A ‘visible’ progress on the ground will determine the fate of these projects, and that of Modi for his foray into 2019 polls, as the time is now for the PM to deliver on the crucial job front.
Foundation stones were laid for 81 projects worth Rs 60,000 crore in Lucknow by the Prime Minister, screamed headlines in most dailies a few days ago. It was entirely the Uttar Pradesh government show, attracting considerable media attention. The 81 projects, distributed across the state and located in some major cities, would have involved the PM taking over a week if he did it individually. So, it was a grand ceremony of a ‘virtual’ foundation stone-laying in Lucknow, attended by the crème de la crème of the Indian economy—who have all expressed a desire to invest in a state that had, until a few years ago, been almost written off.
It was also a measure of the confidence the captains of industry have in PM Narendra Modi, chief minister Yogi Adityanath and home minister Rajnath Singh, that their investments would be safe from the vagaries of political upheavals. Significantly, the home minister has publicly stated that, if needed, ‘extra’ security would be provided.
Historically, UP has thrown up most of the prime ministers with the largest number of MPs being returned to Lok Sabha, and Modi too appears to have a game-plan to make an impact by putting all economic and industrial eggs in the UP basket, instead of spreading them thin all over India.
By replicating Gujarat’s industry and business-friendly environment, he hopes to make UP a preferred destination for foreign entities also. CM Adityanath’s crusade over the last three years to rid UP of criminal elements and muscle men of all hues has hopefully created an environment where the rule of law and safety of life and property is paramount.
Earlier, the UP Investors Summit 2018, held in February, had led to generation of considerable interest across sectors, from renewable energy to infrastructure, power, IT, electronics and tourism. More than 80 industrialists, including Gautam Adani, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Subhash Chandra and Sanjiv Puri—all with deep pockets—were present as potential stakeholders in the economic growth of the state. Leading the charge was Adani, who is planning to invest Rs 36,500 crore, creating employment opportunities for almost 2 lakh people by establishing a multi-modal logistics park, thermal power plant, solar parks, roads, highways, integrated food complex and silos for food-grains. Interestingly, in the Rs 60,000 crore worth of projects, the Centre’s contribution is a mere Rs 5,000 crore—by BSNL, for laying optic fibre cables to make UP digitally strong. Mukesh Ambani, with an investment of Rs 10,000 crore, also plans to set up an optic fibre network, while no less five industrialists have opted for investment in IT and electronics sectors.
Topping the investment list is PK Alok, who plans to set up a World Trade Centre with an employment potential of a whopping 50,000, followed by Natarajan Chandrasekaran of TCS who will provide 30,000 jobs by setting up IT and ITeS centres, while Vipul Sharma of TEGNA Group hopes to generate another 30,000 jobs with an investment of Rs 5,000 crore for an electronics manufacturing cluster at Ecotech VI in Greater Noida. AV Ananth of Lulu Group of Kerala plans to set up a string of malls and multiplexes, providing another estimated 10,000 jobs. Akash Jalan of Narayani Laminates plans to set up an MSME with Rs 13.85 crore and a job potential of 38. All in all, an investment of Rs 61,746.67 crore in 81 projects is expected to generate 2,12,762 jobs.
As someone has rightly said, ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’ and ‘hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works’. While these investors have every intention to make their promise good, the real test will be for the state bureaucracy to rise to the occasion and pull out all stops to make Modi’s assault against the Opposition’s Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) a resounding success.
‘Rome was not built in a day’, nor will these projects see the light of day soon, however a visible progress on the ground starting with the vexatious issue of the allocation of litigation-free land will determine the fate of these projects, and that of Modi for his foray into 2019 polls, as the time is now for the Prime Minister to deliver on the crucial job front.
-The author is Former Member, Railway Board