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Mamata government seeks to hardsell Bengal as investor 'dreamland'

By Mithun Dasgupta, Kolkata, Dec 8 (IANS)

The West Bengal government, which in recent days has got a bad press following the pullout of private cargo handler ABG from Haldia port, is getting one of its best opportunities this week to showcase itself as an investors' "dreamland".

Kolkata is hosting the two major events - PanIIT, a three-day annual meet of the global association of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumni, and INFOCOM, one of the largest congregations of ICT professionals and policy-makers in India. It's a rare assembly of business captains, policy makers and experts in the city, triggering hope that things may look up in the industry-starved state.

The four-day INFOCOM commenced Thursday, followed by the three-day "PanIIT Global Conference 2012" that began Friday.

More than 1,000 overseas participants from the US, Britain, Canada, Singapore and Australia, as also the Middle East, have congregated for PanIIT, being held in Kolkata for the first time. Only three Indian cities - Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai - have previously hosted this convention. The previous edition was held in New York.

The keynote address at the convention was delivered by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has earlier urged entrepreneurs to consider Bengal as their "dreamland" for investing in the industry-hungry state. Over 3,000 delegates, including policy makers, consultants and planners from both the public and private sectors, are participating in the event.

The conclave has an enviable lineup of speakers such as Lord Kumar Bhattacharya, director of Warwick Manufacturing Group of Britain; IT honchos N.R. Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani; Tata Sons director R. Gopalkrishnan; Tata Steel vice chairman B. Muthuraman and Microsoft India managing director Bhaskar Pramanik.

ITC chairman Y.C. Deveshwar, who is the mentor of this year's conference, holds that the event "is a big opportunity" for the state to showcase Kolkata.

"The people who are coming from outside are in a position to influence and that is how you make your pitch. I suppose that since people are coming here and will be spending three days here, it is a big opportunity," Deveshwar said.

For the Trinamool Congress government, which has drawn much flak from the industry experts following a port equipment operator's decision to quit the state over "poor law and order", the event has perhaps come as a godsend.

Haldia Bulk Terminal Private Limited (HBT), which was operating mechanised berths two and eight at the Haldia Dock Complex (HDC), announced its decision to leave the state.
INFOCOM, the annual Information and Communication Technology (ICT) conference and exhibition, under the banner of the weekly magazine Businessworld, would also provide an window to the government to hardsell the cash-strapped state to the IT honchos.
The objective of the event is to give the global audience an opportunity to interact with the Indian ICT industry, promote investment and project the developmental potential of eastern India.

The Trinamool Congress-led government, which came to power last May, approved a new information and technology policy in August, laying special emphasis on jobs linked to hardware, animation and graphics.

Christened "Information & Communication Technology and Incentive Scheme Policy 2012", it has been ratified by the cabinet sub-committee on industry, infrastructure and employment.

(Mithun Dasgupta can be contacted at mithun.d@ians.in)


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