Showcasing Gujarat

The 7th Vibrant Gujarat Summit attracted global political and business leaders, who shared the platform with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and vowed to invest in the state.

By Sthapati

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IT was one of the highest-profile business events to be staged by a state government in India. The seventh Vibrant Gujarat Summit (VGS), held at Mahatma Mandir, Gandhinagar, saw the who’s who of political and business leaders descend on the state capital.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who launched VGS in 2003 as the then chief minister of the state, was present this year as well to welcome the dignitaries. Held between January 11 and 13, state government officials declared the summit as a resounding success.

Indeed, among the high-profile leaders who participated in the summit were Ban Ki-Moon, the UN General Secretary; John Kerry, the US secretary of state; Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank; and top Indian industrialists including Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani, Ratan Tata, Cyrus Mistry, Shashi Ruia and Gautam Adani.

“The moment has never been more right to tap the incredible possibilities between our two shared countries,” declared Kerry at the VGS. “We can do more together and we must do more together and we

must do it faster.” He also praised Modi’s ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas,’ campaign and the Make in India initiative. “We will turn Modi’s Make in India initiative into a win-win opportunity for the planet as a whole,” he enthused.

The VGS, held every two years, is fast shaping up to be the Davos of the East, with global leaders interacting with their Indian counterparts. At the latest summit, about 21,000 memorandum of understandings (MoUs) worth a whopping `25 trillion (more than $400 billion) were signed, said Anandiben Patel,

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the Gujarat chief minister. Some 1,225 strategic partnership deals were also signed during the event. However, company-specific investment details were not announced. More than 2,200 MoUs were signed in the “large sector” category which involves projects worth more than `500 million.

However, amidst the hype surrounding the VGS and the thousands of MoUs that are signed at the event every two years, the actual investment that is generated is way below the intention.

According to estimates, many of the projects get dropped later on, resulting in reduced inflows of investment. In 2011, for instance, nearly a sixth of the proposals did not materialise, according to an estimate.

At this year’s summit, Indian corporate giants like Reliance Industries, Adani Group, Aditya Birla Group, Suzlon, Videocon and foreign players like Rio Tinto, Suzuki and CLP Holdings disclosed their investment plans in Gujarat for the coming years.

As many as eight countries joined the event as ‘partner countries’ at the latest summit. There were 14 country seminars during the event and some 25,000 delegates visited Vibrant Gujarat 2015.

Government sources claim that the summits have been a resounding success that immensely contributed to transformation of Gujarat into a ‘global business hub.’ ‘Vibrant Gujarat,’ which began as an investors’ summit has now evolved into an ideal platform for knowledge sharing, and social and business transformation. VGS has gradually evolved into a round-the-year investment promotion exercise with events scheduled well in advance of the main summit planned in 2015.

The prime focus of the state government is inclusive development and the key areas for development identified included innovation, sustainability, youth and skills development, knowledge sharing and networking.

Interestingly, chief ministers from other states also attend the event to showcase their strengths, highlight business opportunities and facilitate knowledge dissemination. It also provides an attractive opportunity to the participants to understand the potential of Gujarat in various sectors. Besides, it provides a platform to interact with policy makers, industry leaders, and renowned academicians from all over the world.

Modi used the platform to hard sell India as the best investment destination to the world business community. “We will be available to hold

your hands whenever you need us,” he declared. “My government is committed to create a policy environment that is predictable, transparent and fair.” He said the government is focusing on building infrastructure through public and private partnership.

Out of the total investment commitments of `25 trillion, UK-based Solaria Group Consortium signed an MoU worth `5 trillion. The MoU was signed with the urban department of the state government for housing, architectural services, smart city infrastructure, solid waste management etc. Solaria group will bring UK-based companies to Gujarat and will facilitate joint venture projects with various companies.

The success of Vibrant Gujarat has encouraged other states in India to host similar events to attract investments. But Gujarat’s success can be attributed to many other factors, as Shefali Kaur Kaler points out

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Getting on the ‘vikas’ bandwagon

WHILE Gujarat has always projected itself as an investor-friendly state, other state governments are now trying to project themselves in a similar fashion, organising international investor meets. These include states such as Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Kerala.

Political leaders are getting on to the ‘vikas’ (progress) bandwagon, looking at the success of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been focusing on development and growth over the last one year. His campaign has of course paid handsome dividends, resulting in the BJP government coming to power at the centre on its own strength, and also winning many state elections in recent months.

Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have been aggressively promoting themselves of late. In fact, at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit last month in Gandhinagar, top bureaucrats from Lucknow were promoting an ‘Uttar Pradesh Rising’ campaign, hoping to woo industrialists and investors who had gathered in Gujarat.

West Bengal, too, a new entrant to the global investor summit circuit, also hosted a business summit around the time of the VBS and chief minister Mamata Banerjee claimed that the government had signed memorandums of understanding amounting to `2.43 trillion.

Gujarat’s progress over the past few years, however, cannot be attributed only to the VGS events that have been held since 2003. Besides hosting these high-profile events, the state has initiated many moves that have boosted growth. We list below some of the major schemes that have contributed significantly to the progress of the state:

Jyotigram:

The Jyotigram Yojna ensures continuous 24 hours power supply for the development of villages. The scheme started with the active participation of the public. With the scheme’s implementation villages in Gujarat got uninterrupted power supply, resulting in new opportunities for employment. The living standards of villagers has also improved substantially.

BRTS and upgradation of state transport:

The launch of the bus rapid transit system (BRTS) in Ahmedabad is a matter of pride for its citizens. The government now plans to expand the swanky, BRTS service to other cities of Gujarat as well. Apart from this, the state transport buses have also been upgraded and people using public transport have gained because of improved service.

Emergency ambulance service:

The emergency ambulance service of 108 is one of the biggest achievements of Modi. This service has proven beneficial to people suffering from serious diseases or those involved in major accidents.

Amitabh Bachchan and ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’:

Gujarat began to shine on the global tourism map of the world during Modi’s chief ministership and foreign tourists have started visiting Gujarat in large numbers It was a masterstroke on the government’s part to feature Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan in its ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ advertising and promotion campaign.

Khel Mahakumbh:

Hosting events such as Khel Mahakumbh has resulted in encouragement for urban and rural youth to participate in sports. It has also brought out new talent in various sports fields.

Emergence of the state as an auto hub:

Leading automobile majors including Tata Motors, Ford Motor Company and Maruti have set up major operations in the state. Tata Motors, in fact, relocated its Nano project from West Bengal – where an agitation had been launched against its acquisition of land for a manufacturing facility – to Gujarat, leading to a rush of other car makers. This has generated revenues for the government and also led to creation of thousands of new jobs.

Krishi Mahotsav:

Even in the 21st century, agriculture has a significant role in the Indian economy. Modi had launched the Krishi Mahotsav when he was chief minister, encouraging scientific research and innovation in agriculture.

E-governance:

The government launched E-Dhara, which saw computerisation of city survey offices and survey records. Farmers are now able to get accurate details about land records within minutes, thanks to E-Dhara. Computerisation has also resulted in huge improvement in efficiencies in the revenue department and in the city survey offices.

Panchamrut:

By bringing Narmada waters to Sabarmati river, the dream of a river grid was realised for the first time in India. There was a time when the Sabarmati was largely dry and was used as a dumping ground.

But today because of the success in bringing the Narmada waters, it is in full flow. The Riverfront project in Ahmedabad was also successfully implemented and today it has become the main tourist attraction.

Enriching human values:

By starting projects like Kanya Kelavni Rathyatra, Shala Praveshotsav, Vidhyadip Yojna or Kanya Kelavni Nidhi, Gujarat’s education sector has got a much-needed boost.

Sagarkhedu and salt workers welfare:

Gujarat has a 1,600-km-long coast and to improve the lives of fishermen and salt workers, the government launched welfare schemes such as ‘Sagarkhedu’.

While Modi initiated VGS in 2003, he has also undertaken several other projects that ensured rapid growth of the state and generation of thousands of new jobs.