You’ll be the employer and I the employee, Mamata tells industrialists (Roundup)

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Kolkata, Jan 8 (IANS) Amid an impressive gathering of ministers, foreign delegates and industrial bigwigs, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banereje on Friday inaugurated her annual global investment summit projecting the eastern state as an ideal business destination, and called upon entrepreneurs to set up shop asserting that the government will “work as their employee”.

Months away from the assembly polls, the Banerjee government – battling criticism of being unable to attract big ticket industries – had gone all out in promoting the latest edition of the Bengal Global Business Summit, deputing ministers and high officials to various parts of the country and even foreign destinations to rope in business magnates and senior government functionaries.

The months of intense lobbying saw the presence of industrial honchos like Reliance Group chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani, Bharti Enterprises vice-chairman Rakesh Bharti Mittal, JSW Steel chairman and managing director Sajjan JindalL, and Hiranandani Group director Darshan Hiranandani besides ITC chairman Y.C. Deveshwar, and city-based businessmen like RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group chairman Sanjiv Goenka and Ambuja Neotia Group chairman Harshavardhan Neotia.

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There was also a strong line up of government leaders, including Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, and four Indian union ministers – Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, Power Minister Piyush Goel and Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari. Also present were Britain’s Employment Minister Priti Patel and Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed besides ambassadors and delegates from 25 countries.

Banerjee harped on her government’s achievements since coming to power in May 2011.

“There is big scope and hope in Bengal. There is cheap labour, sufficient power, skilled manpower. We have land bank, suitable policies on textile, industry and the likes.

“Please invest in Bengal. Whatever help you need, from small-scale to capital industries to agro and culture industries from education to medium-scale industry… wherever you need the help, our government will work as your worker. You would be the employer and I am the employee.”

Referring to the various core groups set up by her government for industrial purposes, Banerjee said: “It’s my industrialist friends who are running the industry department and not us. We have set core groups for that.”

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She said her government has come up with a land bank, a land use policy and even a power bank.

“We have 5,000 acres of readymade land. We have a power bank. We are a power surplus state,” she said.

Jaitley affirmed the centre’s commitment towards contributing to West Bengal’s growth and said the government was looking at eastern states like West Bengal to enable the country’s economy grow an additional 1-1.5 percent.

“If Bengal follows a policy which is investment- and business-friendly, I have not the least of doubts that the original glory which belonged to the state can always be restored.

“I have come here to assure the Bengal government that all policy initiatives that it is going to take for the industrial growth of West Bengal, the central government will support as part of its constitutional obligation,” said Jaitley.

Gadkari said the central government will invest around Rs.52,000 crore for strengthening the port and road infrastructure in West Bengal, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi scheduled to lay the foundation of the much-awaited deep sea port, the work on which begins from March.

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Prabhu announced that the East-West Metro railway project, linking the satellite township of Salt Lake with Kolkata’s twin city Howrah has been put on the fast track and would be completed in two and a half years.

But what would have been music to the ears of Banerjee and her government was the profuse praise from industrialists led by Ambani.

Rating West Bengal as one among the top in the country in terms of ease of doing business, Ambani recommended the state as an ideal destination for investment.

“Bengal is (on) top of my list in term of ease of doing business. I have no hesitation in recommending Bengal as an ideal destination for investment to my investor friends from India and the world,” he said.

Also present was Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who called Banerjee a “gutsy leader”.

At the end of the day, Banerjee did not specify any figure, but claimed “huge investment proposals and collaborations were announced today, which will definitely take Bengal to an altogether new level of development”.

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