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Sunday 19 January 2020

West Bengal looks to shun anti-business image

Kolkata: West Bengal is rolling out red carpet to entrepreneurs as it looks to shun the anti-business image of the state and attract investments to create jobs and erase pain caused to the world-famous Darjeeling tea industry by a long-drawn strike in the hills.

The year 2017 started on a mixed note with the bullish outcome of the annual Bengal Global Business Summit and prolonged strike taking a toll on the tea industry.

The annual business summit, a pet initiative of chief minister Mamata Banerjee to draw investments into the state, was attended by leading industrialists of the country and had received investment proposals worth Rs 2.35 lakh crore across sectors.

These proposals, Banerjee said, would help the state to erase away its negative perception of not being very investor friendly as compared to others like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and the like.

However, the Darjeeling tea industry faced a severe crisis during the crucial second flush season after the hills’ political parties spearheaded by Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) called an indefinite strike for separate statehood from the first week of June this year.

The second flush commands a huge premium in the export markets, particularly in the orthodox variety consuming countries of the UK and Europe.

The Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) estimated the industry was staring at a loss of around Rs 250 crore as there was no production as well as loss of export markets, and subsequently approached the Tea Board for a financial package.

Even after the strike which continued for 104 days, the tea planters were unable to resume production primarily on two counts.

Firstly, the tea bushes had grown beyond plucking and the estates had virtually turned into forests owing to lack of upkeep during the strike period, and secondly, the workers had deserted the localities in search of alternative employment opportunities elsewhere.

A comforting news was that IT major Infosys agreed to set up its maiden software development centre in West Bengal without the SEZ tag, which it was seeking for long and put the project on hold for years.

The state government agreed to provide sops to the IT firm which would help in reaping some benefits.

IT minister Bratya Basu had said that the advent of Infosys would send a strong message to other companies in the similar domain to get enthused in coming to the state.


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