“Tears of joy” – that was the reaction of Bengal’s Chief Minister on 31 August after the Supreme Court of India termed the land acquisition in Singur illegal and ordered for the land acquired to be returned to farmers. A fight that had started on 18 May, 2006 finally attained fruition. Life came a full cycle for not just Mamata Banerjee, our Didi, but for many of us who had been associated with the Singur andolan.
Back in 2006, the ‘Nano plant’ at Singur was sold to us as a panacea that would magically end all the woes facing the State; it was marketed as the one big investment that would propel Bengal to a position among States that would put other ‘vibrant’ States to shame. True, after three decades of Left rule, Bengal was desperate for a ‘magic pill’.
So, when Tatas decided pull out of Singur, the mainstream media branded Didi as ‘anti-industry’. The West prefixed before Bengal was laughingly referred to as ‘Waste’ meaning there was no hope left for the State. We always maintained we are not against industry. Investors are most welcome to Bengal. However, the manner in which multi-crop fertile land was acquired using cadre-power, the scant regard shown for due process, the sheer arrogance of the CPI(M) propelled the hapless people to rise up against the establishment. The Supreme Court verdict has only vindicated our stand.
Mamata Banerjee in Munich
The Singur verdict will embolden Mamata Banerjee. That she is not against private investment has been demonstrated in the two successful seasons of Bengal Global Business Summit and her trips to UK and Singapore. Despite the huge legacy of debt inherited from the Left Front Government, Bengal has been growing by leaps and bounds. The State’s GVA growth is 12% compared to 7% of India. The industrial growth of the State (8.3%) is also much higher than the national average (5.6%).
In this light, the CM’s trip to Germany was extremely significant. From 5-9 September, Team Bengal (the Chief Minister was accompanied by the State Finance, Commerce and Industries Minister Dr Amit Mitra, Mayor of Kolkata, several departmental secretaries, 29 industrialists and other members of the press) held several meetings at Munich, Stuttgart and Dusseldorf.
Team Bengal at BMW HQ in Munich
At a business conclave at Munich, Bengal CM made an impassioned appeal to investors to come to Bengal. She talked about easy availability of land, power, labour. She made a strategic appeal to move over an incident in the past. The response in Germany has been impressive.Top-level officials of BMW made presentations to Team Bengal during a three-hour meeting. Dusseldorf has expressed interest in making Kolkata their ‘Sister City’.
The opinion about Bengal is changing in the global market. A State which was once known as the Bandh Capital of India was running like any normal day on September 2, when 17 trade unions had called for Bharat Bandh. In fact, the man-days lost in Bengal due bandhs has come down to zero in the last five years. Business conclaves like the one in Munich help bolstering the message ‘Bengal Means Business’.
Standing ovation for Didi after Business Conclave in Munich
The seeds have been sown. The efforts of the State government to woo investors is clearly visible. All eyes on Bengal Global Business Summit, 2017. One thing is for certain: Bengal is back on the business map.
Photos courtesy: Ashok Majumder
Dear Mr Ratan Tata
It was perhaps a long and tiring flight from Mumbai – and a meaninglessly long schedule in the city – that probably got better of your senses yesterday. And I do not blame you either. A man is known by his company, and who knows not about your comrades, who have presided over mass murders until 3 years back in this State! But that is besides the point. Hope Ms Radia is in touch with you still.
Old age and retirement can often send people to depression, and it is absolutely sad that a former Chairman of a multinational company has to pass his time nowadays by giving bytes to the media. Talking of media, we heard that you took questions at the press conference from only three journalists belonging to a specific media house (no points for guessing which one).
We all know your fascination for all things Gujarat. You even said that Bengal must learn from what the former Chief Minister has done in the Vibrant State. Sure. The progress of a State is compared on the parameters of Human Development Index. Definitely Bengal has a LOT TO LEARN from Gujarat on what not to do:
|Infant mortality rate (per 1000 births)||31||42|
|Maternal mortality ratio||145||148|
|School dropout rate (I-V)||
|Household access to safe drinking water||
|Growth in revenue collection||15%||2.27%|
Sir, such is the vibrancy of Gujarat that one-fifth of the MoUs signed by the former Chief Minister under much fanfare fail to take off!
Sir, like the former Chief Minister of the Vibrant State, are you unaware of the labour strikes in Gujarat? Are you aware that in the last three years, number of mandays lost in Bengal has come down from 5 lakh to zero?
As the State Industry Minister highlighted earlier today, even your own company is expanding business in Bengal. But you did not see any industrialisation in Bengal in the last three years. True. If industrialisation for you means snatching away land from farmers, and egoistically sticking to your stand despite an alternative proposal by a man of impeccable reputation (Dr Gopal Krishna Gandhi), Bengal still needs to match the standards of Gujarat in such “progress”.
Sir, you also blamed Singur for the bad performance of the Tata Nano. Absolutely! Were the hapless farmers, who fought for their only means of survival, not part of the process to design a faulty car which had no feature that could appeal to the consumer (except the price)?
I am too trivial for you to even ponder on the points raised by me.
Have a nice stay in Bengal next time too. And try visiting the districts to see the growth in small and medium scale industries, not just the arterial road connecting Dumdum Airport to Taj Bengal.
– A humble Bengali.