Calcutta, Nov. 20: The Bengal government today changed key officials handling industrial affairs, the shake-up coinciding with growing concerns over the state’s investment climate that has remained the Achilles heel of the new regime.
C.M. Bachchawat has been named industry secretary, replacing Alapan Bandopadhyay. Krishna Gupta will be the managing director of West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) in place of Nandini Chakravorty.
Bandopadhyay will remain the secretary of the municipal affairs department while Chakravorty will continue to be the secretary in charge of information and cultural affairs.
Inter-departmental transfers are not uncommon. Besides, work overload because of multiple assignments was attributed to the revision in the role of Chakravorty, considered one of the most powerful bureaucrats in the state. She is now expected to spearhead the execution of projects like modernisation of film studios and building film cities in Bengal.
However, sources at Writers’ and in industry said the two new appointments could not be termed “routine”.
The changes come at a time the government has been battling a perception problem, which was compounded by the Haldia port mess.
A Trinamul Congress source said the shuffle would herald a renewed focus on industry.
“Change is good. Lot more things will happen in industry now that the government has settled down,” he added, without explaining whether a mere change of officials, without any shift in the stated positions on far more fundamental concerns of industry, would turn the tide.
The Writers’ and industry sources suggested that the government was worried about the slow pace at which administrative tasks associated with projects already cleared was progressing.
A section of industrialists was also finding it difficult to get appointments to sort out problems. Some officials in the department had also become closely identified with certain industrialists, which added to the misgivings of other investors nursing grievances, the sources in industry said.
Chakravorty had taken over as the managing director of WBIDC on July 1, 2011. Bandopadhyay, the third industry secretary in Mamata Banerjee’s 18 months as chief minister, had a short stint at the helm of the commerce and industries department as he took over the portfolio only on May 21 this year after his predecessor Basudeb Banerjee was made home secretary.
Bachchawat, the incoming industry secretary, had worked as finance secretary under the Left as well as Trinamul governments before being shifted to food processing. Gupta, the new MD of WBIDC, has handled affairs related to industry, sources said.
Bachchawat, a chartered accountant by training, had worked as executive director of the WBIDC and also the director of industries in Bengal while Gupta had a stint with the Union commerce and industry ministry before joining Power Development Corporation Ltd as its chairman.
“The chief minister has already announced that the government would bring in a new industrial policy and the first assignment of the two officers would be to give it a proper shape,” said an officer.
Although the new government has been saying that investment proposals worth over Rs 1.08 lakh crore have been filed with the industries department, it was not reflected in the rate of implementation so far.
Besides, the industries department has not solved problems surrounding some key projects.
“The ownership dispute at Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd needs an immediate resolution. Similarly, outstanding issues pertaining to project timeline, default clauses, rehabilitation and resettlement with regard to Jindal’s Salboni steel and power plant project and the airport city project at Andal have to be addressed,” said a source.
A city-based industrialist said administrative tune-ups could help speed up resolution of pending problems.
However, he added that bureaucratic musical chairs was not enough to give fresh impetus to industrialisation in Bengal.
“Ground-level problems like non-availability of land and militant trade unionism because of multiple unions under the Trinamul banner cannot be solved through administrative decisions. The effectiveness of these officers would depend much more on the approach of the chief minister in addressing these problems,” he said.
Some officials felt the government was also correcting itself by bringing Bachchawat back from food processing to a key post.