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Bengal initiatives to empower people of the state

Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra (third from left) with winners of Infocom Future Leadership Award 2013 in Calcutta on Friday. D.D. Purkayastha (fourth from right), managing director and CEO of ABP Pvt Ltd, was also present. Picture by Sayantan Ghosh

Calcutta, Dec. 6: Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra today rolled out a list of initiatives of the Mamata Banerjee administration to explain how the two-and-a-half-year-old government had empowered the people of the state, echoing the “empowerment” theme of Infocom 2013, an initiative of ABP Group, which publishes The Telegraph.

“The state is going through a phase of massive regeneration because the government is empowering people through a variety of initiatives,” Mitra said.

The former Ficci secretary -general-turned-politician was the guest of honour at Infocom Future Leadership Awards 2013, an initiative to identify future leaders by inviting papers from students from B-schools across India and beyond.

Over 250 papers on the theme of this year’s exposition — empowerment — had reached the organisers, from which 15 were shortlisted and six were selected for the prestigious award by experts in KPMG.

Mitra handed over the awards to the winners this evening.

Before the awards ceremony, Mitra shared his thoughts on the theme with the awardees and representatives of various ICT companies.

“Since you are from the world of business, let me ask what is the biggest problem between the government and business?” Mitra asked.

The finance minister, who used to teach economics in the US before joining Ficci, came up with the answer himself: “The problem is that of a regulatory regime.”

Mitra explained in details how the finance department had adopted IT-based processes and removed the anomalies — referred to as “rent seeking” in economics — in the system.

From online registration for VAT and tax collection in an e-mode to the generation of tax certificates in dematerialised form and an e-based refund system, Mitra spoke about the innovations that led to empowerment for business.

“The result was shown in the collections for the state as tax collection went up 31.57 per cent in 2012-13, which was a record,” he said, drawing an applause from the audience.

Mitra rolled out some comparative statistics to prove his hypothesis of the regeneration of Bengal.

The first was a comparison between growth rates (at constant prices) of the Indian and the Bengal economies in 2012-13. “The percentage growth in GDP was 4.9 per cent for the whole country, but Bengal grew at 7.6 per cent,” he said.

He referred to another statistic — claiming that he was referring to it for the first time — and compared the growth in per capita net domestic product for India and Bengal for 2012-13. “In case of India, it was 2.97 per cent, but Bengal clocked 6.65 per cent.”

According to him, the growth in the economy is resulting in capital formation, which is a significant change in a state that had seen flight of capital during the Left Front rule.

The achievements in the social sector were also discussed in detail as Mitra referred to schemes like Kanyashree, which the government has conceived to prevent the vicious cycle of high dropout of girl child from schools, early marriage, which finally result in high infant mortality.

“The girl child are getting a scholarship of Rs 500, which may be a small amount, but when they turn 18, they are getting Rs 25,000 in their bank accounts. This will help girls to pursue education and finally child mortality will dip,” he added.

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