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Dhoni bats T20 style on business pitch

MS Dhoni speaks at the opening of the Global Investors’ Summit in Ranchi on Thursday. Picture by Prashant Mitra

Ranchi, Feb. 16: The road to progress is never easy. And the over 5,000 people attending the inauguration of Momentum Jharkhand found out just how taxing the business of wooing investments for a determined state can be when it had to sit through speeches of over 15 dignitaries that included five Union ministers, five ambassadors and high commissioners, six industry leaders, one chief minister and one cricketer for three-and-a-half hours.

Former Team India skipper and Jharkhand's favourite son Mahendra Singh Dhoni drew spontaneous applause throughout the function, whenever others spoke of him and when he praised the state's leadership under chief minister Raghubar Das, the Centre's guidance and the importance of a team to back them.

"I speak here as a boy born and brought up here and not as a celebrity or cricketer," he noted after referring to Jharkhand's mineral wealth, reminding everyone that the state was also No. 2 in peas and potato production.

"I know I haven't touched on a lot of the topics that people expect me to. But today it's not about anything particular. It's not about only sports or industries or farmers or farming. It's about Jharkhand as a whole," he said to thunderous applause, in a way summing up the best intentions of Jharkhand's first ever investors' summit that has drawn over 9,000 delegates from across the country and abroad.

"In your success we shall measure ours," he signed off, again to a hearty applause.

If Dhoni's crisp but meaningful observations were a T20 approach to the summit, built up by the Raghubar Das government as a marquee event over the last year, the proceedings of the day were clearly in Test match format.

A massive stage had been erected to seat the over 30 VVIP invitees while two large LED screens on either end beamed the speeches live for the others seated at Harivansh Tana Bhagat Indoor Stadium, which is the size of at least three basketball courts.

The arrival of Union finance minister and chief guest Arun Jaitley and a few others were delayed - (will we ever learn to respect time and schedules?) - which meant multiple viewings of a 40-second short video featuring Dhoni exhorting people to join Jharkhand in its future pursuits.

" Yeh haathi zaroor udega (This elephant will fly)," he says in the film, referring to the red and green baby elephant logo that has been designed to represent the state's characteristics - strength, natural resources and speed. "Aur Jharkhand India ka number one investment destination banega. Ab sawal yeh hai ke aap hamarey saath honge (The question is, will you be with us)?"

There's applause and loud cheers from all corners of the stadium, decked up with the Tricolour and flags of the four partner nations, Japan, Czech Republic, Mongolia and Tunisia, and massive dropdown hoardings featuring the chief minister and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi did not address the gathering over video hook-up as planned, perhaps because the day's schedule had gone awry by over an hour. Instead, state rural development minister Neelkanth Singh Munda read out a message that essentially wished the summit and the state well.

But Union minister for urban development Venkaiah Naidu ensured Modi was on everybody's lips. "We have a Prime Minister whose mission we have termed MODI, or, Making of Developed India..." he said, perking up a tired audience that burst into a bout of frenzied clapping.

"Jharkhand is no longer a bimaru state. It is beautiful, people are dutiful, your ambassador is powerful, CM is mindful and PM is helpful. What else do you need?" he said.

Industrialists heading business houses with a long presence in the state, like Ratan Tata, Kumar Mangalam Birla and Naveen Jindal, spoke of how pleasant their experience of doing business here has been.

Jindal, who is already running a 1.6MTPA steel plant in Patratu, Ramgarh, recalled how 2,000 local youths on bikes welcomed them in a procession when they first came there, and Tata about the early days of his professional life in Jamshedpur.

"I got my first job in Jamshedpur, spent six years in Jamshedpur, which was then part of Bihar. The memories remained with me even when I was back in Mumbai," said Tata.

Mongolian ambassador Gonchig Ganbold began his address in Hindi and immediately endeared himself to Jharkhand for life.

" Aadarniya mukhyamantriji, mahamanya Bharat sarkar ke mantriyon aur yahan aaye ganamaniya logon, sabse pehle yeh kehna chahta hoon ki aaplogon ne itna achcha aayojan safaltapurwak kiya hai aur hamein aamantran kiya hai isske liye dhanyavad dena chahta hoon. (Dear chief minister and Union ministers, I want to thank you for inviting me)," he said, while Czech Republic ambassador Milan Hovorka recalled the time they collaborated to set up Ranchi's Heavy Engineering Corporation (HEC) that has only recently pulled off an amazing turnaround.

Japanese ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu said he was no stranger to the state. Tata-Hitachi, Nippon Steel and Kyocera CTC were only a few examples of the high presence of Japanese companies in Jamshedpur and neighbouring Adityapur.

Australian high commissioner Harinder Sidhu spoke of how they were looking forward to the Test match with India to be played next month in Ranchi, now that the stadium (the spectacular JSCA International Cricket Complex) had been certified as Test-worthy by none other than Australian cricketer and ICC match referee David Boon.

Chief minister Das spoke last, outlining his vision for the state. He also pointed to the day's historical significance. "This day of February 16 is also very important as on this day 105 years ago, the first ever steel ingot of the country was produced in Jamshedpur (on February 16, 1912)," he said.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley referred to the day's significance in his speech, saying how Jamshedpur was the first planned city of the country under the Tatas.

Chief secretary Rajbala Verma welcomed the gathering at the beginning while mines and geology secretary Sunil Kumar Barnwal delivered the vote of thanks.

Among the others on the dais were Union minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha, Union minister of state for agriculture Sudarshan Bhagat, Union urban development secretary and former state chief secretary Rajiv Gauba, state ministers C.P Singh, Saryu Roy, Randhir Singh, Amar Kumar Bauri, Louise Marandi, Neera Yadav and Ranchi mayor Asha Lakra.


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