Business Bureau :
They -- the Government of Maharashtra, politicians of different parties, and the officialdom -- promised fantastic industrial growth, great rise in employment, fantastic prosperity of the development-starved city and region. Twenty years later, only 54 industrial enterprises are operating at Multi-modal International Hub at Nagpur -- MIHAN -- out of the total 102 to which land was allotted. The rest have just failed to start their operations. This is the story of the prestigious, ambitious project of Nagpur. This is the story of a comprehensive failure of a much-publicised, much-hyped project of Maharashtra’s second capital. This is the story of how a seemingly good project fell flat on its first because even after a lapse of two decades, it is still tottering in almost every which the way. If the statistical detail indicates how only 54 companies started their operations at MIHAN Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and 48 could not citing various reasons, then it also indicates how the authorities could not exert appropriate pressure on the errant units and make them fulfill their own promises. The fact-file that has come up after even a superficial probe by ‘The Hitavada’ shows that the MIHAN-SEZ project became a subject of mockery of the people because it was fundamentally ill-planned, and embellished with tall talk and fat promises by the State Government. In the past twenty years, nothing has worked -- and the project is fully exposed as a comprehensive failure. Instead of changing the face of the city and region, MIHAN is now trying to hide its face or save its face from dirty public glare. Some of the companies have either backed out citing different reasons while the Letters of Approval (LoA) of many companies have lapsed. In many other cases, the authorities have issued notices to the companies seeking cancellation of their permission to operate in the SEZ.
The Development Commissioner or the Board of Approvals (BoA) give LoAs that are essential for the companies to operate in the SEZ. Development Commissioner for MIHAN-SEZ Sraman Vasireddy confirmed the figures of the companies that have started operations and those who did not. “Some of the companies have opted for debonding (withdrawal from operations after getting permission to start functioning) while LoAs of some units lapsed. Apart from this, we have recently issued notices to 31 companies seeking cancellation of their LoAs,” he told ‘The Hitavada’. The companies whose LoAs have been cancelled for one or the other reason, may start their operations in the SEZ. In that case, “however, such companies will have to pay a penalty and give a valid reason for the delay,” Sraman Vasireddy said. However, sources said that some of the companies that are planning to restart their operations are opposing the additional financial burden in the form penalty. “On the contrary, some of them are demanding concessions,” they said. The authorities are unwilling to offer any more concessions to errant companies. The SEZ, spread over 1500 acres in MIHAN project has already offered massive concessions to units as regards Property Tax, Stamp Duty and power-tariff among others. While launching the project, policy makers, Government officials and others had anticipated that it would speed up industrial growth in the region and open up huge job opportunities. For reasons the State Government may want to fudge from public eye, none of the projections seems to have fulfilled the word of promise.
Instead of admitting the failure and investigating the real and genuine reasons for the same, the State Government appears interested in somehow dodging the issue. In fact, the Maharashtra Government launched Special Purpose Vehicles like the Maharashtra Airport Development Company Limited (MADC) in 2002 to develop the Multi-modal International Hub Airport at Nagpur. The MADC is a developer which along with other co-developers building infrastructure in the area. Despite such elaborate administrative infrastructure and mechanism, the MIHAN project has not even got started in a true measure. There is no doubt that many of the units already operating in the SEZ are real big-ticket enterprises with international renown -- for example, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys, HCL, Globallogic, Lupin, Patanjali, Reliance Defence ...! There also are prestigious Government projects such as the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the Indian Institute of Management (IIM). But these entities do not measure up fully to the original promises made by the State Government -- keeping the story incomplete.