SEZs are on fallow and saline land along the State coastline
CHENNAI: Over a third of the $100 billion that was pledged during the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors' Summit two weeks ago will be invested in the State's Special Economic Zones. Chief Minister Narendra Modi says this is because land acquisition is not an issue in Gujarat.
Interacting with the media during a visit to Chennai on Sunday, Mr. Modi said that farmers' livelihood are not affected because multi-product SEZs are located on large tracts of fallow and saline land along Gujarat's 1,600-km coastline. Since the State's SEZ Act was passed in 2004, a total of 33 proposals has been approved without any controversy, he said.
These SEZs are key to Mr. Modi's vision of port-led development. Linked to a globally competitive network of warehouses, cold storage and transport facilities, the SEZs are expected to play an important role in the `P2P,' (port-to-production integrated concept).
Mr. Modi pointed to the private rail connectivity at ports as an example of the private-public partnerships that power the State's economy. "We [the Government] are simply facilitators... this is our secret," he said.
Port-based development is one of Mr. Modi's four thrust areas, the number one priority being agriculture. The State has bucked the trend seen in the rest of the country by posting a 13 per cent growth in the sector. Other thrust areas include energy and rural development.
In the era of global marketplace, India must "create infrastructure with global benchmarks, products that can compete globally... [and] rules and regulations which provide a level-playing field for global competition," said Mr. Modi.
His slogan "for development of the country, development of the state" makes it clear that Gujarat's infrastructure upgradation, and its recent success in attracting $100 billion investment which would create 13 lakh new jobs, would be good for the country as a whole. In fact, the Planning Commission had recognised Gujarat as the growth engine for India, said Gujarat's Principal Secretary for Industry D. Rajagopalan.
"Minimum grey areas"
But unless the ground reality is good, "a state government cannot woo investors with mere slogans or promises," said Mr. Modi. "We are a policy-driven Government. We put things in black and white, with a minimum of grey areas."
His claim was reinforced by several Chennai-based investors. "There are no labour problems, no water or power problems, government officials are business friendly," said A.M. Rao, Managing irector of IMC, a company specialising in creating liquid tankage facilities.
P.B. Anandam, chairman of the Chennai-based Archean Group, which plans to invest Rs.1,000 crore over the next three years to expand its salt-based industry in Gujarat, was attracted by the fact that these benefits percolate to small and medium entrepreneurs like himself. "We run the largest salt field in Gujarat and I never had to meet a politician to acquire my land, only officials. ... but these things will only be known to small people like us," he said.
Mr. Anandam said Tamil Nadu would currently be his No. 2 choice for investment after Gujarat. "Right now, the competition is between these two States," he said.