The Telegraph
Friday , June 6 , 2014
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Sudden, fast exit surprises investors

She got hardly three months to make the state a favoured destination for investors.

However, Lesi Singh had to depart with unfulfilled dreams in the industries department following the June 2 cabinet rejig which made her social welfare department minister.

On March 12, then chief minister Nitish Kumar had inducted Lesi into the cabinet and given her the challenging task of bringing in investments and ensuring industrialisation. An MLA from Damdaha in the Purnea district, the middle-aged woman had started work quite immediately and planned a month-long road-show in different districts and in Bengal to meet investors and share Bihar’s industrial dream with them so that they could start investing in the state.

In a talk with The Telegraph on Wednesday, Lesi said the change of department was fine with her. “It is okay and I am fine with it. Yes, I had some plans but then I will work in the same way in the new department given to me. I believe in working and will work hard always to develop any sector I am given,” Lesi said.

Bhim Singh, who was earlier rural works and panchayati raj minister, was given the industry portfolio on Monday.

Industrialists and experts feel a constant change of ministers without judging performance will have an adverse bad impact on the shaky industrial scenario of the state and that the confidence of potential investors would be further hit amid the ongoing political uncertainty in Bihar.

“Constant changes in the department show the state government is not bothered with the department at all. It is a clear sign that industries are not on the government agenda. When Renu Kumari was industries minister in 2010 in the JDU-BJP alliance, she took time but worked hard and despite the fact that the state was unable to bring many big-ticket investment, small and local investments kept on chipping in. Under her, the department saw a period of smooth sail and she used to move around attending meetings, expos etc selling the Bihar dream. March 11 saw Renu quitting and the next month saw the party suspending her. Though Lesi was given the industries sector the very next day Renu resigned, the election model code of conduct was on and work in the departments had literally stopped. But her removal now has yet again jolted the department and the credibility is getting lost,” Satyajeet Kumar Singh, Bihar chairman of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said.

Till December 2012, the total number of SIPB (State Investment Promotion Board) approvals for the state rested at 1,015. By May last year, the figure had jumped up to 1,207 and in June, when the alliance between the two parties split, the total number of approvals rested at 1,246.

The figure, during November last year, saw a jump again and rested at 1,441. However, after November, though the approvals have been there, the jump has decreased. In December last year, the figure stood at 1,422, which is a decrease as some companies backed apparently out. In the first five months this year, only 109 proposals have been approved with the figure resting at 1,551 until May this year. However, figures until March 2014 of the total number of working units is a dismal 192.

The last major big-ticket investment in the state came in May last year with Maharashtra-based Shrenuj Group opening a diamond cutting and polishing unit, which was worth Rs 600 crore. After that no major group has entered Bihar even after the state government talks about ongoing negotiations.

Lesi had prepared a plan of holding a month-long road-show, about to start from June 4. “It is not a wise decision to remove a minister without judging his or her work. For an industrialist, it is a signal that works in the department is not moving smoothly,” an industrialist said on condition of anonymity.

P.K. Agarwal, chairman, Bihar Chamber of Commerce and Industries, agreed to the fact that there needed to be a stabling factor. “This sector is important and brings money to the state. Hence, any minister or official posted should be made to continue for long period,” he said.

Bhim joined office on Monday, sources said. “Though he has joined office, Bhim will take sometime to settle down. The fact lies that the industrialists, due to the constant changes, are always doubtful about the state government’s next move,” another industrialist said.

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