Mamata woos business, but gets no commitments

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee faced a barrage of concerns from corporate leaders on non-availability of land at a meeting in Kolkata on Monday. Ironically, Banerjee's Trinamool Congress had shot to power on the back of anti-land acquisition agitations in Singur and Nandigram.

''Several industry leaders raised the land issue in the meeting. It was also pointed out that even highway projects are suffering as the state government is not forthcoming with acquiring land. I think she understood our problems,'' said Ajit Gulabchand, managing director of Hindustan Construction Co, according to a Hindustan Times report

Naina Lal Kidwai, country head of HSBC India, the global bank that has a significant presence in Kolkata, told HT after the meeting, ''She had a frank discussion on several issues including land. She clarified that she is opposed to forcible acquisition of land and evicting people. But she also assured that her government will try to find land for industries.''
While most of the industrialists did not commit themselves to any specific investment or new project in the state, finance minister Amit Mitra later claimed that industrialist Puneet Dalmia of Dalmia Cements has proposed to set up a Rs500-crore factory in Jangalmahal area.

In her first-such interaction with industry brass in the capital, Mamata was also politely reminded that ample scope still remains to change the negative publicity about Bengal not being a favourable investment destination.

Kidwai felt that Banerjee's government is trying to reduce the gap in perception to emerge as an industry-friendly state.

Gulabchand told HT, ''she is very welcoming about new industries. But there is a huge gap between passionate intention and the implementation of policies.''

Mamata cited different potentials of Bengal, particularly in the field of tourism, food processing and information technology. She also repeatedly assured investors that their concerns will be taken care of. Top industrialists like Sanjiv Goenka and Harsh Neotia among those in the meet.

Banerjee did not take any questions from the media.