Now you see, now you don’t.
The state government seems to be playing the rabbit trick on the industry with élan.
A dream hotel and a state-of-the-art sugar mill, totalling an investment of around Rs 150 crore, which the state announced with pride, are lost on the road to reality.
In September last year, Bihar had announced that the Tata-led Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), which operates the Taj brand, would open a five-star property, a first for the state, at Rs 92 crore.
The project was one of the 102 proposals passed by the State Investment Promotion Board (SIPB). Similarly, after taking part in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Kerala in January this year, the state government had announced that the India Brazil Chamber of Commerce had proposed to set up a modern sugar mill in Bihar.
Out on a status check, The Telegraph found out that none of the officials concerned had any inkling about the two projects. “Afzal Amanullah, the former principal secretary of the industries department who is on central deputation, had said the SIPB had approved the Taj proposal. The group, he had said, was searching for around eight acres in or around Patna,” said a city-based industrialist.
The information on the hotel project finds mention on the www.udyogmitrabihar.com website of Udyog Mitra, a part of the industries department that assists entrepreneurs with their projects.
A majority of industries department officials, however, had no clue about it. But one of the officials said: “Yes, the SIPB had approved the project and the department was quite upbeat about it. But they never reverted. It seems they just slept over the project.”
The Telegraph contacted the Taj Group, which denied having any project in Bihar.
“The 112th annual report (2012-13) of IHCL has no mention of Bihar. The group doesn’t have any project in the state,” said Nafisa Islam, the account manager at the Edelman India Private Limited, the public relations firm of IHCL.
Sources cited land problem as the main roadblock. “They (Taj Group) wanted land in or around Patna. But the government clarified that the group would have to search land by itself. Hence, the project seems to have been shelved,” said another industrialist.
In contrast, the sugar mill project is absolutely in the dark. After the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in January, principal secretary Naveen Verma had said: “The government would follow up on a proposal for the setting up of a sugar mill by the India-Brazil Chamber of Commerce. We would finalise the details soon.”
None could say anything on the project. Industries department officials had said the proposal had been forwarded to the sugarcane industries department. However, sugarcane industries minister Awadhesh Prasad Kushwaha said: “Our department has not received any such proposal from the industries department.”
Reflecting the mood of the industry, a city-based industrialist said: “These two big projects could have become a turning point for Bihar’s industrialisation. It’s strange that those were forgotten or vanished. The lack of focus and seriousness is evident.”