Economic Growth in West Bengal: Challenges and Priorities

Wednesday, 11th January 2012 to Friday, 13th January 2012
IGC - India Central
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Indian Statistical Institute

Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz delivered the first keynote address at a conference in West Bengal on 11 and 13 January 2012, joint organised by the IGC and the Indian Statistical Institute. The former chief economist at the World Bank argued that the government should start to intervene in land acquisition – something it has previously said it would not do. Land has been highlighted as a central issue to West Bengal’s development, with businesses complaining that small landholders in pivotal locations are holding out for exorbitant offers. Stiglitz argued that this can get in the way of development. His remarks sparked a lively debate among Indian MPs and journalists.

He had this to say on land acquisition:

‘Economists call it the hold up problem… When there are large pieces of land owned by one person, somebody can buy that land. But if the land is fragmented, then a person can hold out in the middle of that piece of land and say ‘I will not sell it to you.' You have bought all the other land and if you want to buy this land, you will have to pay me a lot. And that makes land purchase very difficult.’ Stiglitz added that ‘the government has to be involved in promoting development’ and called on the government to take the same measures that other governments around the world do – even his own local government at Columbia University. He cited an instance when land was required for the university’s expansion. The university had found it difficult to purchase certain areas and so approached the government, eventually succeeding in using the Right to Eminent Domain clause.


1. Inaugural panel

  • Suman Bery, Country Director IGC (India-Central), Member of Economic Advisory council to the P.M.
  • Purnendu Chatterjee, Industrialist and CEO (Chatterjee Group)
  • Saugata Roy, Local M.P and Minister of State, Urban Devt. (Govt of India)
  • Partha Chatterjee, Honourable Minister in Charge, Commerce & Industries (Govt of West Bengal)
  • Joseph Stiglitz (Columbia University)


2. Keynote address, chaired by Abhirup Sarkar, Indian Statistical Institute

  • Joseph Stiglitz (Columbia University): Learning for a new economy: insights for the developing world


3. Land Acquisition for Industry, chaired by Kalyan Sanyal (Calcutta University)

  • Sanjoy Chakravorty (Temple University): From Wipeouts to Windfalls: Cautions about Current Thinking on Land Acquisition
  • Partha Chatterjee (CSSSC and Columbia University, USA)
  • Bhaskar Dutta (University of Warwick, UK and ISI): Land acquisition
  • Parikshit Ghosh (Delhi School of Economics): Land Acquisition: An Auction Based Solution
  • Dilip Mookherjee (Boston University, USA and IGC): Land Acquisition and Compensation in Singur: Household Survey Results
  • Debabrata Bandyopadhyay (MP & former Land Reform Commissioner)


4. Infrastructure Development, chaired by Pronab Sen (Planning Commission)

  • Rajesh Chakrabarti (Indian School of Business): West Bengal: The Infrastructure Challenge
  • Anupam Khanna (NASSCOM): Infrastructure for Sustainable Development in West Bengal
  • Ramprasad Sengupta (Jawaharlal Nehru University): Infrastructure Development of West Bengal: Roads and Energy
  • Dipankar Dasgupta, ISI (Retired)
  • Anup Chanda, IAS (Govt of West Bengal)


5. Public Finance, chaired by Soumen Sikdar, Indian Institute of Management

  • Sanjay Banerjee (University of Nottingham): Municipal Bonds for Financing Urban Development: Some Thoughts
  • Mushtaq Husain Khan (University of London): ‘Financing Learning’: The Challenge of Developing New Sectors
  • Tapas Sen (National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi): West Bengal State Finances
  • Abhirup Sarkar (Indian Statistical Institute): West Bengal: Indebtedness and Financial Crisis


6. Education, chaired by Swapan Chakrabarti (National Library)

  • Sugata Bose (Harvard University)
  • Partha Pratim Chakraborty (Indian Institute of Technolgy, Kharagpur): Re-Engineering Technical Education in West Bengal
  • Jyotsna Jalan (Centre for Studies in Social Sciences): Quality of Primary Education in Rural West Bengal
  • Sugata Marjit (CSSSC and Council for Higher Education, West Bengal)


7. Keynote address, chaired by Mihir Kanti Rakshit, Former Professor (Indian Statistical Institute)

  • Pranab Bardhan (University of California, Berkeley): Alternative Approaches to Social Protection of the Poor in India


8. Health and Environment, chaired by Kajal Lahiri, University of Albany

  • Maitreesh Ghatak (London School of Economics, and IGC): Motivating Agents to Spread Information: The Role of Explicit Incentives and Social Identity-Matching
  • Ranjan Ray (Monash University): Aspects of Child Health, Maternal Health and Infant Mortality in West Bengal
  • Dipankar Chakraborty (Jadavpur University)
  • Sanjay Mitra, IAS (Government of West Bengal): The health sector in West Bengal – some policy issues
  • Sukumar Mukherjee (Medical College, Kolkata (Retd)): Medical Education and Health Care


9. General discussion and conclusion, moderated by Dilip Mookherjee, Boston University, and IGC




The workshop received attention in the local media:

  1. 1. 'Stiglitz argues against Trinamool's land policy' in The Hindu
  2. 2. 'Hands-off land policy may not work: Stiglitz' in The Times of India
  3. 3. 'State land policy no good: Stiglitz' in The Statesman
  4. 4. 'Nobel laureate slams Mamata's land policy' in the Indian Express
  5. 5. 'Laureate for govt land role' in The Telegraph