Thursday, 22 September 2016

CM invites cycle manufacturers to set up factories in Bengal to take advantage of Sabuj Sathi scheme


Mamata Banerjee today invited cycle manufacturers to set up factories in Bengal to take advantage of the Sabuj Sathi scheme through which the state is giving bicycles to students studying from Class IX to Class XII, but the problem is her friend in Bihar has already got bulk of the makers. Mamata, who started distribution of bicycles at a programme held at Margaret (SN) English School ground in Siliguri this afternoon, said: " Ei je eto cycle aamraa dichchi ... aamraa to mone kori je ekhane cycle industry toiri kora uchit. Aamraa abedon korbo ... jodi keu korte chaan. Aamraa khushi hobo. (We are distributing so many cycles... We feel that cycle industry should be set up here. We would request ... if anyone wants to. We will be happy)." However, in the past two years, prominent bicycle manufacturing companies - Hero Cycles, Avon Cycles and TI Cycles - have tiptoed into Bihar and more companies are showing interest in setting up their base in the state. Currently, Ludhiana is the country's cycle manufacturing hub and Bihar has become the cycle industry nerve-centre of the east. One of the major reasons for cycle manufacturers to choose Bihar is a government programme that chief minister Nitish Kumar had launched in 2006 under which each girl studying in Class IX in a government-run or aided school was given Rs 2,000 in cash to buy a bicycle. "May be we are a bit late as Bihar has got most investments in the cycle industry," said a senior government official in Bengal. According to him, if a company has a plant in Bihar, it doesn't make much sense for it to set up another one in Bengal because of the geographical closeness of the two states. The main aim of Nitish Kumar's programme - which was later expanded to include boys and the aid was increased to Rs 2,500 per student - was to reduce gender gap in school enrolments. Since 2006-07, Bihar has recorded around 70 lakh beneficiaries of the scheme.
Hero Cycles has already invested Rs 55 crore to set up a modern plant in Bihta, around 35km from Patna, and employed over 250 persons, majority of whom are from the area. The mother plant has brought two ancillary units with a total investment of about Rs 25 crore and employment opportunities for another 150. Avon Cycles that has a plant in Hajipur Industrial Estate is also planning expansion to cater for the market. Although investments in cycle plants do not run into hundreds or thousands of crores, the benefits are aplenty as they create jobs for low-skilled people. In Siliguri chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that last year, the state had distributed around 40 lakh bicycles among students. "This year, we will distribute bicycles again and in Darjeeling district, we started the distribution today. Around 18,000 cycles would be distributed (in Darjeeling district) and across the state, the figure would range between 12 lakh and 14 lakh," she said. "From now, we will distribute cycles among Class IX students every year so that all those who are promoted to Class IX and onwards can use bicycles for coming to school and for other work." Sources at the Darjeeling district administration said around 11,000 bicycles were ready and would be distributed immediately. The remaining 7,000 would be readied and distributed in due course. Owners of bicycle stores in Siliguri said the chief minister's call to the manufacturers was a right move. "It is one of the growing sectors of the country and in Bengal, none other than the state is the largest buyer because of the Sabuj Sathi scheme. It is obvious that cycle manufacturers might feel interested in the proposal," a shop owner said. "If a cycle manufacturing unit comes up here, there would be immense scope for MSME units to mushroom as those make several parts of a bicycle," he added. Today, Mamata also spoke about a skill development programme for the youths.
" Aamaader jeta skill department theke ... 3000 chhele meye der aamraa skill e training debo. Jara cycle parts gulo toiri kore nijeriai sharate parbe ebong tara bibhinno jaygay kaaj korte parbe. Bochhore 3000 skill training debo jate cycle gulo kharap hole tara repair korte pare r shongsar chalate pare (We have a skill department ... we will give skill training to 3,000 boys and girls. They can make parts of bicycles and repair them and also work in different places. Every year 3000 persons would be trained so that if the cycles malfunction they can repair those and run their families.)," Mamata said. Observers said the statement is another message to cycle manufacturers. "Through this remark, the chief minister has said the state is readying a pool of skilled workforce that can work in cycle manufacturing units as well as ancillary units. This would help prospective investors to have a clear idea about the quality of available workforce required," an observer said. While addressing the gathering of more than 7,000, mostly school students, Mamata said: "We have Kanyashree under which around 35 lakh schoolgirls are covered. There is Shikshashree scheme meant for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students and also scholarship for minorities. The government has also created a corpus of Rs 200 crores to help poor and meritorious students continue higher studies in the field of medical sciences and engineering." The chief minister also announced the formation of Shreshtargya, a cooperative for the welfare of media persons in north Bengal. She handed over a five-cottah plot belonging to the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority in Kawakhali, on the outskirts of Siliguri, to the Siliguri Journalists' Club. Mamata later left for Kalimpong where she will stay for two days. "I will attend programmes to be organised by the Lepchas and Tamangs in Kalimpong," she said. She will leave for Calcutta on September 24. (Telegraph)