In conversation with

Dr Amit Mita
Honourable Minister, Finance, IT, Industries and Commerce

Dr Amit Mitra is the Minister for Finance, IT, Industries and Commerce, Government of West Bengal

Question: What are the expectations from the Singapore visit of the Chief Minister?

Dr Mitra:
We are going to Singapore, led by the Hon’ble Chief Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee. We are hopeful. You all will be present there too. You will witness the scenario there. I hope that you will pass on to the people of Bengal the message of budding relationship between Bengal and Singapore.

Question: What is the USP of West Bengal as an ideal investment destination?

Dr Mitra:
In my speech in the State Assembly I have already mentioned that after the new government came in, investments worth Rs 78,000 crore have been implemented or are under process in the state. We have received investment proposals worth Rs 1.20 lakh crores.

In business terms, S0 phase is when the land that has been purchased by the industry and boundary wall has been completed. S1 means the factory is being built, S2 means machineries of the industry have arrived. Similarly S6 means that commercial production has started.

These are all new factories; some of them are projects that could not start off earlier because of problems. We solved those problems. For example, Hon’ble Chief Minister inaugurated a cement factory in Salboni which has started production. It was an investment worth Rs 600 crores. Another factory of Siddharth Birla is ready for production and was inaugurated in Barjora few days back by the Chief Minister.

Question: What is the real situation of new investment in the state?

Dr Mitra:
At S0 level is Anil Ambani’s cement plant at Raghunathpur. Emami Group is also in this level for their Rs 500 crore cement plant. A company called Matrix, a fertilizer plant, made an investment of around Rs 5500 crore in the State. Their project was stalled due to unavailability of water and road connection with the highway. We have addressed those issues and they are ready for production. Another company, HR Johnson was waiting for road link to highway. We completed that and they are now at S4 level. These are not small or medium industries.

There are two types of companies who are here right now. One, the new ones that are coming in and the second category is those who were stuck due to lack of infrastructure, some from 2006. There were some who took land above the land ceiling which was treated as vested land. We have studied those cases and those who were seriously interested to go ahead with the industry have given them the 14Y clearances to go ahead.

Question: The State has an image of being unfriendly towards industry…

Dr Mitra:
The State may have an unfriendly image but one has to look how this image came into being. We are aware that there has been a capital flight for the last 34 years. 56,000 to 58,000 factories were closed in West Bengal, which included small, medium and heavy industries. When we came to power, around 1 crore people were looking for jobs or were unemployed. When I placed the figures in the Assembly, I was challenged. I handed out printed documents, statistics from the DPR etc. I challenged the Opposition but there was no Privilege Motion against me.

There has been huge loss of mandays in the past due to strikes and gheraos. In a year, the mandays lost amounted to 76 lakh. That amounts to half mandays lost in the whole country. From that we managed to reduce the loss to 5020 last year and in 2013-14 it was zero. There has been a huge change in work culture.

Question: What are the policies on land for industries in the State?

Dr Mitra:
We have 23 Industrial Parks in the state belonging to WBIDC and 16 parks belonging to WBIIDC. We have Tata Metalics and Tata-Hitachi in the Kharagpur Industrial Park. Matrix and HR Johnson are at Panagarh Industrial Park. Birla cement is at Barjora Park. We have around 7000 acres of land. Of these, 4000 acres of land is fully developed with ready infrastructure. In the last few standing committee meetings more then 10-12 allotments of land had been made, each time. In the Ankurhati Gems and Jewellary Park, 1 lakh 25 thousand sq ft. were availed by 32 companies in just three months. We are now on the process of building the tower II to provide another 1 lakh 25 thousand sq ft of space.

Question: What happens to those who need land over 100 acres?

Dr Mitra:
There are two or three companies that need more than 1000 acres of land. The Goaltor Park has 1000 acres of land. That sort of land will need an investment of Rs 30,000 crore. Such land is needed for steel plants or such big industry. 90% of the industries in India need land to the tune of 10 acres to a maximum of 100 acres. The Koreans visited the Hardware Park in Naihati and Falta. We are setting up 8 IT parks for more investments. Six have been approved by the Central Government for Ground Field Park.

The Land Bank is in place to provide all information. If you want to buy more than 24 acres of land in this State, it will be under Land Ceiling Act. Permissions may be sought from the Government. An affidavit is needed from the willing sellers. Nobody will be allowed to take land forcibly. Many have taken land following the rules.

There is the concept of Private Industrial Parks. Those who are really doing industries and have set up private industrial parks in the past may come to us. We can put the matter in the Cabinet. Land is not an issue.

Question: There was an IT boom in the State. Has it gone down or is it still there?

Dr Mitra:
The biggest IT contract in West Bengal, worth Rs 140 crore, was done through transparent competitive bidding and was awarded to Tata Consultancy Service. This relates to handing over the money of panchayats using bio-metric system of fingerprints. They have committed 20,000 additional IT professionals. They are setting up a campus on 40 acres of land. Cognizant is recruiting 5000 people. HSBC has the back office of its entire international work in Kolkata where 4000 people are employed. In 2013-14, IT export providing of the state has increased by 18% compared to 2012-13. The total export from West Bengal now stands at Rs 63,000 crore, which has increased by 12-13% which amounts to USD 10.5 billion. The Federation of Indian Exporters Association met us and said that they will double the amount within 4 years to USD 20 billion.

The person who runs the biggest shoemaking industry, Mr Rafiq Ahmed met me. He handles 20 international brands. We are setting up a pilot plant to employ 2000 people on leather garment manufacture. Works are already on in Gayeshpur near Kalyani. We have been making bags and gloves; we have now moved to shoe uppers, shoes and leather garments.

Infosys will definitely come to Bengal. They will have to fit the business model. There is TCS, there is Wipro and there is Cognizant. So Infosys should definitely come. The Attrition Rate in West Bengal is 10%; some are saying that it is as low as 3-4%. The National Survey is saying that the state is in number one place in productivity of IT professionals. Such business opportunities shouldn’t keep Infosys out for long.

Earlier for IT, it was STPI, not SEZ. According to our manifesto, SEZ is a land plaque. The Central Government is rethinking on the issue. IT needs lesser amount of space, so it was STPI. This continued for 5 years with one year extension. There are people who bought SEZ land at lower price and sold it to others making huge profit. We have a definite policy on land. If there is market opportunity, investments will come.

Question: The controversy that happened with Ratan Tata… He later said that he was coming via Rajarhat and had seen that route only. Has it affected the image of West Bengal?

Dr Mitra:
The thing is, Ratan Tata is an iconic figure, he is respected by all. Suddenly he commented may be due to mis-information, as maybe the news is not reaching him or maybe he has forgotten that the route from airport to the city, the surrounding lands , he did say there are lot of activities, what activities? Buildings are being constructed – maybe he did not realize Tata Memorial Cancer Centre is on that route. If he is looking for factories there, then his information is not correct, maybe inadvertent error but the trouble is an iconic figure like him, when he says something like this, despite it being wrong, the media made it look as if instead of Airport to Rajarhat area, the investment is not happening in whole of West Bengal. Now if you snatch such a comment from a person like him and create a false picture, it will hurt the respect of the people of West Bengal. That is why I replied back. He tweeted his comment on it and then I emailed him. He is respected by all so it is expected he will know it that here factories cannot be built, for that he has to go to Kharagpur, Panagar , Goaltor or Barjora. I will expect that now he has realized that like when he is traveling from Mumbai Airport to his residence he does not get to see factories along the road. The matter is closed; let us not discuss about the same any more as he now must have been informed.

Question: I would like to ask you about factories getting closed. In your tenure also factories are getting closed. Do you have any policy, any specific plan?

Dr Mitra:
I think I will reply you with an example, Jessop & Co. It is a big brand name. It was lying closed. A few days ago you have seen it has reopened. Our Labour Minister, has taken a big initiative, I have helped him. The MP of that area, Saugata Roy and the Union President – three of us went into the factory and met all the labourers. The factory has re-opened. I hope, citing the examples of Jessop, New Central Jute Mills and two other Jute Mills which have reopened, now slowly we have to reopen other factories and for that we need long hours of discussions.

There are lot of problems and we have of solve those problems. Our labours have problem, we have to solve those, so that they can work with their heart and soul with confidence. If anyone conducts Jessop’s case study you will see after how many hours of discussion, after satisfying the labourers, saving their self interests, after looking into the profitability of the entrepreneur, we now opened this. This is a model, the model you cited, every factory has a different history and now we have to open each one by setting up a model like this slowly. Maybe it will not be possible to reopen 58000 factories, inclusive of small, middle, big sizes but once a brand like Jessop reopens, it gives a different mental impact.

Question: It is a fact that small and medium factories generate maximum employment but for over all bright picture of the state’s industrialization how are you balancing the factors.

Dr Mitra:
You have rightly pointed out correctly but let me tell you, firstly, regarding small and medium enterprise, West Bengal is no.1 as per this year’s record and what is it? You know Banks give loans to small and medium enterprises, in every state and this year West Bengal has become no.1 in growth with 105% increase in small and medium enterprises. What does this mean? Banks will never lend money to companies which are not feasible. So these are feasible and labour intensive too as unit per capital. Now if you take Gujarat, the Bank lending has increased in 34% in small and medium. So we have gone far ahead. Small and medium is not standing alone all the time as some make final products like buckets, fans etc, those are direct and many others are ancillary.

For example the companies making tiles for HR Johnson, Multinational Corporation, in Panagarh Park, they ask for a lot of input, like Matix, they require inputs also for making fertilizer, Himani, Emami or Punit Dalmia making cement are looking for a lot of input and ancillaries. The one with high technology, with Siddharth Birla has built, he himself has informed the Chief Minister that though the no. of employees in the factory are less, mostly engineers but I need 250-300 inputs from ball bearing and various other small small things for which for my factory the outside employment for small and medium enterprise will increase many fold. Some Small and Medium factories do direct business those are stand alone and some in collaborative format, supplying inputs, we have studied this model so in 105% increase in lending by the Banks is the reason for these two formats of industries in West Bengal.

Question: What is the USP of West Bengal as per you in Industrialization. The main USP which will attract some to this state?

Dr Mitra:
The main USP is Power. For any type of industry you require electricity. In most states there are Power deficit. In West Bengal there is none. You will be happy to hear that today we are a power surplus state and we can provide power to any industry.

We are also expecting the requirement will go up and so we are installing 2500 MW additional generating units are ready. In November we will get on stream 250 MW and two more units from Santaldih. You will be happy to know DVC will make Ultra Mega Power Plant that means units generating 650 MW, cheaper and ecologically good. The phase one is ready and production started and for Phase II they have invested another Rs.10,000 crores. Now why have they come here? You know NTPC, their land has been cleared and they have started working, why are they coming. The reason is they know that in West Bengal in next few years the industrial demand for power will increase and they will be able to supply. If you see Korea, they had installed capacity of 300% more than requirement of power generation, the whole world then said it was waste of money, but in 8 years the surplus requirement was covered for industrialization. So I would reiterate that today we are power surplus and we expect , more industry will come and we will require more MW and for that generation is being prepared as per plan.

Question: We are going to Singapore to bring? Are we going to give something there too as the Chief Minister has recently said we will give Tulaipanji rice, the bags made by women’s cooperatives in South Dinajpur to bring it in front of International Audience. What is this concept?

Dr Mitra:
See, I have told you when you will be with us you will get to know the whole concept. You must be knowing that Singapore is a central area from where various things go to various places. Many company head quarters are located in Singapore, who do not make anything in Singapore . As you will be with us you will see with your own eyes, hear with your own ears, make the people in Bengal hear how a close interconnection is being developed between Singapore and West Bengal, you will get to know later.

Question: Singapore will be the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee’s first foreign trip. She is going to attract investment and now there is no doubt that the whole state is looking upto her eagerly. We want her success and from you we seek two lines of inspirational words…

Dr Mitra:
Let me tell you I am an optimistic person. I have come leaving everything, leaving my job at Delhi, my international career, to become a soldier of Mamata Banerjee. I have come as Ms Mamata Benerjee after 34 years have defeated the Communists through her struggles. Now she has gone to construction. I am next to her like a small soldier. I am hopeful, I feel be it Singapore or any other country she goes , she will go prepared as per her habit. You will be there and convey to the people of Bengal that we have seen with our own eyes how can a synergy be created.

Dr Amit Mita