By Saroj Sharma
There is festivity in the air this week in Gujarat with spirits soaring in much the same way as the kites which in millions are festooning the blue skies with. And the Narendra Modi government is keeping its fingers crossed that its Uttarayan-linked, ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ summit, held in Ahmedabad on January 12 and 13, will rake in investments surpassing the Rs 66,000 crore worth of MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding) which the state government inked with investors at the first investor summit held in Gujarat last year.
Speaking to Organiser days before the second ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ summit, Chief Minister Narendra Modi expressed optimism over the success of the summit. “Our USP is that we have actually replaced the red tape with a red carpet for those willing to pump in investments into the state. Apart from that too, the state has many plus points. With a 2,200 gas grid coming up in Gujarat of which 1,600 km has already been laid, Gujarat will be the first state with a gas-based economy which should be a major attraction for potential investors.” Explaining the rationale behind linking popular festivals of state like Uttarayan and Navaratri to investment summits over the last couple of years, Shri Modi said, “Like other Western countries that popularise themselves through popular festivals like the Beer Festival in Germany or the Tomato Festival in Latin America, we decided to sell our state to the Western audience by promoting the Navaratri as the longest dance festival in the world. Nowhere in the world do lakhs of young boys and girls spend nine consecutive nights dancing in gay till the wee hours of the night without any restraint and some years down the line, I expect that fun-loving people all over the world will tick mark the Navaratri festival on their calendar in advance.”
Fun and frolic aside, the festivals in Gujarat have also become synonymous with serious business for the state government recently. Last year alone, the government raked in proposed investments to the tune of a whopping Rs 66,000 crore of which almost 85 per cent, or Rs 56,000 crore are in various stages of implementation. “There is a natural vibrancy in Gujarat along with a locational advantage which we are planning to capitalise on,” explained Shri Modi. “For instance, with a 1,600-km-coastline, we are planning to convert Gujarat into a SEZ (special economic zone) capital of the country with as many as seven SEZs in the state. My dream is to make each SEZ into a little Singapore,” he added.
Inherent advantages that Gujarat enjoys are, however, not the only assets that the Gujarat Chief Minister is planning to capitalise on in his quest to convert his state into the most industrialised one in the country. It goes to the go-getter nature of Shri Modi who is busy converting Gujarat’s weaknesses into strengths as well. In a state that is acutely water-starved, Gujarat has earmarked a sum of Rs 1,600 crore over the next year for drip irrigation schemes to popularise this unique method of optimal utilisation of minimum quantities of water to cultivate crops. Modi’s ambitious Rs 6,000-crore Sujalam Safalam water management project is also underway at break neck speed to meet the Gujarat CM’s deadline of completion by year-end. “Though doubts were raised about where we would generate funds from for this project, we have budgeted a portion of the fund requirement from the state coffers and have also managed to secure a loan from NABARD,” revealed Shri Modi.
Once the water management and drip irrigation projects are set in motion, Shri Modi hopes that Gujarat would become the second state in the country, after Punjab, to herald a green revolution. “But while Punjab was able to usher in the green revolution because of plenty of water, we will be able to bring in a green revolution with minimal and optimal utilisation of water,” he said.
That there are tangible signs of development in Gujarat today is evident for all to see. Not only is Gujarat the largest generator of employment in the past two years consecutively based on statistics compiled by the Centre and labour reports, but Gujarat also ranks number one in sale of two-wheelers in rural India. Both Hero Honda and Bajaj have sold the largest number of two-wheelers in the country in the villages of Gujarat—an indicator of the growing affluence of the rural populace in this state. “We hope that very soon we’ll be the number one state in investment sweepstakes too,” said Shri Modi to Organiser. To achieve this, the state is focusing on a large number of new investment sectors in this year’s ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ summit. Apart from the conventional sectors like energy, gas and petroleum, agro-industries and tourism, the state government has added urban development, financial services, emerging technologies, engineering and automobiles to this list besides including gems and jewellery and textiles. Given the scenario, it would not be surprising if Gujarat once again regains its position as the most preferred investment destination in India.