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Posted on Nov 09, 11:14PM | IANS
Emami director Aditya Agarwal, an accused in the AMRI hospital fire tragedy that claimed 94 lives last year, was among a large number of industry captains present at a lavish dinner hosted by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee here Friday.
Banerjee's annual get-together with businessmen, a part of her routine for the past two years, was held this time in the backdrop of a port equipment operator quitting the state alleging poor law and order.
Recently, there were also clashes between police and villagers over an old land acquisition dispute.
Banerjee is known to utilise the Bijoya Sammilani -- or post-Dussehra gathering -- for a tete-a-tete with industry leaders in an informal setting to ascertain their problems and egg them on to invest in the state.
The industry leaders are also apparently cut up with Banerjee's Trinamool Congress government for its hands-off policy on land acquisition for private ventures.
Among others present in the interaction were RP-Sanjiv Goenka group chairman Sanjiv Goenka, Ambuja Realty chairman Harsh Neotia, Exide Industries' Satyabrata Ganguly, Srei Infrastructure Finance chairman and managing director Hemant Kanoria, Texmaco Ltd vice chairman Ramesh Maheshwari, ITC director Kurush Noshir Grant, JSW Steel chief executive Biswadeep Gupta and Tata Steel Processing and Distribution Ltd managing director Sandipan Chakravortty.
While most of the industrialists chose to avoid the large posse of mediapersons who waited outside the venue at Ballygunge Park in South Kolkata, Goenka gave a brief soundbyte while emerging from the venue: "The chief minister has given a strong signal that she wants to have industry's ear."
Several prominent state ministers including Partha Chatterjee (industries), Amit Mitra (finance) and Manish Gupta (power) attended the get-together.
However, there was a stir among mediapersons when Agarwal entered the venue.
He was one of the 16 AMRI directors chargesheeted by the police in connection with the hospital fire in which mostly seriously-ill patients choked to death in the wee hours of Dec 9.
With Banerjee -- who also holds the home portfolio -- taking a tough stand, 13 other AMRI directors were put behind bars.
Agarwal escaped arrest as he went underground, prompting the police to move court for attaching his property.
However, he later got anticipatory bail from the court.
Days before the function, port equipment handler Haldia Bulk Terminals quit the state over "lack of safety and security of its employees", which prompted some business chambers to express concern over the state's industrial prospects.
Earlier this week, 27 policemen and six villagers were injured in Birbhum district's Loba village after the security forces tried to recover earth moving equipment of a private coal mining company which the villagers had seized to express discontent over land acquisition.