Bengal global business summit to see mega participation (Preview)

Kolkata, Jan 19 (IANS) In the shadow of demonetisation and a violent anti-land acquisition protest in Bhangar, the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government is to inaugurate the third edition of its annual two-day business summit on Friday that will see participation from 25 countries.

The authorities are yet to formally announce any list of Indian business captains who would grace the Bengal Global Business Summit, to be inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee.

In an effort to shed the state’s investor-wary image and woo much-needed business capital, the state government had reached out to various parts of the country and even foreign countries in the lead up to the event, being held in the sprawling Milan Mela ground.

Russia, China, South Korea, Norway, Germany, Poland, the UAE, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Singapore are among the overseas nations to be represented at the mega business gathering – the first after Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress won a second successive term in office by sweeping the assembly polls last year.

The August 31 Supreme Court verdict ordering the return of farmland to the peasants from whom it had been taken for the Tata Motors’ Nano project by the erstwhile Left Front government is another monumental development that happened in 2016.

According to state Finance, Commerce and Industries Minister Amit Mitra, there would be at least 3,000 delegates at the plenary session, including a strong presence from countries where manufacturing units are really strong.

In order to ensure a strong foreign imprint, the state government organised a series of interactive sessions last September on business opportunities in Bengal at Germany’s Dusseldorf, Munich and Stuttgart.

Teams had also fanned out to China and Japan last October, and Italy in November. A Chinese delegation also came to Bengal in September.

In a departure from the previous two years, key central government figures, most notably Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, would be skipping the summit.

While Jaitley’s absence is being linked to his preoccupation with the February 1 budget, the deteriorating relations between the BJP-led central government and the state’s Trinamool Congress regime could be a prime reason.

In a desperate attempt to turn things around in terms of investment in Bengal, Chief Minister Banerjee, who has been vocal against the central government’s decision to recall Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, has appealed to industrialists time and again to infuse money in the eastern state, to meet the huge demands for jobs. Banerjee also frequently tom-toms the state as a zone of “industrial peace” where not a “single manday” is lost due to industrial disputes.

However, such claims may have lost some sheen in view of the trouble earlier this week in South 24 Parganas district’s Bhangar, where two lives were lost following violent clashes between villagers and the police over the state government’s bid to acquire 16 acres of farmland for a power grid project.

The protesting villagers stoned policemen, torched their vehicles, dug roads and felled trees to stop their entry into the villages, in a virtual re-run of events of 2006-2008 when the state was on the boil following intense anti-farmland acquisition stirs.

The fresh chapter of the summit would focus on boosting start-ups in the state. Earlier, Mitra said the state was working with IIM Calcutta and iSpirit, an NGO associated with start-ups, so that the state could help home-grown start-ups to take off.

The state government has identified 11 priority areas for attracting investment, such as transport, civil aviation, mining, power, medium and small-scale enterprises, IT and ITeS and infrastructure.

The sessions would include sector-wise discussions to project the possibilities and potential of Bengal in front of investors.

“We hope the summit will fetch a good amount of investments’ proposals this year. The only flip side is the depressed mood of local and domestic industries since the Centre’s decision to recall notes,” an official said.

According to the state government, the 2015 summit had fetched investment proposals to the tune of Rs 2.43 lakh crore and the 2016 edition received over Rs 2.5 lakh crore of investment proposals.

–IANS

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