Ahmedabad: Chhatisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi is a busy man these days. He is on a mission to attract investments to his state, which he describes as ''one of the richest states housing one of the poorest people.''
Entrepreneurs from various states have been invited to set up base in India's ninth-largest state, but Gujarat has received a special welcome. Recently Jogi visited the highly industrialised state in a bid to convince entrepreneurs to set up shop in Chhatisgarh.
During his visit Jogi convinced industrialists that his state has a lot to offer them. ''We are a new state, we have a vision and we need investment from other states to realise that vision. On our part, we will give the investors the best of facilities and good governance. My firm belief is that if you provide good governance and good infrastructure, investment will follow,'' says an optimistic Jogi.
Though Chhatisgarh has identified various sectors like agro- and forest-based industries, mineral-based and traditional industries, including handicrafts and handlooms as its thrust areas, it is power projects that Jogi is asking Gujarati entrepreneurs to set up there.
In fact, the unique selling point of Chhatisgarh is that it is one of the few power surplus states that can provide uninterrupted and cheap power to many parts of the country. Explains Jogi: ''Our power can be the cheapest.''
Chhatisgarh has the potential to generate 50,000mw of power and the state already has about 7,000mw worth of projects in the pipeline. Of the Rs 43,000-crore investment commitments that the state has in its kitty, the investment in the power sector alone is to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore.
The Gujarat government is also planning to set up a 500mw power plant in the state. Chhatisgarh supplies power at the rate of Rs 2.50 per unit, perhaps the cheapest in the country. The implementation of the various power projects, which will generate 7,000mw of electricity, is currently under way.
Jogi, nevertheless, is very clear about how he plans to market power. ''I don't believe in supplying power free of cost. Even farmers have to pay for consuming good quality, uninterrupted power supply.''
Apart from ensuring abundance of power, the state has chalked up various incentives to woo investors. In order to provide time-bound clearances to new projects, Chhatisgarh has formulated the Chhatisgarh Investment Promotion Act, 2002, under which the government is legally bound to give all necessary clearances for new investments within a stipulated time period - the only state to have enacted this kind of a time-bound law.
The incentives for the new projects include waivers of duty on consumption of electricity for a period of 15 years, entry tax in respect of capital goods and raw materials, stamp duty and registration fee. However, Jogi is not depending on sops alone. ''In the long run, we want investors to recognise the inherent strength of the state - the subsidies and sops are just the initial attraction.''
So, he would like to invite entrepreneurs and investors on the basis of round-the-clock, good-quality power, good environment, hassle-free process of application forms, good roads, developed industrial estates and parks, good educational institutions and the like. ''Eventually, we would like to be recognised as a state that has infrastructure strengths and natural reserves.''
Incidentally, the state has abundant reserves of coal, iron ore, bauxite and limestone, as also a presence of diamonds and gold. The other natural resource found aplenty is water. With perennial rivers flowing through Chhatisgarh and 44 per cent of the state under forest cover, this valuable resource gets taken care of.
On the infrastructure front, several projects are under way. ''An ambitious road development programme has improved almost all roads in the state. A special corridor development project has been taken up, with two north-south and four east-west corridors of a total length of 2,960 km,'' says Jogi. This project is slated to be ready by March 2003. Moreover, being on the Mumbai-Kolkata rail route, the rail connectivity is also good.
''But capital infrastructure is not all,'' Jogi reflects. ''We are giving due importance to social infrastructure as well. With a literacy rate of 65 per cent [surprise, surprise!] and one of the better healthcare services, we feel there is an ample opportunity for the service sector to come in as well.''
Looking at IT
Jogi is also attempting to do a Naidu, albeit fairly modestly. ''With a view to popularising information technology in our state, we have made teaching of English compulsory right from Std I in all primary schools in the state. Unless the state becomes IT-savvy, it cannot catch up with the more developed states of the country.''
Jogi also presents the compactness of his government in terms of size as one of the attractions of the state. ''We are a large state with a small government that is committed to providing good governance and good infrastructure. The state has only 80 bureaucrats to manage the administration, as against 300 for Tamil Nadu, 260 for Karnataka and 250 for Gujarat, these being the states which are almost equal in size to Chhatisgarh.''
Accordingly, Chhatisgarh spends only 40 per cent on administration expenses as against 70 to 80 per cent being spent by most other states. Adds Jogi: ''We also adopted a five-year industrial policy in 2001. The four basic strategies identified in the policy are cluster-based industrial development, good governance, excellent infrastructure and improving the competitiveness of small-scale industries.''
In fact, immediately after the creation of the state, Jogi decided to wind up all state-owned corporations and handed over their activities to the private sector. And it is the private sector he now beckons. Any takers?
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