Capital flow to West Bengal on despite Singur, Nandigram: Minister


Kolkata: West Bengal Commerce and Industry Minister Nirupam Sen Wednesday said investment flow into the state has not dried up because of the violent protests over acquisition of farmland at Singur and Nandigram for industrial projects.

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“The state is still receiving a stream of investment proposals despite what has happened,” Sen told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on West Bengal organised by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham).

“In the past one year, we received applications for land from 65 medium-sized companies with an overall total investment of Rs.13,000-13,500 crore.”

Sen admitted that none of the companies showing interest in the state was big, but added: “All are very important for the state.”

The companies that have approached the state government are from sectors like food processing, forging and auto components.

Over the past few years, the state witnessed violent protests over acquisition of land for setting up industrial units at Singur and Nandigram, which hit the ruling Left Front in elections to rural and civic bodies as also the Lok Sabha.

Singur, 40 km from here, turned into a battleground since May 2006 after the Left Front-ruled state government acquired land for auto major Tata Motors to set up a factory to roll out Nano, the world’s cheapest car at Rs.100,000.

Trinamool Congress, the principal opposition party in the state, led protestors to demand the return of 400 acres — of the 997.11 acres acquired — to farmers.

The violent protests forced Tata Motors to move the project from West Bengal to Gujarat in October 2008.

Trinamool also forced the government to shift a chemical hub project from Nandigram to Nayachar island in East Midnapore district.

“There has been no formal talks with Tata Motors yet on returning the land and the compensation we (the state government) have to pay. We keep informing them whenever there is any proposal for that piece of land,” Sen said.

The state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) had inspected the abandoned land last November for a power project.

The same month, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said her department was keen to set up a coach factory, the world’s biggest, in Singur.

Assocham secretary general D.S. Rawat had Tuesday told reporters that a state government “should play the role of facilitator” for acquisition of land, and that such matters should be left to buyers and sellers.