Amit Mitra at the CII event in Calcutta on Thursday. Picture by Kishor Roy Chowdhury
Calcutta, Aug. 7: Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra today said Ratan Tata “may have lost his mind” because the industrialist failed to spot too many industrial projects while driving down Rajarhat yesterday.
“Hoyto or onno ja hobby achhe — aeroplane orano — ei shob korun. Shei hetu or motibhrom hoyechhe hoyto; uni bujhte paren ni — khobor paan ni — ami jani na keno.... Sheta oke jiggesh korun, ei kotha gulo uni janen na keno (Perhaps he should indulge in whatever hobbies he has — flying aeroplanes — let him do all this.... So, he may have lost his mind; he failed to understand — was not informed — I don’t know why. It’s him you have to ask, why he doesn’t know all this),” Mitra said today.
A few hours later, Tata responded by pointing out that he did not make any comment about the industrial development in the state but had confined himself to what he saw during the drive from the airport to a hotel off EM Bypass: “Lots of residential and commercial development but not much industrial development.”
“Mr. Mitra might believe I have ‘lost my mind’. I would be delighted if he could show me what industrial development projects I missed while driving through Rajarhat. If he cannot, then I would have to conclude that he has a very fertile imagination,” Tata tweeted in the evening.
Mitra had made the comment after a CII programme in the afternoon in response to questions about Tata’s replies at a question-and-answer session at a Ladies Study Group.
Yesterday, Tata had said: “It’s been two years since I have been to Calcutta and it was Rajarhat particularly which I was driven through. (There has) been unbelievable change in terms of building and development but it still looks like a countryside under development. There is a great deal of movement both commercial and residential but you don’t see that much sign of industrial development.”
Mitra said today on the sidelines of ICT East, a CII event: “I am surprised. His own company TCS is investing more, expanding more by 20,000 people. Tata Hitachi is investing in Kharagpur in our West Bengal Industrial Park.”
Mitra then referred to Tata’s state of mind. “So, he may have lost his mind; he failed to understand — was not informed — I don’t know why. It’s him you have to ask, why he doesn’t know all this,” Mitra said.
TCS’s expansion project in Rajarhat was given SEZ status by the Left government. Infosys, which was not given the SEZ status by the Trinamul government, has not started work on its first campus in Bengal.
Mitra said it would take the entire day if he listed the projects conceived during Mamata’s rule.
Ratan Tata in Calcutta on Wednesday. Picture by Amit Datta
Industry observers, however, said that except for three upcoming hotels and the allotment of a 15-acre plot to ITC Infotech, the Trinamul government did not have much to show in Rajarhat. The land for the hotels had been allotted by the Left government. No IT park has been announced in the township during the Trinamul regime except for the ITC Infotech project.
Mitra’s colleague, urban development department Firhad Hakim, upped the ante against Tata later in the day. “Having lost his chairmanship, probably he has become insane. He is unnecessarily trying to look at things from a political viewpoint,” Hakim said.
Tata, however, is the chairman of the board of trusts that owns 60 per cent of Tata Sons, the main holding firm of the $100-billion group.
The industry observes feared Bengal would earn a bad name by entering into a mud-slinging match with one of India’s most respected businessman. “Are they (Bengal ministers) out of their minds? Investors’ perception of Bengal will take a beating again,” an observer said.
The finance minister today flagged off three projects — Reliance Cement, Emami Cement and Tata Metaliks — that were conceived after Mamata Banerjee stormed to power in 2011.
Reliance and Emami plan to set up a million-tonne grinding unit with a combined investment of around Rs 1,000 crore in Purulia’s Raghunathpur. The project is expected to create around 900 jobs. Tata Metaliks is likely to invest around Rs 1,500 crore to expand its pig iron business in Kharagpur.
These projects are, however, not as big as the Ultra Tech and ACC cement and power projects in Rajasthan, which are coming up at an investment of Rs 3,000 crore each.
The budget speech in the Assembly this year by business-lobbyist-turned politician Mitra had mentioned that Rs 78,092.82 crore worth of investment had been implemented or were under implementation since May 2011.
He did not, however, provide details about how many plans came after 2011, except for investment proposals worth Rs 28,318.83 crore last fiscal, prompting questions whether many of them were started during Left rule.
N.G. Khaitan, the vice-president of the Bharat Chamber of Commerce, said: “I do not think Mr Ratan Tata said anything demeaning. It only shows the ground reality. Industry is shying away from Bengal. Calcutta is not on the radar, neither for businessmen living in India nor outside. I went to Brazil and Argentina recently and I was asked where I live. I said I come from Calcutta. They asked me where it was… it is still unheard of for the general public. Calcutta has lost its importance.”
“Projects may be happening in Bengal but it is still insignificant compared to other states. As a Calcuttan, I only wish if Mr Tata could be proved wrong,” Khaitan added.