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Investor meet in season of rapes

Akhilesh Yadav

Lucknow, June 10: Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav plans to meet investors at a conclave in Delhi this week to hard-sell Uttar Pradesh as a business destination but political rivals dubbed the exercise a ruse to divert attention following a series of rapes and murders.

Opposition leaders said the June 12 meet, seen as the “prelude” to a global summit the heartland state is scheduled to host next year, was just “political eyewash” in this season of “woeful law and order”.

Senior state officials shrugged off the criticism as they readied to leave for the national capital tomorrow ahead of Thursday’s conclave. “The conclave is part of our exercise to seek private sector investments for job creation. We will increase awareness among investors about the rapidly improving business environment in the state,” new chief secretary Alok Ranjan told reporters in Lucknow today.

Sources said the conclave had been planned well before the recent national elections but conceded the timing had added to the government’s discomfiture.

Apart from the chief secretary, the principal secretaries and senior officials of several departments such as infrastructure, industries, food processing, renewable energy and information technology would be leaving for New Delhi tonight, they said.

Akhilesh, who is expected to interact with potential investors at the conclave, will begin the day with a breakfast meet in a group. “After that the chief minister is expected to meet industry leaders and business captains over one-to-one sessions to discuss concrete proposals, if any,” Ranjan said, adding the Samajwadi Party government was looking forward to investment proposals worth Rs 20,000 crore.

Later, the chief minister might also meet ambassadors and heads of industry chambers and associations from countries including the US, Canada, Germany, Italy, Taiwan, the Czech Republic, Turkey and the Netherlands. Ranjan said the conclave was the prelude to the Global Investors’ Summit scheduled in 2015.

In September 2012, Akhilesh had inaugurated the Global Investment Summit in Agra to create Brand Uttar Pradesh, but then saw his image slide following allegations of inept governance.

The recent serial rapes have further eroded his government’s credibility. While the storm over the Badaun gang rape and murder of two girls, which drew the attention of even the UN, is yet to blow over, the chairperson of the National Commission for Women slammed the chief minister yesterday.

“Even after more than 10 days since the horrific Badaun gang rape and murder case, nothing seems to have changed,” Mamta Sharma said. “Over seven gang-rape incidents have been reported since. There are no sincere efforts to arrest the rise of rapes.”

Vijay Bahadur Pathak, spokesperson for the state BJP, said the Delhi meet was just “political eye-wash as everyone knows no investor would show interest in Uttar Pradesh, which has earned the infamy of being the (country’s) rape and murder capital”.

Bahujan Samaj Party spokesperson S.P. Maurya, who demanded the chief minister’s resignation over the May 27 gang rape and murder of two Dalit girls in Badaun, said Akhilesh should “see the image of the state in the media’s mirror and then decide if he should hold a conclave”.

Rapes have also been reported from Etawah, Bareilly and Azamgarh. On the night of June 7, a BJP leader was murdered, igniting spasms of protests in Noida. Recurring rapes, tourism officials said, are believed to have affected the flow of foreign tourists to Agra.

The chief minister, however, appeared unruffled by the criticism. At a meeting in Lucknow today, Akhilesh directed the district magistrates and police chiefs of all the 75 districts to strengthen the state’s law and order.

Akhilesh had earlier cracked the whip, suspending and transferring officers in a massive bureaucratic overhaul to tone up the administration.

The government has also sought Allahabad High Court’s consent for creation of more fast-track courts to speed up rape trials.