West Bengal is not exactly the most favoured destination for investors. It has become something of a nightmare for them ever since the Tata Motors was forced to shift its small car project from the state. Other states would go all out to get and hold on to such a project, but Bengal lived up to its tradition of destroying hope and promise. Ratan Tata is, however, still willing to give Bengal a chance. All he wants are more favourable conditions for doing business. His remark during a visit to Calcutta last week barely conceals a note of disappointment. Most entrepreneurs would agree with Mr Tata that the conditions in the state are still not what would make them feel comfortable. Yet, four years have passed since the Tata Motors’ exit from the state. More important, a dramatic political change took place a year ago with the end of the Left’s long reign. But nothing much has changed to restore the investors’ confidence. If anything, even the new government continues with policies that make entrepreneurs wary of the change. All this makes one wonder if Bengal has really lost the will and the power for a really meaningful change.
The chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, is not responsible for bringing Bengal to this pass. The leftists had done everything they could to destroy the state’s economy. Not just their politics, their economic policies too were tailor-made to drive out industries and stall entrepreneurial initiatives. The flight of capital from Bengal started during the violent anti-industry agitations by the leftists in the 1960s. Jyoti Basu’s long reign saw the state’s industrial decline getting only worse. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee began a move in 2006 to turn the tide around. That the Tata Motors decided to set up the small car factory in Bengal was a testimony to Mr Bhattacharjee’s recovery plan. But three decades of administrative failures and partisan politics foiled his initiative. Unfortunately for Bengal, the end of the Left’s rule did not result in the rejection of ‘leftism’. Many of Ms Banerjee’s policies, especially those involving industries, are barely distinguishable from those pursued by the leftists. Ms Banerjee’s pronouncements on land and industries have hardly been encouraging for investors. She seems to think that entrepreneurs have a duty to do business in Bengal. The truth is different — she has an obligation to get a group such as the Tatas back to Bengal.