No more man-days lost in Bengal due to strikes: Mamata tells industry tycoons

Mamata Banerjee. Photo: ANI/File

Kolkata: The state, which was at one time known as the strike capital of the country, has brought down man-days lost to industrial action to zero from 75 lakh annually, said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday, as she wooed investors from across the globe at a big-ticket business summit here.

Banerjee, addressing a large gathering of industry tycoons at the Bengal Global Business Summit, however, also took a dig at the Union government, urging the state's Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar to talk to central authorities to ensure that industrialists are “not disturbed by some agencies”.

Her off-the-cuff comment is being seen as a possible response to the Governor's inaugural speech where he had advised the chief minister to distance the state from “partisan stance” to fuel prosperity in Bengal.

Banerjee also revealed the state planned to set up a Rs 72,000-crore industrial zone in the densely forested and backward 'Junglemahal' area along the eastern freight corridor being built by the Centre, linking north India with West Bengal's ports.

“We have allocated 2,483 acre of industrial land at Purulia for the ‘Junglemahal Shundori Kormonagari' project along the eastern freight corridor from Amritsar to Dankuni,” she said.

Adani group chief Gautam Adani, who according to the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index, is now the richest Indian with a net worth of USD 100 billion, responded to her speech by announcing that the group would invest Rs 10,000 crore in West Bengal over the next decade.

The chief minister said the state will work on eight pillars of development going ahead, including infrastructure, education, social security, skill development and ease-of-doing-business.

“Bengal is the first state to organise a physical business summit since the Covid pandemic struck. It is the gateway to eastern and northeastern India, neighbouring Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal as well as South East Asia... and we don't divide people in the name of caste, religion and creed. We stay here as a family and you are all family members when in Bengal,” Banerjee pointed out.

“We lost 75 lakh man-days every year during the Left Front rule, but now no man-days are lost. The working class and the industry are my hero,” she said.

The CM said West Bengal has also readied a policy on grant of shale-gas exploration licences.

Banerjee added that by 2023, the state will join the national gas grid.

"West Bengal can create more than 1.5 crore jobs in the next five years. When India lost 30 per cent jobs, we have reduced 40 per cent unemployment. This is because (of the fact) that our MSME sector is very powerful," she asserted.

Though the chief minister did not name any central agency, she made it obvious that her apparent dig was in response to recent income tax raids and Enforcement Directorate actions against a number of top firms, drawing applause from a section of the industrialists present at the Summit.

Banerjee, while concluding her speech at the summit, said, “Through the governor I want (to) tell, if you don't mind, Governor sir (that you speak) on behalf of all industrialists as they cannot open their mouth. We want all help from the central government. (In the next) Governor's conference please raise it. Please see industrialists are not disturbed through some agencies.”

The governor who inaugurated the summit earlier said the state has enormous potential for growth and called Banerjee's leadership “mature”, in a departure from his usual, strident criticism.

Dhankhar said West Bengal "was a land of opportunity" which needs to replicate its earlier success story. Bengal along with Bombay province were the most industrialised provinces of India at the time of Independence.

However, he also added that the chief minister needs to catalyse development and “distance the state from a partisan stance” to fuel prosperity.

The Governor also added, "There is a need to combat flight of capital,” implicitly speaking of the closure of factories that has happened during the last few years, many of them because of Covid pandemic-induced economic slowdown.

The opposition BJP, meanwhile, attacked Banerjee for her criticism of income tax raids on industrialists.

Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari told newspersons “industrialists are not above the law. If they are involved in wrongdoing, action will be taken against them”.

Among recent cases, the Income Tax Department had raided an auto major, a charter airline and a realtor, while a multinational chain marketing firm recently had its assets attached by the enforcement directorate. Income tax and enforcement directorate which looks into violations of money laundering laws are under the Union Government. PTI

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