Dharmendra Jore: Invest and make for the distressed

It’s finally time for Maharashtra’s hinterland to catch up economically, with a promised investment of Rs 62,000 crore so far

The one leader besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi who left a mark on the delgates at the Make in India Week’s first two days was Devendra Fadnavis. The Maharashtra chief minister seems to be the chosen one when it comes to Modi’s his pet project to boost manufacturing. Fadnavis was the PM’s pick for the top office in the state — whose capital became the chosen city to host the mega event. Fadnavis also has the distinction of travelling abroad with the PM for investment summits. Little wonder then that Maharashtra raced ahead of competition on day one itself, inking agreements (MoUs) worth Rs 62,000 crore with both Indian and international players, even as other CMs arrived in Mumbai to lure investors.

Fadnavis says these MoUs will be a game-changer in the state’s efforts to remove regional imbalance in economic development. Be it commerce, trade or industry, Maharashtra has been in the forefront for over a century and Mumbai has maintained its status as the country’s financial capital. But if we remove Mumbai, Pune and Nashik, what remains is the stark reality of underprivileged people denied the same opportunities in sectors like industry, manufacturing, agro-processing and service sectors.

What stood out on Saturday was the textile and apparel major Raymond’s commitment to the backward region at a time when convincing corporates for similar destinations has been challenging. The Gautam Singhania-led company has been operating a mega textile factory, Raymond UCO Denim, in the cotton-rich Yavatmal district — also a hotbed of farm suicides — for two decades now. On Saturday, Singhania inked another deal to set up a Rs 1,400-crore unit in the neighbouring Amravati to manufacture linen yarn, cotton apparel and denim under the ‘Farm to Fabric’ initiative. This factory will generate direct and indirect jobs for 8,100 people. Singhania’s faith in these unexplored regions should show the way for other corporates who wished to take the plunge but weren’t sure of the results.

Fadnavis also bagged Rs 60,000 crore for the crisis-hit Vidarbha and Marathwada through Sterlite Technologies, which will create direct and indirect employment for 30,000 people over the next 10 years. Sterlite’s liquid crystal display (LCD) fabrication units are expected to infuse some financial stability in the farmer suicide-affected areas.

Famously called ‘Maharashtra’s California’ for the international quality oranges grown there, the citrus belt spanning Amravati and Nagpur districts will finally get a fruit processing unit. The Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd and Jain Irrigation will set it up at Warud. Currently, farmers here suffer huge losses because of the lack of an agro processing facility. According to local MLA, Dr Anil Bonde, more than one third of the total perishable orange produce is thrown on the sidelines of farms and roads to rot each year. “Farmers will benefit if we are able to carry this produce for processing before it perishes,” he said. The project, including a production/bottling plant and training for farmers by Brazilian experts, will cost Rs 600 crore.

We’re sure there will be more MoUs to come this week. However, Maharashtra’s record of fulfilling agreements is under par despite being a hot investment destination. We had MoUs worth R3 lakh crore between 1991 and 2014, of which only a third was actually invested. Competition from Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is growing every year. For example, Ahmedabad’s upcoming ‘GIFT City’ (Gujarat International Finance Tech City) is seen as a challenge to Fadnavis’ dream project of creating the International Finance Service Centre at Mumbai’s BKC, where Make in India is being celebrated. Investors are already asking as to how practical it would be to have two international finance centres operating at such a short distance.

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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