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Battle-scarred Bengal industry seeks poll relief
Industry captains hope that politicians will focus on infrastructure development and land acquisition policies.
Kolkata: As West Bengal's political parties get busy drawing up plans for the upcoming polls, industry captains hope that politicians will focus on issues like infrastructure development and land acquisition policy to inject new life in the economy. Businessmen, chambers of commerce and economists want the the ruling Marxists and the main opposition Trinamool Congress and others to present a specific and time-bound roadmap.
"Political parties should specify in the manifestos their commitment to infrastructure development across the state. Infrastructure development is required for agriculture, industry and service sectors," managing director of Srei Infrastructure Finance Ltd Hemant Kanoria told IANS.
"The government should create infrastructure to make agricultural output reach the market in the shortest possible time. What is important is not only putting in money but creating an enabling environment for increasing agricultural productivity," Kanoria said.
The six-phase elections in West Bengal will start on April 18 and end May 10. Political parties are now giving the final touches to their election manifestos.
Kanoria suggested setting up a large number of industrial parks in areas where land would not be a problem. "Parties should spell out a clear-cut policy on land acquisition. They should list the conditions for giving land to the industry once they come to power," he said.
Land acquisition has become a touchy issue in the state after the Trinamool reaped rich electoral dividends over the past two years riding on intense anti-acquisition protests.
Jayanta Roy, president of the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), said: "Marketing campaigns and brand building exercises would be important as the state's image has suffered badly due to various undesirable events. "A new State Industrial Policy with encouraging fiscal incentives must be formulated and put to practice to boost existing industrial units and attract fresh investments," he said.
A review by a human resource organisation stated that industrialists in India and abroad were not interested in investing in the state, especially after Tata Motors was forced to pull out its Nano project from Singur due to protests against land acquisition.
Till the first decades of independence, West Bengal was known as an industrial hub. The state had the country's first indigenous automobile plant - of Hindustan Motors that produced the iconic Ambassador car. However, the economic situation has gradually deteriorated over the past few decades in the state where the Communist Party of India-Marxist has been in power since 1977.
However, the Left Front faces its stiffest electoral test now against a determined Trinamool-led opposition.
Roy, who is also director of financial products distribution of The Peerless General Finance and Investment Co Ltd, said growth-oriented policies must be implemented to boost high-potential sectors like IT tourism, agro and food processing, chemicals and petrochemicals. "Industry wants strong facilitation measures in the form of an efficient Single Window System that would ensure speedy clearances to set up businesses," he added.
Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry director general Priyadarshan Roy sought a clear policy in all sectors - agriculture, industry and service - for ensuring balanced growth of the state, whose capital Kolkata was the first base of the East India Company.
Ajitabha Roy Chowdhury, professor of economics at Jadavpur University, said manifestos should be assertive, time-bound and programme-based. Pointing out that the agriculture sector was neglected and productivity had been falling, he said: "I want political parties to mention in their manifestos that they would carry out public investment in agriculture for inclusive growth."
Sabyasachi Basu Roychowdhury, professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University, said parties need to highlight a rehabilitation policy for people selling their land. "It is also crucial from the point of view of industrialists," he said.
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