Budhadeb Bhatacharjee is a hero to survive the politics of his state. I do not know much of him but from whatever little I know, I put him in the squeaky clean league of Prime Minister Singh. Coming back to his state, of all the part time help we have had for the last 2 decades of living in Delhi – 90% have been from West Bengal. One has heard from them stories of abject poverty, the despicable state of the small farmer and the farmlands. I empathise entirely when Budha says that making Industries on these farmlands is justified because they are not productive and industries in fact will provide better jobs to many poor people. Even Prabhati my current Bengali help knows that is true.
The next week should decide if Budha’s reforms will get the second big blow if Metro should also move out on the trail of Tata Motors. Metro had planned an investment of Rs 564 crore to open 4 Metro Cash & Carry outlets in Kolkatta employing 2000 people. They were issued the coveted APMC license in 2006 which was valid till March 2008. The license was issued on the grounds that the Metro Cash & Carry business is business-to-business wholesale. The Forward Bloc now feels that the APMC license should not be renewed because several small traders already supply to hotels, restaurants and hospitals, and Metro could hurt their businesses.
Isn’t 2 years a rather long time for such awakening?! Metro Cash & Carry has already invested Rs 140 crore and employed 350 people in its first outlet on Kolkata’s Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, so far. The outlet would now not open if the license is not renewed. Metro is also ready with infrastructure, spread over 100,000 sq ft, on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. To add to the injury, the company had to stop construction for eight months based on a legal dispute between farm land owners, the government and themselves !
Chief Minister Budha is driven to a corner and I think he has taken on a lot against himself by going against his political party by instructing the 24 Parganas’ south district magistrate to issue the APMC license to Metro. Metro’s cash and carry outlet in Kolkata falls under the jurisdiction of 24 Parganas.
He has of course stirred the hornet’s nest by doing so and predictably the Forward Bloc ministers have stopped attending office in protest till the chief minister’s letter is withdrawn ! Budhadeb and the State Finance Minister are down on their knees in front of the Forward Bloc to renew the licence.
I am sure everyone involved knows that the Metro Cash & Carry exit means sounding the death knell for foreign investment in West Bengal. Sunday September 28, 2008 is the day of reckoning where the final decision will be taken by the ministers. Till then the its fingers crossed for modern retail!