The issue has not affected investments to Maharashtra, he says
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Wednesday refuted the suggestion that the Lavasa project was targeted because of political party affiliation (in this case, the Nationalist Congress Party).
In an informal interaction with journalists on the eve of completing his first year as Chief Minister, Mr. Chavan said an investor was an investor. In Lavasa's case, the then Minister of State for Environment, Jairam Ramesh, felt that it had flouted environmental laws and an expert committee examined the project.
“Those who break the law are accountable and even in the case of Adarsh Society, an inquiry was being pursued. If the law is broken, should you be treated with kid gloves?”
In June, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) wrote a letter, saying that the expert committee report had recommended clearance for Phase 1 of Lavasa and the State government was also asked to prosecute the company for violations. “We didn't want to violate the court order and other conditions; so we filed a complaint in Pune. If Lavasa has fulfilled the conditions then it can be cleared.”
Mr. Chavan said nowhere did he recommend regularisation of the project. He challenged the fact that Maharashtra was not attracting industrial investment. Action against Lavasa would not really have an impact, he said.
“Maharashtra continues to get very large investments and I am in the process of signing 40 MoUs involving mega projects [with an investment of more than Rs. 500 crore each] and eight have already been signed.”
While the Nano project going to Gujarat was a loss, Mr. Chavan said the last word on Nano had not been written. “I don't think I could have given that kind of incentive and interest-free loan that the Gujarat government has given. A government resolution on this says that for an investment of Rs. 2,700 crore, they are giving loans at 0.1 per cent.”
The second investment that went there was Maruti and this was due to the fact that Gujarat had better ports than Maharashtra.
“It is nobody's claim that 100 per cent investment should happen in one State. Gujarat has a lead in ports and Maharashtra is slow. But there are many natural advantages we have in terms of infrastructure and a stable work force,” he said.
The year had been an eventful one for Mr. Chavan and he called it the most exciting and satisfying year of his political life. There had been ups and downs, but he learnt a great deal
The expectations from him were high and he admitted facing certain limitations like not working and travelling much in Maharashtra and the “speciality” of the coalition. Overall he had taken good decisions, which should be examined for their quality.
Maharashtra faced the challenge of maintaining its premium position among the States with the highest Gross Domestic Product and being an attractive financial destination. but the lop-sided development was an issue. W
With only 17 per cent irrigation, the State faced the farm crisis and tussle over remunerative prices for cash crops. Other challenges were uneven development, migration impacts and pressure on urban areas, apart from attracting industrial investment. He admitted that he was worried about the situation in Vidarbha.
He said the exact reasons for suicide deaths must be found out. The government had given zero-interest crop loans to farmers. While the Industrial Policy of 2006 attracted large industries, a new policy that would be announced later would focus on medium and small industries. On the question of coalition, he described his experience as “interesting.”
He said, “We would like to have one party rule at the Centre or in Maharashtra. Politics is the art of possible and the Congress would have been happy to get absolute majority, but there was a fractured mandate.”
On lack of infrastructure in Mumbai, Mr Chavan said he was convinced that the coastal ring road around the city was the right option to ease congestion. The proposal was put up before the MoEF. The road would not be permissible under current laws, but “we are trying to get that changed.”
The road would take care of all options and involve reclaiming 50 to 60 acres. He had recently told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about Mumbai's potential to become a financial centre and demanded some Central funding support for major infrastructure projects, which could be taken up as national projects and expedited.
Countering that he was delaying decisions, Mr. Chavan said he was not in favour of taking individual decisions, but was more focussed on policy. Things that were pending for 50 to 60 years were now on the verge of being resolved. He cited the Zudpi jungle land issue and the mapping and computerisation of land records. “Now people will soon get a map of their land online along with other documents.” Maharashtra was leading the country in the issuance of Aadhar cards as well.
Denying that he wanted to return to New Delhi, Mr. Chavan said becoming Chief Minister was a great elevation and the experience was much richer. Delhi was all about policy but here it was more about taking executive decisions.