The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengal braves burst of bad news

Calcutta, Jan. 15: Not that Mamata Banerjee and Citu are not trying hard enough, but Indian business seems to be keeping the faith in Bengal.

On a day a group of activists waylaid a Tata official on his way back from Singur, it emerged that the business outlook for Calcutta has clocked the sharpest rise among all metros.

The finding figures in the latest employment and business outlook report of TeamLease — a staffing solution company.

The survey assesses business outlook for three months for various cities and location-specific hiring plans. It covered 490 companies from various sectors, including information technology, manufacturing and engineering, financial services and retail.

On Calcutta, the index is still low in comparison with other cities, but it is moving up the ladder. Between October-December 2006 and January-March 2007, the state has moved up by 13 percentage points. In comparison, Bangalore has slipped. (See chart)

“I am not surprised because I think it could have been even higher. There are so many new projects coming up in the state and it is a clear indication of a renewal of interest in Bengal,” said Roopen Roy, managing director of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The expression of confidence has come close on the heels of the unrest in Singur and the violence in Nandigram over land acquisition. The December 14 industrial strike enforced by Citu, too, tried to do its bit to vitiate the environment.

Today, a group of protesters stopped a car carrying the Tata official in Singur and tried unsuccessfully to drag him out.

But the job opportunity outlook suggests that Bengal can hardly afford to slow down its drive to attract investment. Mumbai and Bangalore top the list with a score of 90, but Calcutta is at the bottom with 57 points.

“The positive business outlook is the first step as it brings in investment. But employment generation comes with a lag and is the result of actual investments made,” said Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, professor of economics, IIM, Calcutta.

Manufacturing-cum-engineering is the main contributor to Calcutta’s sharp rise.

A source of concern: IT and ITES companies are fuelling growth, but the southern tech towns are way ahead of Bengal in attracting knowledge-driven companies.

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