Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee invites inputs from chamber of commerce
Keen to bridge the ever-widening chasm between her and industry, the Mamata Banerjee Government has embarked on the job of formulating a new industrial policy.
Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee has been tasked to do the job. Sougata Roy, a Central Minister till Ms Banerjee pulled the plug on the UPA-II Government last year, has written letters seeking industry inputs.
The time seems to be ripe for a new industrial policy in more ways than one. The present policy, considered a watershed one under the previous Leftist regime, was announced by the late Jyoti Basu during his tenure in 1994.
It marked a turnaround for the then coalition government and the State was opened up for industrial investment with the industry being wooed assiduously. West Bengal had then seemed to be poised for a giant leap forward.
Singur and Nandigram changed all that. Land acquisition suddenly became a dirty word and the Trinamool Congress and Ms. Mamata Banerjee swept to power on a tsunami of public support who gave thumbs up to her agitation against the alleged forceful acquisition of land for the Tata Motors project.
However ever since, Ms. Banerjee has been hard put to shed the anti-industry tag that she got labelled with for her opposition to any government role in acquisition of land which she said has to be voluntary. The industry’s unease with her grew.
Industry, which had found a comfort level with the previous government, remains jittery. In many ways, the relationship between the industry and the government is one that is reminiscent of the early days of the Left rule when an atmosphere of mutual distrust led to flight of capital and intellect from West Bengal.
Land still remains the stickiest issue in attracting industrial investment to West Bengal and very few investors have come forward with new project proposals.
In a way, the Chief Minister today finds herself a victim of her own convictions, which makes it difficult for her to steer the State towards a high growth trajectory. A case in point is Infosys.
Considered the bell-weather of the IT industry it was keen to set up shop in the State but then announced its decision to shelve its plans for the time-being following Ms. Banerjee’s nixing their plan of a SEZ although some SEZs are already operational in the State. “The party (Trinamool Congress) is against SEZs and I cannot differentiate between one company and another,” she said.
The need for a new industrial policy has to be seen from that perspective. However while the chambers of commerce in their submissions have called for fiscal reliefs, almost all of them have urged a re-look at the State’s present hands-off policy regarding land acquisition.
Following the land reforms of the previous government, holdings are very small and industry said that it was difficult to negotiate so many deals. The industry also said that if the government continues with its land policy, industry should be freed from land ceiling laws, which disallows industry from acquiring land at market prices beyond statutory limits.
An apex chamber of commerce has suggested that the Government adopt a policy of promoting small and medium units whose requirement for land is minimal.
Mamata Banerjee has been hard put to shedding the anti-industry tag ‘Government should adopt a policy of promoting small and medium units’
Mamata Banerjee has been hard put to shedding the anti-industry tag
‘Government should adopt a policy of promoting small and medium units’