Mamata Banerjee wooed "the golden brains" of the world with a bag full of Bengal's trademark chaal (rice), cha (tea) and handicrafts at the inauguration of PanIIT Global Conference 2012, partnered by The Telegraph, on Friday afternoon at the Science City auditorium.
"You are the goldmines of the world, the golden brains," the chief minister told the gathering at the first global IIT alumni meet hosted by the Calcutta chapter.
"It is a great honour that you have selected Calcutta for the conference…. You are the main foundation who can lobby for us, who can convince others to come and invest in Bengal," she stressed, before handing out "a small gift… a jute bag with Bengal rice, Darjeeling tea and handicrafts" for the 1,500-strong gathering.
In her 20-minute speech, the chief minister ' under fire for her government's investor-unfriendly image ' urged all IITians to give Bengal a chance.
"Please don't forget us. Please realise Bengal is beautiful," said Mamata. "You cannot say there are problems and we cannot invest in Bengal. All matters are settled. Bengal is a very happy, very peaceful state now. No quarrel, no separatist movement. Labour is cheap. Land bank we have set up. Power is surplus. The employment bank is there. There is a dramatic change in the work culture scenario. Mandays lost in Bengal due to strike has come down drastically….," she rattled off, as is her wont to do on any such platform these days.
There was, of course, no reference to the ground realities that have triggered an investor no-confidence in Bengal ' from her inflexible land policy to the growing accusations of extortion by many of her team members.
The chief minister held out the promise of "a new IT policy" that would take the state forward in the software and hardware sectors. "IT hubs and hardware parks are coming up extensively in the state," she claimed.
Again, no reference to the government's failure to seal any deal with the Infosyses and Wipros of the world.
Mamata arrived at the conference venue 15 minutes ahead of schedule, walked through the exhibition area, lit the inaugural lamp, delivered her speech, and then strode off to a standing ovation.
"She is playing T20 and not Test cricket. Her asking rate is a triple century in a day," said Sandipan Chakravortty, chairman of the conference's steering committee.
Mamata's speech and her gift hamper did manage to charm some of "the golden brains" in the crowd.
"She managed to evoke emotion and reached out to us.... The gift was a very personal touch," said Deepak Mirza, an IIT Delhi alumnus, settled in Chennai.
Rohit Koshi, also from IIT Delhi, said the perception about Mamata "outside the state" was very different. "But here she made the right noises and came across as very friendly and approachable."
Mamata's Facebook post, a few hours later, mirrored the mood of a job well done. "I addressed today a galaxy of IIT Alumni from across the globe…. I invited them to be a part of the development initiatives launched in the state."
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