Of promises that never materialised
   Date :19-Feb-2022

By Vijay Phanshikar :
When the Government does not deliver on the promises it makes about any mega and special and favourite project for well over twenty years, then the people draw mainly two conclusions: One, the Government made fake promises about which it was never serious; and two, (more charitably) it failed to deliver on what it committed. In the case of MIHAN -- Multi-Modal International Hub At Nagpur -- the common people are drawing both these conclusions, as per their respective perspectives. No matter whatever has been achieved in MIHAN -- which too is worth being noted -- the first impression of the larger picture is that the administration (whichever agency or bunch of agencies or Special Purpose Vehicle - SPV -, as they call it) has not delivered upon its own promises. Even if some truly big-ticket industrial enterprises have arrived at MIHAN in the past some years and are functioning there as per their own styles, their collective worth is much lower than the overall worth of the activity promised by the administration when it first floated the so-called prestigious project.
Despite the fact that some projects -- private or Government sector -- have been positioned at MIHAN, the overall reality is that the project has performed far below par in the last two-plus decades. By no standard can this be described as a success, no matter how a few proponents may like to paint the picture. The loosefooter chose to write this “Extra” Footloose in Nagpur besides its weekly time-table because he wanted to put things in the right perspective. He has been watching the growth-process of Nagpur city with much care, concern and caution for long. He has been visiting MIHAN on several occasions for various reasons, and has returned with a sense of disappointment, thanks to the below-par performance of the experiment. Before writing the last piece in rather angry words, the loosefooter visited the MIHAN project with a very senior colleague -- so that together the twosome could rationalise the joint observations.
Both arrived at the same conclusion -- that MIHAN is a failed project, to say the least. No matter the few projects that are operating in MIHAN, every word in the last edition of ‘Footloose ..’ is true to its form and content. Let us recall some of the many, many, many promises that the administration made as it launched MIHAN. It talked about an international aircraft repair depot by a prestigious aviation major. That activity is yet to take a sensible shape, leave alone the Public-Relations images the administration may carry for common people’s consumption. The administration also said that that activity would promote an emergence of aviation-subsidiaries by way of which lakhs of pilots, lakhs of technical staff, lakhs of ground-assistance staff, lakhs of flight-persers, lakhs of air-hostesses, lots of ticketing and administrative staff would be needed. In pursuance with those terrific projections, many training institutes, too, sprang up on the city’s landscape. The loosefooter was a key-note speaker at a seminar in a B-school nearly 12-13 years ago where Mr. R.C. Sinha, the so-called celebrated public servant, made tall talk about the generation of about half a million jobs in aviation sector plus other industries at MIHAN. Yet, he could not answer some simple questions the loosefooter raised about the credibility of the material on offer. He was very disturbed.
Hiding behind the Special Economic Zone (SEZ), some smart alec builder also tried to sell his housing project to gullible buyers in the larger society even though he had no permission to do so to the non-SEZ users. It was ‘The Hitavada’ that unearthed the scandal and blocked corrupt practices -- at much risk. In the process, ‘The Hitavada’ was served with a libel suit seeking a Rs. 100 crore as compensation. No threat worked, and the project had to be abandoned at that time. The people of Nagpur stood tall and firm with ‘The Hitavada’, which was a great chapter in the history of “People’s Paper”. Yet, the city was willing to buy all those promises. The city’s Rotary Clubs -- all of them -- came together to felicitate Mr. R.C. Sinha with a Professional Excellence Award. Everybody believed that in the next few years, the city of Nagpur would become an important magnetic point on the international map. And what happened in the long term? That is for all of us to see. MIHAN is a project that has performed terribly on every count -- including that of investment.
The aviation sector has just not taken off. The industrial investment, too, is far below the projects. The overall employment generation must not have touched even 10 per cent of the promised number. The loosefooter’s heart aches with such a fraud. ‘The Hitavada’ has always welcomed every bit of development in the region. But it has refused to be bought over by fake promises and wrong brand of growth and development. It is out of this concern, ‘The Hitavada’ has never stopped short of its commitment to its avowed mission. n