Sept. 30: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said his government would promote agro-based industry on McKinsey’s recommendations and held out hope for the industry-starved north Bengal.
Wrapping up his two-day north Bengal visit in Malda, Bhattacharjee said the US consultancy firm, which had surveyed the state’s industrial climes, had identified information technology and agro industry as growth areas.
“We are determined to make full use of the huge potential they said we have in the two sectors,” Bhattacharjee said, inaugurating a state-of-the art spun and noil yarn unit of the Pataka group of industries in Malda.
With the state waiting for McKinsey’s final report, the chief minister said the Centre had declared four export zones in Siliguri, Malda, Murshidabad and Hooghly. While Siliguri and Malda are slated to export pineapples and mangoes, Murshidabad and Hooghly would send out lichis and potatoes.
Bhattacharjee said an Italian company had already approached the state government to set up a unit to make pineapple juice in Siliguri.
“A number of other companies have approached us too. We have welcomed all of them.”
Stressing north Bengal’s potential for the fruit-processing industry, Bhattacharjee asked the mango-growers to export their produce. “I have seen mangoes being sold for $8 apiece in Philippines, so you have a huge market overseas.”
He said export would help the growers who do not get the right price in local markets. “Mangoes become cheaper than potatoes in Malda in a year of high yield. Naturally, the growers suffer the most. Exporting their produce will help them earn much more.’’
Earlier, at the end of his Dakshin Dinajpur tour, Bhattacharjee told reporters in Balurghat that his government had launched an austerity drive in view of the state’s precarious economic condition.
He said he has instructed all departments to cut down on the use of telephones and vehicles to reduce costs. His government is resolved to keep costs in check and would soon take the austerity drive into the districts, he said.
To set an example, the chief minister, on his visit to Dinajpur and Malda, travelled by train and that, too, in an air-conditioned chair-car coach with other passengers.
Bhattacharjee said the state has topped in production of paddy, fish and vegetables. “We now aim to be No. I in information technology and agro industry.”
He blamed the Centre for the state’s decline in industry. “Delhi has always neglected us. They never paid any attention to our industry.”
Bhattacharjee said the state had not produced even buckets and mugs in the past. “Even such everyday stuff we used to get from Gujarat. But not any more. We now make them here and give it to our people at a much cheaper rate.”
The chief minister called for smallscale units with lesser capital to energise the industrial scenario. “Why go for capital-intensive industry' You should instead try and set up units with a capital of Rs 5 lakh to 10 lakh.”
He said the jute merchants in the region should go the way of Bangladesh and set up small units to make fancy bags and furniture made of jute.