Bengal shines in London, thanks to the initiatives of WB CM

West Bengal Chief Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee truncated her visit to London by a day because of the natural calamities in Bengal. That did not stop the 5-day visit to UK from being a success.

As the Chief Minister had said before leaving on July 25, this visit helped a lot in dispelling myths about West Bengal and gave the State an image-makeover.


MoUs signed

The delegation to the UK clinched 21 MoUs with the UK in the fields of industry, health, education and urban development.

The agreements were signed during a bilateral meeting with Britain’s Minister of State for Employment and British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Indian Diaspora champion Priti Patel at a reception hosted at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on July 26.


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WB CM with delegates at the British Foreign Office


“This is a landmark visit… These MoUs will help bring the UK and West Bengal ever closer, and unleash the potential of our relationship,” Patel said in her address.

“If you say London is the (financial) capital of the world, I say Bengal is the human capital of the world,” WB CM said in her address.

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Come to Bengal, Ride the growth

Speaking at a gathering of British and Indian business delegates, organised by the UK India Business Council (UKIBC), the Finance and Industries Minister Dr Amit Mitra assured British investors that the government has taken steps to bring down the labour strikes to zero levels, as it made a strong case for attracting investments.

“We are setting up systems in place. There has been a radical shift since 2010-11, when 7.6 lakh work days were lost [due to labour strikes]. By 2013, the number of working days lost came down to zero. It takes time for mind-sets to change but please come to Bengal and we can assure very clear worker management processes,” he said.

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WB CM taking a walk by the Thames


Letter from the UK PM

UK PM David Cameron, who could not be in London because of a foreign visit, sent a letter to West Bengal Chief Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee on Monday apologising for his absence. “I wish you a successful and rewarding visit which will help forge the close ties between UK and Bengal,” reads an excerpt from the letter.

“My message for the British PM is that he must visit Kolkata again soon and see that it is truly the gateway to the east,” WB CM said in response to the letter.

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Reception at Buckingham Palace

Mamata Banerjee on Monday became the first chief minister from an Indian state to get an official reception at Buckingham Palace, Britain’s most iconic address. Prince Andrew hosted an evening tea for the Chief Minister at the house of the monarch.


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WB CM at Buckingham Palace with Prince Andrew


The Chief Minister had a 40-minute one-on-one interview with Prince Andrew, who described her as “a very dynamic leader, leading a dynamic government, sowing the transformation of Bengal”. The prince, it was learnt, has gifted the chief minister a bag with motifs of Buckingham Palace on it.

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WB CM wins hearts at Asia House, UK

The West Bengal Chief Minister invited the members of Asia House, London – the probable investors – to come and scout the State for exploring investment opportunities.

She received a standing ovation from the members of the Asia House who admitted that they were mesmerised by her speech and were glad to know about the investment opportunities in Bengal.



WB CM at Asia House, London


“The state is undergoing a major deregulation drive to make doing business in the state easier, faster and more transparent. Upgrading social infrastructure is running parallel to strengthening industrial infrastructure. Attractive incentive packages and regulations have also been introduced to attract investment,” said a note on the Asia House website.

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The London trip got a lot of praise from the media too. Here is an article praising the initiatives of Mamata Banerjee to attract investments for Bengal.

Bengal’s best foot forward with Mamata’s London trip

Didi’s London Trip

  • Mamata Banerjee attended an interactive private dinner with UK investors
  • Discussions focused on how to increase UK investment in West Bengal were held
  • UK businessmen voiced their concerns about labour issues, urban development, speed of clearances and approvals
  • MoUs were signed with the University of Cambridge, East Anglia and SOAS


The death of India’s much-loved former President APJ Abdul Kalam truncated West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s 4-day programme in London. As a mark of respect all public engagements were cancelled.

Mamata Banerjee left London last night, a day ahead of schedule as ‘the possibility of a cyclone’ hitting Bengal loomed.

22 MOU were signed, which covered four areas: industry, healthcare, education and smart cities.

The first day saw 250 people at the business seminar in the afternoon. It was an interactive discussion with the UK and West Bengal businesses asking and answering the questions that emerged.

Those present say businessmen from Bengal did a great job selling the state. Both business and the state government sent out the same positive message. Businessmen from the UK voiced their concerns about labour issues, urban development, speed of clearances and approvals. Their fears were brushed aside by businessmen from Bengal, who assured them that ‘bandhs’ or forced closures were now a thing of the past and this government was serious about business.


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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with UK Minister of State for Education Priti Patel


That evening, the event at the Foreign Office was also over-subscribed. The UK Minister of State for Education, Priti Patel, who had met Banerjee in 2013 when she visited Kolkata with the British Prime Minister David Cameron, welcomed her to London and offered continued partnership. The Chief Minister responded with a speech that drew applause, “London is the world’s financial capital, and West Bengal is the world’s human capital.”

One of those present at the meeting says, “It was very personal, showing her love of Bengal and her belief that the UK is the right partner, not least because we have such a strong shared cultural and historical connection.”


Wooing UK Investors


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  MoUs and other business documents between UK and Bengal were signed


Mamata Banerjee also attended an interactive private dinner with UK investors, hosted by Patricia Hewitt, Chair of the UK India Business Council. It gave the Chief Minister and select members of her team an opportunity to closely interact with UK investors. Banerjee had a proposition for each of the UK businesses that attended. A plan was drawn up to further develop these relationships.

Interestingly, a potential British investor was heard saying at the dinner that night, “Until today, West Bengal was not a priority area in India for us, but it is now.”

Kevin McCole, UK India Business Council’s Chief Operating Officer points out:

“Although the shortened programme meant there was only one full day of activity, it was a hugely impactful day. The Chief Minister, by bringing such a strong business delegation, has set the bar high for other Indian states looking to attract investors. And the highly interactive nature of the business conference – no speeches and no powerpoint – has redrawn the model for how these events are delivered. UK investors were impressed by her can-do attitude. They were also impressed by the message the Chief Minister gave in her speech at the evening event. It was full of passion, compassion, humility and humour.”


There was also a focused round table, led by the Industries Secretary and the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC), Managing Director on the mining and natural resources sector. Ten current and potential UK investors held a discussion, which focused on how to increase UK investment into the state. Among the subjects discussed, was the need to create a UK-WB public private partnership mining engineering training institute, another was modifications to the Government of India’s public procurement processes to make it more commercially viable for companies to set up in India to service the market.


MoUs with UK Universities


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Exchanges on investment and other collaborations between United Kingdom and Bengal were held


On the education front too, there was a sense of satisfaction. MoUs were signed with the University of Cambridge, East Anglia and SOAS . Presidency University’s Vice Chancellor Anuradha Lohia was overwhelmed with the support she received from the state government, “Our CM would like to make Bengal an education hub and create a huge resource of skilled manpower.”

“Mamata di’s ability to connect with every member of the delegation was exemplary. She was constantly chatting with all of us during the flight, looking after everyone’s food and comfort while conducting her business. She is an amazing walker.She walked constantly at Kolkata and Delhi airports. She walked 10 to 12 kms every morning, often leaving her companions trailing far behind. Inexhaustible, full of affection, energetic and enthusiastic.”


Once she returns, the Chief Minister and her team will have to work doubly hard.

“The stage has now been set for more UK investments in Bengal. But it will require follow up by both parties, and we hope that a further delegation from West Bengal in the autumn will generate a strong return delegation to Kolkata for the investors summit in January.”


Bengal certainly seems to have put its best foot forward. Now it needs to take brisk steps and regain lost ground.


(The writer, Payal Mohanka, is a Kolkata-based senior journalist. The article was first published on The Quint, July 30, 2015)