WEST BENGAL Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who goes on a four-day visit to Italy and Germany in September aiming to attract foreign investment, will be accompanied by a 29-member business delegation that will include Tata Metaliks MD Sanjiv Paul and Tata Steel India and South Asia MD T V Narendran.
While the Tatas and the Mamata-led government are locked in a dispute in the Supreme Court over land in Singur, sources said both have been taking small steps at improving relations. In January, The Indian Express had reported that the acrimony of eight years showed signs of easing when the government roped in an “unofficial emissary” to kick-start a dialogue between the Tata Group and the CM. In March, Mamata said in an interview that she was “willing to talk” and the Tatas can “set up a plant on 600 acres of land in Singur”. In June the Tatas extended their Google and Tata Trust initiative of spreading computer literacy among women in Bengal. Since then, the government has kept highlighting the role played by the Tatas in creating jobs in the state.
The presence of Paul and Narendran in Banerjee’s business delegation, officials said, was a “clearer indication” of things improving. “Ultimately, both parties will want a solution that is to their benefit,” said a senior official. “The govenrment has also changed its stance towards industries, particularly now with its land bank. ”
Mamata, who will be in Vatican City for the canonisation of Nobel laureate Mother Teresa on September 4, will meet chambers of commerce in Munich on September 6. According to Finance Minister Amit Mitra, “two leading German chambers of commerce — BVMW and the Association of German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK) — have invited her”.
Mitra himself will reach Munich days before Mamata and meet industry leaders.
Mamata;s visit is likely to focus not on “big brands” but on medium-sized businesses. Drawing a comparison with former Left Front industry minister Nirupam Sen’s trip to Germany in 2006, when he met companies seeking business alliances in areas such as IT, engineering and autmotive components, a senior official said, “The focus will not be on big brands. Will Bengal benefit only if BMW wants to invest? Yes, such a brand is recognisable globally. But our focus is going to be on offering the state’s opportunities to medium enterprises looking to enter India.”
The delegation with Mamata will include Harshvardhan Neotia, chairman of Ambuja-Neotia Group; Sanjiv Goenka, chairman of R P-Sanjiv Goenka Group; and Subhash Chandra, MP and chairman of Essel Group and Zee Media. Also part of it will be Chandra Kumar Dhanuka, executive chairman of Dhunseri Group of Industries; K K Bangur, chairman of Graphite India Ltd; Siddharth Birla, chairman of Xpro India Ltd, Puneet Dalmia, director of Dalmia Bharat Group, Sumit Dabriwala, MD of Riverbank Developers Pvt Ltd; and Tarun Jhunjhunwala, president of Reliance JIO.