'Seven Years of GIFT', now in form of a book

Written by Avinash Nair | Ahmedabad | Updated: Sep 30 2014, 20:26pm hrs
A seven-year-long history of how the country's first smart city--- Gujarat International Finance Tec-City or GIFT --- was conceptualised and how it struggled to become a reality will now be documented in form of a book which will possibly be unveiled during the upcoming Vibrant Gujarat summit in January 2015. It will also carry references to the contributions made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was at the helm of affairs in Gujarat.

The ambitious Rs 78,000 crore GIFT-city project located in Gandhinagar on the banks of Sabarmati, started off as Government of Gujarat-initiative to develop a state-of-the-art Global Financial Hub to rival the likes of La Defense in Paris, Shinjuku in Tokyo, Dockyard in London and Lujiazui in Pudong, China.

"There was a time when we started off from scratch and nobody ever believed the project will see the light of the day. Now the project is on a fast track and we are documenting the seven years of history of the greenfield project beginning from 2007 when it was conceptualised," said RK Jha, director of Gujarat International Finance Tec-City Company Ltd which is a joint venture company between state-run Gujarat Urban Development Company Ltd (GUDCL) and a private firm Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd (IL&FS).

"The book, that will ideally contain 200-250 pages, will recount all the up and downs the project has faced," said Jha while talking about the project which has been one of pet projects of Modi in Gujarat.

The project has faced its lowest ebb between 2007-10 when both the international and the domestic markets were in doldrums after the global meltdown. "We literally struggled to get the project started," said Jha who has been heading the project since the last five years. Though the project was envisaged in 2007, the actual ground work started in October 2011, after the state government transferred 673 acres of land to the company in June the same year. Though the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had raised a red-flag and stated that the land was allotted in "contravention to the state government's land policy", the project went on to achieve its financial closure of Rs 1157 crore in May this year for Phase-I of developments.

"So far, GIFT has attracted Rs 8000 crore of investments in which 11 million square feet of space has been allotted to over 12 different projects. These projects will be completed by 2016 and will create 30,000 jobs," said Dipesh Shah, vice-president (business development), GIFT Company Ltd while talking about how the project has picked up pace in the last one year or so.

In it's initial phases, the project has survived only with the support of the Gujarat government. In fact it was Modi who had marketed the project in most of his political and business gatherings. "The book will also carry references to Modi who has been the driving force behind the project," the GIFT official said.

In fact it was Modi who inaugurated the first tower --- nicknamed GIFT-One --- within the project in January 2013 with much fanfare. Though a second tower of a similar size is ready for occupation besides the first one, these structures still remain the tallest structures of Gujarat as far as the sheer size is concerned.

Modi was also instrumental in bringing the first wave of investments into GIFT project. In February 2014, before the Lok Sabha elections, Modi spearheaded a national summit on financial services that has been organised to provide the much-needed push to the project. Modi held a close door round table discussion with top officials of ICICI Bank, Bank of Baroda, State Bank of India, HDFC Bank, New India Assurance Co Ltd, General Insurance Company of India and others and also presented allotment letters to State Bank of India, US-based World Trade Centre, Tata Communications, I-Plex and Global Group for investing a total of Rs 1000 crore in the GIFT city project.

Recently, the project has also received a formal approval from the Government of India, opening it up for funding from the Centre.

BOX: WHAT IS GIFT PROJECT

- An international financial centre being built at a cost of Rs 78,000 crore that will rival similar centres in London, Tokyo and China

- This hi-tech city spread over 886 acres in Gandhinagar will have 110 multi-storied towers; the tallest will have 88 floors

- It will have a common command and control centre that will monitor all buildings, optimise energy use and respond automatically to faults and emergencies.

- It will have automated waste collection centre, district cooling plant, multilevel parking hubs and an integrated urban transport system

- It will have a 200 MW power plant that will provide part of the 800 MW of power requirement of GIFT

- Tata Communications has planned to build a data centre at a cost of Rs 500 crore

- 60 MLD (million liters per day) of Narmada water to be provided. Current requirement is about 2 MLD