Both the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government and the Tatas are keen to give a boost to their working relations despite the fact the state government and Tatas are locked in a legal dispute at the Supreme Court over the Singur land.
While the Tatas have extended their Google and Tata Trust initiative of spreading computer literacy among women in West Bengal, the state government is harping on the fact that the Tatas have been one of the major players in generating employment in the state with plans to raise workforce to 65,000 from a level of 45,000 at present.
Tata Metaliks have already charted out its R350 crore expansion plan on additional 40 acres to take up its ductile pipe manufacturing capacity from 1,10,000 tonne per annum (tpa) to 300,000 tpa, for which it has already obtained green nod. TCS is hiring 20,000 more people in the state. Now the Tata Trust with Google is out to spread computer literacy among 100,000 women in the state.
If the Tatas’ pulling out Nano project from West Bengal was a blow to the state the initiatives of the Tata Metaliks, TCS and Tata Trust are signs of conciliation, an industry department official pointed out.
Tata Trust and Google’s Internet Saathi would be rolled out from Purulia, one of Bengal’s backward districts and a highly Naxalite affected zone till a few years back. But Tata Trust has chosen to start with the Junglemahal district tapping 400 villages, from which it would bring up 120 trainers.
Sapna Chadha, head of marketing, Google India said, Internet Saathi would become an agent of change and improvement in social and economic situation.
“We hope to reach out to 100,000 women across the state,” Chadha said.
Ganesh Neelam, head innovation at Tata Trust said the organization was entering West Bengal with its learning and experience of working with rural communities in the state. Singur didn’t come to mind while taking such an initiative.
“Singur is a case of public interest and that has not affected any of the other initiatives of the Tatas in the state. In fact there has been a huge growth in Tata Group workforce in Bengal in the last five years,” Amit Mitra, West Bengal’s finance, commerce and industry minister said.
Mukul Roy, former union railway minister, said the Tatas exited during the Left Front regime and it was the Left’s wrong policy persuasion that culminated to Singur agitation.
Tata Metaliks managing director Sanjiv Paul on the sidelines of a CII meet earlier said the company was planning additional investment in West Bengal for growth.
A leading investor on the condition of anonymity said that Mamata Banerjee, during a felicitation by the business chambers to commemorate her government formation for the second time, has asked investors to put words into action. She said notwithstanding global business slow down and the market conditions, investors should start investing taking advantage of the investment friendly conditions, which her government has created.
Roy said several state initiatives including Bhor Sagar port, a JV between the Union and the state government to create a deep draughted port, turning around Haldia Petrochemicals into profitability, making the country’s first aerotropolis project operational, paving way for ITC to move ahead with its long pending R3,000 crore investment plan and developing the state highways in the last five years had multiplier effect on the state’s economy.
Mamata Banerjee took over from the Left Front after there was rapid investment erosion with records of 56,000 small and big industries closing down in the 34 years. This breaks down to closure of 4-5 units every day. Banerjee arrested this erosion and had also put a stop on strikes. “Talking specifically on these accomplishments would create a more positive buzz about the state’s investment climate. The state has to build up on what it has achieved,” Roy said.
Mohua Moitra, the JP Morgan vice president turned politician, says the chief minister wants regular communication with the chambers and she is diligent about looking into small specifics to bridge communication gaps. “I am sure she is going to form coordinating teams to monitor everyday developments, which can help creating better investment climate”.