition of the meet was held last year in the city, the Jan 15-17 three day event is taking place in the industrial-cum-port town of Haldia in East Midnapore district.

As the Mamata Banerjee government tries to make the meet a success and showcase Haldia- where the central government has imposed a moratorium on setting up new units due to high pollution level - as a business hub, India Inc and industry bodies are seemingly not convinced and expressed resentment over the government's land policy.

While the government had sent invites to several leading business houses and industry captains, including the Tata Group, to attend the summit, where it is expected to formally announce its industry policy, state Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee, however, could not confirm any name of probable big investor, who would be present at Haldia.

Instead, the minister could only say there would be "some surprises" at the summit.

Industry lobbyists, however, pointed out that merely sending invites to industry honchos was not enough, and what was required was proper and effective networking. Some business captains also observed that the venue for the summit, about 50 km away from Kolkata, was the "biggest disappointment".

In a major controversy, port equipment operator Haldia Bulk Terminal(HBT) Pvt Ltd, which operated at two mechanised berths at the Haldia Dock Complex (HDC), announced last October that it would quit the port as also the state over "poor law and order" and "safety" concerns of its employees.

The development had prompted industry experts to raise concern over Bengal's growth prospects, while the Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) attacked the Trinamool Congress-led government for "vitiating" the industrial environment in the state.

Entrepreneurs and several industry bodies observed that the development would worsen the state's industrial prospects after the Singur fiasco. Tata Motors had pulled out its small car Nano project from Singur in Hooghly district following an often violent and sustained anti-land acquisition movement spearheaded by then opposition leader Banerjee in 2008.

In fact, the government's decision to hold this year's investors' summit at the industrial town of East Midnapore, was a "political" in order to cap the controversy following HBT's pullout, industry observers said.

The state government opted for Haldia, where the central government imposed a moratorium on setting up major industries as the town was found critically polluted.

The moratorium, imposed by the environment and forests ministry in 2009, has not been lifted despite repeated appeals from the Banerjee-led state government, but instead extended twice since then.

This year's Bengal government-industry interaction would be keenly watched by political as well as industry observers as the event comes close on the heels of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's flagship "Vibrant Gujarat Summit".

At the summit in Gandhinagar, Modi shared dais with industry captains like Tata Sons' former chairman Ratan Tata, RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani and his younger brother and ADAG chairman Anil Ambani.

Modi came in for fulsome praise from the honchos at the event, where Tata's successor Cyrus Mistry termed Modi and Gujarat as a "true partner" for the salt-to-software conglomerate.

Against this backdrop, Banerjee and her government would be facing an uphill task to woo investors to Bengal.

Even in the face of severe resentment over the government's land policy, which decrees no state role in land acquisition for industrial projects and asks businessmen to buy land outright from its owners, Banerjee has stuck to it.

A much-awaited industry meet in Delhi last year proved to be a flop show with India Inc concerned over her strong stand against FDI in multi-brand retail. Following the ruling United Progressive Alliance's decision to allow the measure, the Trinamool withdrew from the Congress-led alliance in September last year.

And the fact is even after much high-decibel talks at the Kolkata show last year, the state has not got any big ticket investments.