Ambassador Ziegler pays fourth visit to Bengal
Leads French delegation of investors as Partner Country at Bengal Global Business Summit; signs MoU with Bengal government for heritage restoration projects in Chandernagore; confers French distinction on Father François Laborde.
West Bengal, 6 February 2019
The Ambassador of France to India, H.E. Mr Alexandre Ziegler, today undertook an official trip to West Bengal to intensify French cooperation in the state on heritage conservation and economic affairs.
Ambassador Ziegler commenced his trip in Chandernagore with the unveiling of plaques recognising three select heritage sites as listed by the West Bengal Heritage Commission. The event was hosted by the West Bengal Heritage Commission and organized by its Chairman, Shri. Shuvaprasanna. During this visit, a landmark Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Government of West Bengal and the Embassy of France in India for the pilot project for the restoration and reuse of “Chander Badi” (House of the Moon) and referred to as the “Registry Building”, which is listed was a heritage property by the Commission in 2017.
The parties aim to work together towards restoring and sustainably developing erstwhile French properties and other viable structures on Strand Road as part of a plan for Heritage Precinct Revitalisation in Chandernagore.
The signatories of this MoU, Mr Atri Bhattacharya, Principal Secretary, Tourism, Home and Hill Affairs, and the Ambassador of France to India, Mr Alexandre Ziegler, revealed that the House of Moon Project seeks not only to preserve the structure, but also energize the local economy through the conservation expertise and overall implementation of the restoration works on the heritage Strand. This will be carried out with the help of a French experts’ team, which will provide the Government of West Bengal with technical advice on heritage management, urban planning, tourism development, design, branding, marketing, architecture, etc. This MoU is the first step in a longstanding association, which gained visibility in Chandernagore through France’s Bonjour India events in 2018.
Congratulating the Government of West Bengal and the Bonjour India team, Ambassador Ziegler said, “I am very pleased to take part in this ceremony today, which marks a new step in our cooperation with the West Bengal authorities in Chandernagore. This collaboration is an important step towards redefining this unique confluence of Indo-French culture, Chandernagore’s history, symbolized not in individual monuments but in its timeless ensemble. The Embassy of France in India and the French Institute in India are bringing technical, architectural and logistical expertise forward to reinforcing this project of partnership. India and France look forward to working together in the near future with the hope of redefining the economy of Heritage, leading to increased tourism and valorization of the identity of Chandernagore.”
In the afternoon, Ambassador Ziegler led a 23-member-strong investors delegation comprising top officials from globally reputed French companies at the Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS). The delegation had a private meeting with Dr Amit Mitra, Hon’ble Minister for Finance, Micro Enterprises, Commerce and Industry, at the venue to discuss possibilities of building larger economic and bilateral partnerships with the Government of West Bengal. This interaction was followed by the networking dinner hosted by the Government of West Bengal at Mishtika, Eco Park, Rajarhat. France was a Partner Country at this year’s BGBS with 15 French companies taking part in the Summit. The delegates shared their strategies at the plenary sessions on B2B and B2G platforms held from 6th to 8th February 2019.
The Ambassador bestowed the insignia of Officier de la Légion d’Honneur on Father François Laborde, the man behind an inspiring social enterprise: a home with its own medical facility that he built for children with disabilities and the most underprivileged, at Howrah South Point (HSP). The ceremony organized at Howrah South Point was attended by several partners and associates of Father Laborde, who shared some delightful and heartwarming memories of the incredible work done by him in his lifetime. The Ambassador’s speech, paying tribute to a lifetime of dedication to the most disadvantaged, was very well received by the gathering and the media, which had assembled in hundreds to honour the Father. The event commenced with a cultural programme organized by the differently-abled students of the HSP Centre and was followed by high tea.
Fr. Laborde is already the recipient of this award, at the rank of Chevalier, which was conferred on him by the late French President, François Mitterand, in Calcutta, where this gentle giant of humanity stands tall, moulding and shaping less fortunate lives towards a better tomorrow. It is his life that inspired Dominique Lapierre while he was writing his 1985 book, City of Joy.