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Bengal unveils draft industrial policy to woo MSMEs

With special emphasis to give a boost to sustainable development of labour-intensive micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector, the West Bengal government has unveiled its draft industrial policy after a long wait to woo entrepreneurs by showcasing the state as an attractive investment destination.

The state government uploaded the draft policy on its websites Saturday and invited suggestions from various industry bodies and the business community.

It said that several incentive schemes for new investors have been incorporated in the draft industrial policy and that the thrust is on setting up industrial parks and hubs in the state through the public private partnership (PPP) model.

Bengal industry lobbyists, however, said the draft policy is "silent" on the key issues of land acquisition and land ceiling, which have been the bones of contention.

"The draft industrial policy is silent on major issues such as land acquisition and land ceiling. It is also silent on conversion of land (from agriculture to industrial uses)," Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry secretary D.P. Nag told agency.

According to the 'Mission Statement" of the policy, the government targets to increase the manufacturing growth rate from 4.7 percent during 2010-11 to 20 percent at the end of the terminal year of the policy and to achieve at least 25 percent share of the NSDP for manufacturing sector, and generate employment of 13.14 lakhs people in 2013-14 and sustain this momentum.

It also said focussed efforts would be made on sustainable development of MSME sector with special emphasis in food processing and agro, textiles and apparel, leather and handicrafts.

The government said the policy is also aiming to create rapid growth in entertainment, ICT including KPO, BPO, high end IT, software and hardware development, gaming and animation.

Addressing a press conference Saturday while announcing the draft industrial policy, state Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee said the government would soon publish a document on the new industrial policy.

The Mamata Banerjee-led government was expected to unveil the new policy January this year. Chatterjee said that before drafting the new policy, the government reviewed and studied industrial policies of several other states.

"We kept in view industrial policies of about 10 states while formulating the draft industrial policy," he said.

"We have incorporated in it the issue of land allocation and several incentive schemes which we will offer to the entrepreneurs who will come in our state to set up new industrial units," the minister said.

The state government welcomed latest technology and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), especially in manufacturing, sun-rise industries and high tech areas.

Stating that the government was "open" to suggestions from the industry till June 30, the minister said it would incorporate those suggestions "if found practical" in the final industrial policy.

The Trinamool Congress government announced the draft policy two days before completing two years in office.

Industrialists, however, expressed concern as the policy does not clearly specify the Trinamool Congress government's policies regarding land.

Banerjee and her government have so far been facing an uphill task to woo investors to Bengal as the state's land policy has drawn flak from entrepreneurs. The policy has taken out the state's role in land acquisition for industrial projects and asked industrialists to buy directly from landowners.

The government unfurled its industry policy in the backdrop of industry experts' concern over the state's investment prospects following a port equipment operator's decision to quit Bengal over the "poor law and order" situation at Haldia.

The state's previous industrial policy was announced in 1994 by the erstwhile Left Front government. Late Jyoti Basu was then the chief minister.