Decision to "showcase" Haldia taken in the aftermath of the HBT-affair

The second round of “Bengal Leads” — an industry summit that the Mamata Banerjee government has been organising since 2012 is proving to be a cliff-hanger, in not only likely presence of the bigwigs of India Inc., but also the shape of the new industry policy that many are expecting to be unfurled at the event.

The biggest suspense is being generated whether there will be any significant presence from Tata Sons. Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee’s statement late last year, that one should wait till December 29 to see what happens, generated a lot of hope in the context of some steps being initiated by the government to break the Singur deadlock through talks.

Mr. Chatterjee has chosen to keep mum on whether new Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry is expected. Betraying a degree of trepidation, he has not made public the government guest-list at the summit. However, indications are that many captains of city-based industries are now outside the State and therefore unlikely to show up at the summit.

The summit’s location at the industrial port-town of Haldia does not make it easy either for the government to host the show or for the participants to attend it. It takes over two-and-a-half hours to negotiate the 150 km distance. Road conditions are good, but traffic is heavy. The government has already admitted that it is a challenge to hold such a mega three-day event at Haldia.

While the first such summit was held by the government at the Milan Mela grounds here, the decision to “showcase” Haldia was taken in the aftermath of the HBT-affair which mauled the image of the State as well as the port town as an investment-friendly destination.

There are contrary reports on the likelihood of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee unfurling her government’s maiden industrial policy at the inaugurals on Tuesday afternoon.

The State government invited inputs on an industrial policy from the Chambers of Commerce in early December and discussed the matter with corporate chiefs on January 9. However, while her sincerity to advance the industrially-backward State impressed industry-captains, they returned feeling disappointed as it became clear that Ms. Banerjee will not budge from her stand on special economic zones and her hand-off policy on land.

“She is also unwilling to extend fiscal benefits, although we said this was essential to retain West Bengal’s competitiveness vis-à-vis the neighbouring States.”

The three-day exposition will see talks by senior managers from companies like Price WaterHouse, the Apeejay Group, Mitsubishi Chemicals (which has a unit in Haldia) tea companies and Keventers Agro. Two lectures by a World Bank economist and an executive director of Goldman Sachs is sure to among the takeaways from the event.