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25 Mar 2017

Can't say it aloud? Say it to yourself - Mamata's advice to industrialists on demonetisation plainspeak

Mamata Banerjee with CK Dhanuka and his daughter-in-law Bharati Dhanuka. Among the songs CK Dhanuka played on the violin was Sare Jahan Se Achchha. “Had I known, I would have brought along my Casio (synthesiser),” Mamata said after Dhanuka finished playing. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
TT, Calcutta, March 24: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today asked a front row packed with industrialists: "Tell me whether demonetisation has affected your industry. Yes or no? If you can't say it aloud, say it to yourself."
The silence - broken only by a ripple of subdued laughter that eddied across the hall - suggested the business barons had exercised the second option to "say it to yourself".
"You can't say (it)," Mamata continued. "Because if you do, the CBI and the income-tax (department) would be sent after you. I don't want to land you in trouble."
"Has it affected (your industry) or not?" she asked. "Ask yourself. Was the construction sector affected or not? Was the unorganised sector affected or not? Was the trade sector affected or not? Was the business sector affected or not? The retail market has taken a hit. The wholesale market has taken a hit. What is not affected?"
The occasion was the inauguration of a girls' hostel in Behala, named after S.L. Dhanuka, industrialist C.K. Dhanuka's father. The hostel can accommodate 400 girls.
Later, a city-based businessman said that industrialists were usually wary of speaking out on politically sensitive matters. It does not make good business sense to antagonise anyone. "Who would speak against someone who has all the income-tax files? Nobody wants to speak in public against politicians. Can anyone really speak against Mamata Banerjee, either?" the businessman asked.
Another industrialist said it would be all the more audacious to speak on demonetisation now, given the BJP's spectacular victory in Uttar Pradesh, although there is little evidence to suggest that the vote was endorsement for the note recall.
Nationally among industrialists, only Rajiv Bajaj of Bajaj Auto has dared speak out against the move.
Today, Mamata urged her "friends from industry" to expand their businesses.
"Poland had come to us, Germany had come to us, China had come. Russia has requested us to do business. There are several countries coming forward with business proposals," she said.
"They also want to do business with you. They want to invest here. We'll also see to it that the manufacturing industry flourishes here. This will help generate employment. We have a land bank ready."

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