A month behind schedule and a much-curtailed venue — that’s the price Bengal’s oldest business fair is paying for the state government’s failure to build an exhibition complex in town.
It may not be the only price. There is a threat that Vietnam, the partner country in this year’s fair, may not turn up at all because of the changed schedule.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee himself had announced Vietnam as the partner country after his visit there in April.
“Around 15 participants were supposed to come from Vietnam. Another 40 were to come from China. With the schedule changed, we’re not sure if Vietnam will remain the partner country. A delegation will visit the country to ensure that at least some of the participants come,” said an official of the Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BNCCI), which organises the fair.
Nine countries and about 800 participants attend the annual event.
The chief minister, who swears that industrial development is his top priority, has recently been busy ensuring that the book fair can be held on the Maidan while the organisers of the Industrial India Trade Fair have been running around trying to find a venue.
The less-favoured fair now moves to the helipad ground outside Salt Lake stadium, starting a month late on January 22.
The search had begun once the chamber realised that the alternative site, Milon Mela, off the Bypass, would not be ready for the fair and the Maidan had become out of bounds anyway, after last year’s high court order that exhibitions could no longer be held there.
At Bhattacharjee’s initiative, the government is expected to move the court to seek an exception for the book fair, a commercial event, but not for the trade expo, also a business forum. Besides, this exhibition has a large government role, with the state industries and commerce department and the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation (a central government agency) joining hands with the chamber.
Many of the 150 retailers who participated in the last edition of the fair on the Maidan may not want to go to Salt Lake, said the chamber official, but organising committee chairman Samir Ghosh was optimistic.
“The majority of the retailers are loyal to us and will come to Salt Lake. We’ll operate shuttles from Esplanade and Gariahat to draw people to the venue. We’re trying to make the best of the crisis.”
Despite assurances by the chief secretary, the venue, which the chamber is getting from January 16, was not available earlier.
“The space we’ll have at our disposal will be at least 40 per cent less than the usual 800,000 sq ft we have on the Maidan. The number and the size of the stalls will have to be curtailed,” said an official.