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HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, October 12, 2012
Barely a month after the Trinamool Congress withdrew from UPA-2 over the FDI issue, Assocham was here to bat for the controversial policy. “Don’t indulge in politics when it comes to economic issues. FDI in the retail sector will accelerate the country’s economic growth in many ways,” was Assocham’s message for Mamata Banerjee’s government.

This is the first time the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), the umbrella body of chambers of commerce, is visiting any state to lobby for the policy.

Assocham secretary general DS Rawat, who met Bengal chief secretary Sanjoy Mitra here on Thursday, said FDI in retail would help the state on four counts — infrastructure development, employment and income generation and benefit to farmers.

“FDI in retail will accelerate economic growth of the state,” Rawat told the media after his meeting with Mitra.

Rawat said farmers and unemployed youths would benefit the most from FDI as it would create job opportunities and help in developing infrastructure. “Small farmers would get more money for their crops,” he said.

According to the proposed FDI bill that is likely to be presented before Parliament in the winter session, 30% of the minimum investment ($500 million) would be spent to buy agricultural produces while 50% would be for infrastructure.

The secretary general hopes to meet Mamata Banerjee during his next visit to the city when he plans to take up the issue with her. “FDI is the only way to keep the nation move towards economic growth,” he remarked.

Reacting to Rawat’s comments, industry ministry Partha Chatterjee said Assocham had done nothing to bring investments to the state.

Assocham has identified two districts, Murshidabad and North 24-Parganas, where it plans to help the state government in setting up cluster-based agro industries.