Patna, Sept. 2: The government is set to convene the second meeting of the Bihar State Industrial Investment Advisory Council (BSIIAC) next month, but it has little to offer on the table in terms of availability of land and power — key concerns raised by India Inc.
“Our meetings with them (council members) have been in parts, that is, the government has been interacting with some of the members through video conferencing over the last year after the first meeting took place. The second formal meeting is now set to take place in Patna next month. At present, however, we don’t have information on whether all members of the council will attend the meeting,” said Naveen Verma, principal secretary, industries.
The council, headed by chief minister Nitish Kumar, has among its members ICICI Bank chairman K.V. Kamath, State Bank of India chairman Pratip Chaudhuri, Vedanta executive chairman Anil Agarwal, ITC chairman Y.C. Deveshwar, Godrej & Boyce chairman and managing director Jamshyd Godrej, Hindustan Unilever MD and CEO Nitin Paranjpe, Tata Sons finance director Ishaat Hussain and Max India chairman Analjit Singh.
At the first meeting of the council on September 15 last year, members had acknowledged that shortage of power was a big hurdle in the way of industrialisation in Bihar but had assured the Nitish government of investing in the sector to enable the chief minister to achieve his target of making the state energy self-sufficient by 2014-15.
That was about the only promise made, apart from Max India’s Analjit Singh’s pledge to set up a superspeciality hospital. None of the promises have been delivered.
Industry has made it clear that the government will first have to take concrete steps to improve the power situation and facilitate land acquisition before they take Bihar seriously as a business destination.
Industrialists sounded sceptical, saying the next meeting would also be a token one.
“During its first meeting last year, K.V. Kamath had categorically stated that though the state had seen development, stress on power and land was important and the need of the hour. Nothing much has changed since then. Also, promises made in the council meeting have not been fulfilled. Max had announced the setting up of a 350-bed superspeciality hospital in Patna at a cost of Rs 350 crore. That was the last one heard of the project. India Inc. is clear that investments will only come after the power situation improves in the state. The issues are about power and land and they remain,” an industrialist told The Telegraph on condition of anonymity.
Sources in the industries department said the thrust of the next meeting would be on land. “The government has realised that land is a bigger problem for them. Last year’s meeting focused on two issues — power and land. On the power front, work is going on. But the problem of land is bigger and is set to grow after the passage of the land acquisition bill. Landowners, who have already parted with their land, will start protests for better compensation as per the new bill. This year’s meeting will focus on land. A solution is, however, unlikely as the government is not interested in acquiring land by itself and hence the policy of Private Industrial Area has been passed by the state cabinet,” an official said under cover of anonymity.
Satyajit Kumar, the chairman of the PHD (Progress Harmony Development) Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Bihar, told The Telegraph that a letter had been sent to the chief minister requesting the council meeting.
“The meeting is important as it will provide a roadmap for the government which is struggling on the land and power fronts. The BSIIAC, in its earlier avatar as the Bihar Development and Investment Council in 2006, also had several important luminaries of the country on board but had failed to complete the task of drawing up a roadmap after its maiden meeting in April 2007. But with the power situation being almost the same as it was and the land issue turning into a mammoth one now after the Lok Sabha passed the land acquisition rehabilitation and resettlement bill, the meeting is important as industry bigwigs are expected to suggest a clear roadmap to deal with the situation,” Kumar told The Telegraph.