Infrastructure development will be of prime importance for West Bengal to realise its business potential, captains of state-based business groups said as they came together to discuss the agenda for the new state government after the assembly polls later this year.
Ambuja Neotia Group Chairman Harshavardhan Neotia, Srei Infrastructure Finance Limited Chairman Hemant Kanoria, Bandhan Bank Managing Director Chandra Shekhar Ghosh and Luxmi Tea Managing Director Rudra Chatterjee were the panellists for 'BUSINESS BOARD: Act East: How to balance policy and pragmatism' session at India Today Conclave East.
Neotia said the state has been missing a deep-sea port, and Haldia and Kolkata ports have limitations as they are riverine ports. He also called for fast-tracking the metro rail project in Kolkata which he said would be a 'game changer' for the city.
"We should have one deep-sea port because shipping is a very critical aspect. So I think one of the things to be fast-tracked whichever government comes is to put up this deep-sea port for which some initial work has already started," Neotia said.
Besides, Neotia and Ghosh also called for changing perception about West Bengal in the rest of the country.
"Situation here is far far better than how it is perceived in other parts of India. I think some image which started off a long ago because of the power problem, the labour trouble, the militancy etc. has kind of stuck a little and the Singur agitation, which was an agrarian agitation, got coloured into an industrial agitation," Neotia said, adding that work should be done to correct the state's image.
Besides infrastructure, the state also needs to focus on manufacturing to position itself as the gateway to neighbouring countries and also cater to North Eastern states of the country, Kanoria said.
Saying that West Bengal has surplus power, coal mines and good road network, he said the upcoming government needs to create an enabling framework for infrastructure development and manufacturing projects in Kolkata and other parts of the state so that it can have a vibrant economy and cater to entire eastern India.
Ghosh called for developing infrastructure for agriculture sector to increase farmers' income, and promoting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to provide a boost to the state's economy.
Chatterjee said the state should focus on new industries like entertainment and communication, and set export targets for the next few years for sectors like furniture and food processing. He also highlighted the need to further develop labour-intensive sectors like textiles.
"Not just manufacture in textiles and be like Bangladesh, but also create textile brands and have internet-based brands. What is important is not so much what the government does, but to create institutions of training and design and use the capability of West Bengal in being creative," he said.
The panellists also highlighted the need for healthy relations between the Centre and state governments, and said infrastructure and other projects of national importance should not suffer because of political tussle between the governments.