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State Government to launch ‘Apon Bangla’ cards for NRI Bengali investors

1 March, 2023 10:41:50
State Government to launch ‘Apon Bangla’ cards for NRI Bengali investors

Twelve years ago, in 2011 when Mamata Banerjee assumed power in West Bengal, the state’s outstanding debt was around Rs 1, 92,000 crores. Hon’ble Chief Minister Banerjee and the then-Finance Minister and now Economic Adviser to CM, Amit Mitra, called it “a huge burden to the government.” A week into her job, the Chief Minister asked non-resident Indians (NRIs) to invest in West Bengal. She also announced her decision to set up an NRI Cell under the State Finance Department to streamline the investment process and NRIs were encouraged to get in touch with the cell and send their investment proposals. Besides Finance Minister Amit Mitra (who is a former Secretary-General of top industry body FICCI), she would herself monitor the entire process.

From time to time, she wooed NRI investors stating that West Bengal could be a perfect investment destination and welcomed investments in all sectors of the economy including in hospital, education, tourism, IT, infrastructure and industry. Since the very beginning, the CM had been focusing on accelerating the pace of development of the state and make it conducive for investors. After she came to power for the third time in the state, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and leaders and ministers of the ruling party publicly stated that this time they were determined to tap various sources and procure employment and investment for the state. The state government wants to tap NRI Bengalis for the purpose of investment and employment. In a major initiative, special identity cards will be issued to connect with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs), and Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs), who are from the state. The portal intends to be a ‘one stop communication’ medium for enabling all NRBs (Non-Resident Bengalis) to become a seamless extension of the community of West Bengal. The process has already started. 

The portal will provide ‘Apon Bangla Card’ to the categories of Indians concerned who are from the state, will serve as a platform redressing grievance, will accept feedback and suggestions, offer access to several government services, and will help them connect with their schools and colleges. The platform will also provide a newsletter offering information about the state, will facilitate donations to the ‘NRI Contribution Fund’, and will offer guidance towards investing in the state. The web initiative will also offer information about the international events that take place in Bengal and this card will enable expatriate Indians to participate in various trade conferences in the state. However, the state is giving more priority to the NRI Bengalis because many Bengalis, who have settled abroad are still keen to do something constructive for their Motherland.

“This is a good initiative as it aims at investment, but for investing anywhere in India, one needs more than a card or online platform. However, the web initiative is a welcome change, as it will help anyone residing in any part of the globe get to know what is happening in Bengal,” say Sujoy Roy, who resides in USA.

Expatriate Bengalis and Indians can register themselves through this portal and apply for the card from there. Identity card will be generated only after registering the name with all the personal information on the portal. The government believes that foreign investment in the state will expand a lot once the process of issuing special identity cards to these expatriate Bengalis and Indians starts in full swing. The 'Apon Bangla' card will contain all the details of NRIs. Apart from the passport number, they will also be given a separate registration number and the country where he is a resident, will also be mentioned in the card. 

Along with the launch of the portal, a special support center will also be opened. The state government has special tourism plans for expatriate Bengalis and Indians. Those who obtain the card will be able to participate in Biswa Bangla Trade Conference, Kolkata International Book Fair as well as Kolkata International Film Festival and other important events on a priority basis. “We are interested in the special tourism plans as we want our children, who are 2nd generation citizens of UK to know more about Bengal, our motherland,” said Jayita Bose, a doctor settled in UK since the last 25 years.

The state government is now giving priority to investment and employment. After presenting the annual Budget in the state Assembly, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was buoyant as she felt this was an employment-oriented Budget and would ensure more jobs for the youths living in West Bengal. The state government as well as the residents of the state are hopeful of 'Apon Bangla' card fetching NRI investments to the state.

Through the initiative, it will be possible to prepare a database of Indians (of the categories mentioned) who are from Bengal and are staying abroad. This database would help the state government to interact with registered members and will be useful in rendering assistance in case they face any difficulties abroad and support is required. 

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