“Northern foothills districts of Bengal, adjacent to North East Region(NER), host almost same natural resources, socio economic structure. We share similar kind of economic dynamics. That makes us aspirant of benefits like NEC. It can boost the economy of this industrially backward region in a big way,” said veteran tea entrepreneur and exporter Rajiv Lochan.
Designed initially for the North Eastern states in 1971, the NEC policy offers Tax Holiday, Capital Subsidy or many other benefits to new entrepreneurs investing in these industrially backward states. Sikkim was included into it in 2002.
“We want Indian Chamber of Commerce to help north Bengal commercial arena to press forward this demand,” said senior tourism entrepreneur Raj Basu. While echoing the same, many other entrepreneurs in north Bengal from different sectors said, “ICC’s involvement can infuse significant volume of blood to the demand.”
But, “We do not find much prospect in it as GoI has already decided not to extend these benefits beyond its existing geographical boundary of NER,” said Rajeev Singh, Director General ICC. Clear enough, ICC is not going to include the issue in its agenda immediately.
Northern Bengal commercial arena had been asking for the benefits since 2002.
Though reluctant initially, the then CM of Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharya agreed to persuade the demand after these benefits were extended to Uttaranchal or HP by categorizing them as ‘Special Category states’ through a office Memorandum No. 1 (10)/2001-NER Dated 7th January 2003 issued by Industrial Policy & Promotion. Mr. Bhattacharya formed an all party committee that had meetings with PM on this on 20th December 2006.
After the change in power, Bengal’s present CM Mamata Banerjee also expressed her interest on the matter. But in reality, the issue remained under mountain of files in Government offices while entrepreneurs in North Bengal kept it alive as a big aspiration.