For debt relief, Mamata to bring India Inc to PM’s doorstep

Tuesday
Having so far failed to convince the Centre for a moratorium on interests on loans incurred by the West Bengal government, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will soon be making another fresh attempt at it. This time she will be taking a delegation of industrialists along with her to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to press for a moratorium on loan interests.

Announcing this at the inaugural ceremony of Bengal Leads, a three-day industrial summit organised by the state government that got underway on Tuesday at Haldia in East Midnapore, Mamata said, "We have asked for a date from the Prime Minister. We want a moratorium on the interest paid by us every month which comes to Rs 23,000 crore. They do not love us, they do not want us as I am not from a family with a golden spoon. But it is their duty to rescue us. Even 50 per cent of moratorium will do."

Later, speaking to The Indian Express, Saugata Roy, MP and adviser to the state government on matters of industries, said what they would seek from the PM was "financial justice". "Apart from the moratorium, we will request for exemption of various duties like import duty, disbursement of coal cess. If industrialists go there, it will carry extra weight," Roy said.

The CM took a serious note to the criticism of the summit failing to attract big industrialists. "A section of the media is staying in Bengal but pleading for Gujarat." She said it was unfair to compare the two states. "It has an edge over us in so many areas. For example, Gujarat has 17 ports while we have only two which also are under the central government. That state is larger than ours and its density of population is also lower than we have. Above all, they don't have a debt burden that we have inherited from the previous government. Why do you compare the two states?'' she said.

The summit was attended by Kolkata-based industrialists like Sanjiv Goenka, Sanjay Budhia, C K Dhanuka, G P Goenka among others. The CM was accompanied by a host of her MPs and cabinet colleagues, including Finance Minister Amit Mitra, Commerce and Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee and Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim.

The CM, who also announced that the state was ready with an industrial policy, made it clear that the government would not go for any land acquisition. "You will have to purchase your land as if we go for it there will be a lot of political gadbad (trouble),'' Mamata said.

At the function, she laid the foundation stone of a IT hub and distributed allotment letters to 11 industrialists and one government department for land at various industrial parks in the state.

She also claimed that despite financial constraints the state has achieved growth. "In the first quarter of 2012-13, while the country achieved 5.5 % growth, ours was 8.06. In the second quarter our growth rate was 6.48 per cent — national figure was 5.3."

The CM exhorted industrialists to invest in Bengal. "We have cheap labour, intelligent people. Our land bank, power bank are ready. Bandhs and strikes are passé. Two deep sea ports, three film cities and one tourism hub are coming up," she said. The government will organise a "mega business summit" in Mumbai on February 13.

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