Reliance has invested Rs15,000 crore in West Bengal, says Mukesh Ambani
Kolkata: As an opposition leader a decade ago, Mamata Banerjee had demonised industry with her often violent protests against land acquisition for factories. When she took office as chief minister in 2011, there was a lot of apprehension and scepticism.
Six-and-a-half years on, Banerjee on Monday appealed to people who have sold land for industrial projects to receive investors with love and respect, speaking at Salboni, where JSW Cement Ltd has set up 2.4 million tonne unit. Winds of change are blowing in West Bengal, and fresh investments have started to trickle in.
Rooting for the state, Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), on Tuesday said in Kolkata that two years ago he had committed to investing Rs4,500 crore in West Bengal. His company has invested Rs15,000 crore in West Bengal—more than three times the committed amount, Ambani said.
“Bengal knows that it must prosper,” Ambani said at the 18-storey Biswa Bangla convention centre where a two-day business conference started on Tuesday. “And this convention centre (which covers an area of 457,000 sq. ft) is an example...it is a testimony to your vision and mission,” he said, addressing Banerjee.
Ambani said his firm was able to plough in Rs15,000 crore within two years, largely because of “enabling policy infrastructure”. Most of the amount went into building Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd’s network in the state, creating 100,000 direct and indirect jobs, Ambani said.
He announced plans to invest at least Rs5,000 crore more in “Jio and the entire digital ecosystem, retail and petro retail in the next few years,” capping seven other commitments he made to the state on Monday.
Jio will expand its optic fibre network and connect every school and hospital in the state. His company is building “state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities” for consumer devices such as mobile phones and set-top boxes, and will make West Bengal “the hub for innovation”.
The chief minister said the key to the transformation was better handling of industrial disputes. The state had moved ahead of its legacy of labour unrest and strikes, she said, adding that the current administration was firm with all trade unions, even ones backed by the ruling Trinamool Congress.
“Things have changed in Bengal,” said Sajjan Jindal, chairman of JSW Group, which has set up a cement manufacturing unit at a cost of Rs800 crore. On Tuesday, he committed to plough in Rs10,000 crore over the years by setting up a paint manufacturing plant and a steel processing unit.
His son, Parth Jindal, managing director of JSW Cement Ltd, had on Sunday committed to scale up the Salboni unit’s production capacity by another 1.2 million tonnes and build an 18-megawatt captive power plant at a combined cost of Rs400 crore.
The Jindals are under pressure to justify the huge plot of 4,300 acres granted to them during the Left regime. It is currently using only 134 acres for cement production.
The original plan was to set up steel and power plants, but they did not materialize as the group could not bring in raw materials. “There has already been a huge disappointment because we could not build the steel or power plants,” Parth Jindal said on Sunday. The group will make sure it delivers what it commits, he said.
Among other smaller commitments made on Tuesday, SpiceJet Ltd chairman Ajay Singh said his company was weighing the option of making West Bengal the hub for seaplanes, or aircraft capable of taking off and landing on water. His company has already placed a large order for seaplanes, he added.
Sanjiv Goenka, chairman of the RP-Sanjiv Goenka group, said he is looking to invest Rs1,000 crore to scale up power distribution and to set up a food processing unit. The group is expanding the Woodlands hospital in Kolkata and scaling up production capacity of its carbon black production facility in Durgapur, he added.
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