'Controversial SEZs an engine of growth in Guj'
Ahmedabad, Jan 13: Singur, Nandigram and Paradeep may have becomethe signposts of troubled times for the much-trumpeted butcontroversial Special Economic Zones in the country, but Gujarat has analtogether different tale to tell.
In the midst of a snowballing controversy in West Bengal andOrissa, leading business tycoons in the country are finding a smoothsailing in Gujarat in an affirmation of Chief Minister Narendra Modi'scontention that SEZs are going to be an engine of growth.
Not surprisingly the first day of the third edition of 'VibrantGujarat Global Investors' Summit, which got under way here yesterday inthe presence of who's who of the Indian industry, including MukeshAmbani and Ratan Tata, saw the inking of 26 MoUs worth Rs 1.43 lakhcrore in the SEZ sector out of the day's tally of Rs 2.51 lakh crore.
Asserting that the state government's proposed SEZs and port-leddevelopment would power the current investment drive, Mr Modi saidGujarat was among the earliest states to enact a SEZ Act in 2004.
''Today, as many as 33 SEZs have been approved in the state, ofwhich two are fully functional and others are in the process ofdevelopment,'' he told the gathering, citing the instances of Singaporeand China where SEZs had been catalysing the growth process in a bigway.
Pointing out that the central theme of the summit is SEZ, Mr Modisaid Gujarat is taking the lead in the country in the development ofSEZs at a time when it has become a subject of intense debate anddispute.
''The state government has provided legal protection bypromulgating Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act,'' he said, adding thatGujarat is the only state having both, the longest coastal area andinfrastructure facilities associated with ports for international tradethrough SEZs.
However, addressing a seminar on SEZs at the meet, Gujarat IndustrialDevelopment Corporation Managing Director P K Pujari said the stategovernment had approved 41 proposals for setting up SEZs while thecentral Government had approved 33. Gujarat Principal Secretary(Industries) D Rajagopalan said SEZs in the state are unlikely to touchoff any controversies for the reason that most of these are locatedclose to the ports, where land is not agricultural and fertile.
''Most of the SEZs in other parts of the country are IT-drivenwhile in Gujarat, these are mostly in the manufacturing sector andclose to the coastal line. Consequently, acquisition of land is notgoing to be a big problem.'' In West Bengal, Trinamool Congress leaderMamta Banerjee had recently gone on an over 20-day fast to protestagainst the acquisition of land of farmers in Singur where the Tatasplan to set up an automobile factory while in Nandigarm, where theSalim Group of Malaysia proposes to set up a plant to producemotorcycles and scooters, recently saw violent clashes between farmersand police.
''Nothing of this sort is going to happen in Gujarat,'' Mr Rajagopalan asserted.
The endorsement for Gujarat's SEZ policy came from the signing of26 SEZ-related MoUs, three of which are new. Of the new projects, themost ambitious one is worth Rs 24,503 crore and is a multi-purpose SEZto be set up between Anjar and Bhachau in Kutch district by a RuchiGroup company.
The other two are a Rs 11,650 crore chemical SEZ to be set up atVapi by PR SEZ Private Ltd and a Rs 700 crore automobile SEZ to be setup near Rajkot by Rajkot Engineering Association.
Among the others who signed SEZ-specific MoUs yesterday was theMukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries Ltd (Rs 40,000 crore), AdaniGroup (Rs 28,600 crore), Essar Group (Rs 12,750 crore), Zydus Cadila(Rs 3,500 crore), Suzlon Group (Rs 1,120 crore), Sterling Biotech (Rs22,000 crore), Dishman Pharma (Rs 7,900 crore) and Welspun Group (Rs1,500 crore).
Essar Group Chairman Shashi Ruia said his group investments in Hazira would be Rs 10,500 crore.
''SEZs are not about land acquisition but creating opportunitiesand world class business initiatives,'' he said, adding, ''I believe inpeople's power and in partnership. This is the appropriate forum tochalk out a growth path for the future.'' ''A front-runner in India'sindustrial surge, Gujarat is poised to emerge as the front-rankingeconomic powerhouse in the world,'' a beaming Mr Modi said, witnessingthe avalanche of business proposals from industrial houses.
The endorsement of Mr Modi's ebullience came from Mr Ratan Tata,the patriarch of the Tata Group. ''You are stupid if you are not inGujarat.'' Not to be left far behind, Mr Mukesh Ambani quipped,''Gujarat is the toast of a global India. Reliance is a Gujaraticompany, an Indian company and a global company".