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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Mamata sings debt tune at Bengal Leads summit

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, January 16, 2013
First Published: 15:14 IST(16/1/2013) | Last Updated: 15:15 IST(16/1/2013)

A mountain of debt, poor revenue, an indifferent Centre, the 34-year legacy of the Left and a section of the media conspiring against her — Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recited a litany of woes to an audience of small and medium investors, where bigwig industrialists, including PSU chiefs, were conspicuous by their absence.

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The occasion, Bengal Leads, 2013, was billed as the Trinamool Congress government’s flagship investor summit at Haldia, ironically, the very spot that the erstwhile Left Front government chose for Bengal’s industrial resurgence. The background, however, was gloomy, with widespread concern among investors about the chief minister’s “hands-off” policy on land acquisition.

Instead of dispelling the misgivings of investors, the chief minister seemed intent on adding to their concerns. She emphasised the crippling debt burden that the state has been labouring under, reinforcing the impression that her government is in no position to offer incentives to attract investment.

She drew investors’ attention to how Bengal lagged behind such states as Gujarat in terms of vital infrastructure. “Gujarat has 17 ports. But we have only two and the Centre isn’t dredging either,” she said at the beginning of her address. She also pointed out that the Gujarat government was not handicapped by the huge debt obligations she had to account for at every step.

Addressing the audience she had summoned to woo, the chief minister bemoaned the state’s poor revenue base, saying the RBI had claimed that all of Bengal’s income (and more) as interest on the debt. “I want to give so many concessions to my industry friends… But where’s the money?” she wondered.

She also made full use of the opportunity to retrain her guns on a section of the media. “There’s a section of the media that’s jealous. Don’t believe in the rumours they peddle,” she said.

The few sizeable investors present were uncertain what to make of the chief minister’s highlighting of the problems besieging her state from a platform where she was expected to hardsell it as an attractive destination for investment.

“Whatever she said, or admitted, is known to us. But we’d have been happier if she actually spelt out some solutions to the problems, rather than just highlighting them again,” a senior representative of a Kolkata-based chamber of commerce said.

“Highlighting the government’s problems rather than Bengal’s advantages obviously sends a wrong message,” leader of the opposition Surya Kanta Mishra told HT in Kolkata.

Mamata made it clear that she would not alter her land policy — viewed by many as the main stumbling block for investment in Bengal. “You have to purchase land yourself, since, if the government procures it for you, there’s bound to be a political turmoil,” she said, while urging her audience to invest in small-scale industries and films.

The day ended with a few of the investors, led by Dhunseri Tea Group chairman CK Dhanuka, singing two songs at the chief minister’s insistence — ‘ Aaemeri

pyarevatan’ (Oh my dear Motherland) and Tagore’s ‘ Joditordaak shuney keunaa as he,to beekla cholorey’. KOLKATA: Salman Rushdie will not be present in person but his shadow will be all over the second edition of Kolkata Literary Meet (KLM), with filmmaker Deepa Mehta expected to enlighten the audience on how tough it was to film Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children.

The film has already struck a controversial note in India and Mehta’s session comes just two days before the film’s release in the country.

After an uncertainty of a couple of months, the film has finally found a distributor in India with PVR cinema agreeing to release it on February 1. It was premiered in Toronto International Film Festival in September 2012.

“Mehta would mainly tell about the difficulties in adapting the novel for film. We hope this would be an exciting event,” Malavika Banerjee, of sports marketing agency Gameplan, which organises KLM, said. While Rushdie’s Satanic Verses is banned in India, Midnight’s Children is not banned.

Apart from Mehta, her husband and producer David Hamilton and actor Rahul Bose would also be present in January 30 session.

The cast includes Satya Bhava, Shabana Azmi, Rahul Bose, Seema Biswas, Anupan Kher, Soha Ali Khan and Sarita Choudhury who plays Indira Gandhi’s role.

The film got censor board’s certificate in December but the board has reportedly asked the producer to edit a portion of Rushdie’s voiceover in reference to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Interestingly, Indira Gandhi, herself, had moved a British court in 1984, alleging a sentence in the novel was defamatory. Rushdie’s later removed that sentence. In December 2012, Congress supporters who alleged Indira Gandhi has been shown in poor light in this film stalled a repeat screening of the film at Kerala International Film Festival.

For Mehta’s film, Rushdie has not only written the screenplay but has also rendered a voiceover. The writer of Indian origin reportedly sold the director the filming rights of his 1980 novel for only $1.

This is the first time Rushdie wrote a screenplay. The Canada-based director of Indian origin, herself, is controversial in India, where her previous films Fire and Water, too, had faced protests from various quarters.

Last year, Rushdie could not attend the Jaipur Literature Festival, due to protesters who condemned Satanic Verses as blasphemous.

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