Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee inviting tender participation for the Tajpur deep sea port amid the conspicuous absence of representatives of the embattled Adani Group, and a Rs 20,000 crore investment pledge over the next three years from Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani formed the highlights of the inaugural session of the seventh edition of the Bengal Global Business Summit on Tuesday.
“We are ready with the Tajpur deep sea port. It’s a project worth Rs 25,000 crore. I invite all to participate in the tender process,” Banerjee said in her inaugural speech while listing out 12 “game-changing opportunities” the state has on offer.
With Adani Ports and SEZ already in the Tajpur port fray for over a year now, Banerjee’s announcement sparked off frenzied speculations on whether the state government had already cut itself off from that deal, a puzzle few in the state bureaucracy seemed to have an answer to.
Adani Ports was the highest bidder for the deep-sea port in Tajpur and a Letter of Intent was issued to the company by the state government in October 2021. Group chairman Gautam Adani, the star attraction in the 2022 edition of the summit had promised an investment of Rs 10,000 crore in the state in sectors of port infrastructure, data centres and undersea cables, warehouses and logistics parks.
But ever since the Group ran into rough weather following the January 24 report of the US short-seller Hindenberg Research flagged high debt levels at the port-to-energy conglomerate, the state maintained radio silence on the future developments of the Tajpur port. So much so, that in February this year when the government tabled its budget at the state Assembly, not a word was spoken about the proposed project.
Until BGBS, 2023, when the chief minister seemingly spoke about inviting a fresh tender for the project.
As late as August this year, Adani Group CEO (Ports) Subrat Tripathi had told media persons that the Rs 25,000 crore project was very much on and that the company was awaiting the Letter of Award for the project from the Bengal government following which it would proceed for the necessary environmental clearances. “We have set aside the funds for the project,” Tripathi had said.
On Tuesday, Mukesh Ambani, who returned to the BGBS stage after a gap of four years, announced that the group plans to invest an additional Rs 20,000 crore over and above the Rs 45,000 crore that the group has already invested in the state since his last appearance.
The investment, Ambani said, would be spread across the group’s priority interest area of completing Jio fiber installation to usher in 5G Internet across all homes in the state, investments in Reliance retail store network, and in setting up bio-gas plants from farm waste.
The group patriarch also asserted the company’s multiple CSR commitments in Bengal through diverse projects that have already taken off. They include renovation and restoration of the Kalighat Temple and support to artisans and weavers by promoting sales of high-quality handicrafts through Reliance retail outlets.
“The Kalighat Temple restoration project is as close to the hearts of Nita and I as it is to yours,” Ambani told Banerjee.
Announcing the Foundation’s new initiative, Swadesh, the tycoon said: “We would also like to promote local art and craft by means of opening up a training institute for budding artists with cooperation from the state government.”
Chairman of Narayana Health, Dr Devi Shetty, announced his company’s plans to build a super-specialty hospital in Calcutta at an investment of Rs 1000 crore. “The state-of-the-art facility would be completed in two years and would cater to heart care, cancer care and organ transplant. It would open up employment opportunities to 10,000 people, directly and indirectly,” Shetty said.
While Harsh Pati Singhania, MD, JK Papers and a native from the city, announced his “homecoming” of sorts by announcing the setting of a plant at the Vidyasagar Industrial Park in Kharagpur, Rishad Premji, Wipro Chairman, confirmed the company’s Rs 200 crore investment for the upcoming second Wipro campus in Rajarhat.