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Mamata's biz summit in investment-parched Bengal gets a thumbs up from industry

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 16 January 2018, 19:22 IST

West Bengal Global Business Summit, the showstopper event of the Mamata Banerjee government, clicked on its in first day, with industry captains like Reliance Industries (RIL) Chairman Mukesh Ambani and steel magnate Lakshmi Niwas Mittal showing support.

The summit even garnered an international memorandum of understanding. Chief Minister Banerjee, visibly, loved the attention and pledged her governemnt's support to industry. 

Praising the state and its CM, Ambani said West Bengal was “Best Bengal” and has a friendly atmosphere for setting up industries. He came with a lot of promises:

  • Reliance Jio to lay high-speed optical fibre in almost all districts in Bengal
  • Manufacturing mobile phones and set top boxes in the state
  • Digital service centres in five districts
  • An investment of Rs 5,000 crore for stting up retail outlets and fuel pumps
  • A chair in the name of physicist Satyen Bose at an university in Bengal

“Once the optical fibre network is laid, the company plans to provide internet service in 40,000 villages, 2,800 colleges, rural and urban schools and hospitals in Bengal by December 2019,” Ambani said. Currently 24,339 villages and 1,059 towns have been connected through 12,500 kilometre of optical fibre. 

Spice Jet Chairman Ajay Singh Chairman also came in with big-ticket proposals. “We are planning to set up a sea-plane manufacturing hub in West Bengal. We will also start flight services from Andal airport to Hyderabad and Bangalore by August,” he said. 

“The state has the right infrastructure … We are in discussion with the Government of West Bengal and hopefully within a few years we can complete the sea plane project,” Singh added. According to him, Bengal would be the first state to have such a plant.

JSW Steel Managing Director Sajjan Jindal said he has a blue print to invest Rs 10,000 crore in the next four-five years for setting up a steel unit and power plant.

Industrialist Niranjan Hiranandani announced plans to invest in laying a Bengal-Bangladesh gas pipeline and in a network for supplying clean fuel and gas to consumers in the state.

Saroj Poddar, the chairman of Adventz Group, also proposed to invest Rs 1,000 crore.

Day One of the summit garnered proposals worth Rs 17,000 crore, sources said.

changing times

Though ArcelorMittal Chaiman Laxmi Mittal did not promise any investment, he praised the state for for political stability with limited bureaucratic interference. 

The mindset of Bengal has changed and it’s one of the most favourable destination for investment,” Uday Kotak, managing director of Kotak Mahindra Bank, said. 

Hiranandani too praised Bengal and Banerjee for providing an industry-friendly atmosphere. 

In her inaugural speech, Banerjee tried to put her best foot forward: “Bengal will not deprive you. We are tolerant.

If industries face issues relating to tolerance, then how do we expect to generate jobs? There would be no pressure, no discrimination and no intimidation from our side. We will only give love and affection. Come and invest in Bengal. Bengal is the sweet home for all industrialists.” 

Widening her canvas, she said: “I am not talking for Bengal alone. If there is investment in Bengal it will also boost development in Jharkhand and Bihar. I feel for my neighbouring states and we believe in Unity in Diversity,” she said. 

Addressing issues of unruly Trinamool Congress workers, she said: “I won’t spare even my party activists if they try to disturb law and order.”

The summit elicitated positive response from members of the European Union too. Italy signed an Mou in the leather sector. A delegation from France said was exploring opportunities in sectors like food and hospitality, defence and steel. 

The summit will conclude on Wednesday. 

Edited by Joyjeet Das

First published: 16 January 2018, 19:22 IST