The ninth edition of Vibrant Gujarat Global (VGG) ended after a three-day summit in Gandhinagar on January 21. Speaking at the concluding ceremony, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani stated that 28,360 memoranda of understanding were signed during the summit, and that it was expected to generate 21 lakhs jobs. Rupani, however, did not mention the specific amount of investments that would come through the MoUs signed during the VGG 2019.
Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel addressed the media later. He said, “The figures of the investment are not important. It is still being calculated. But the important thing is that the MoUs would lead to employment generation, and would boost economy.”
Patel added that out of total 28,360 MoUs signed, 21,889 were for the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector, 408 were signed in agro and food processing, 548 in power and gas, 1,516 in urban development, 977 in mineral-based projects, and 197 in engineering and auto sector.
Launched in the year 2003, the Vibrant Gujarat Summits are hailed as one of the cherished projects of Narendra Modi. The first edition of this summit was held in Tagore Hall, Ahmedabad that housed about 700 people. Both the cost to exchequer for organising such extravagant meet and investments invited during the summit have surged over the years. CM Rupani had informed the Gujarat Assembly in 2018 that the state had spent Rs 150.91 crore on the Vibrant Gujarat summits in 2015 and 2017. However, there is little proof to understand how many MoUs are actually being realised on ground.
According to the Socio-Economic Report of Gujarat 2017-2018 published by Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Government of Gujarat, investments worth Rs 2.75 lakh crore from 1983 until mid-2017 have generated jobs for just four persons per Rs one crore of investment.
The Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit, from its inception in 2003 till 2017, saw MoUs for 76,512 projects. As on March 31, 2017, out of the total projects taken up until 2015 summit, less than 50 percent actually took off the ground, generating around 17 lakh jobs.
The report further states that since January 1983, the state has received acknowledgment of only 15,356 industrial entrepreneur memoranda, letters of intent and letters of permission filed by entrepreneurs till July 31, 2017, with a proposed investment of Rs 14,30,178 crore. In addition to that – as on July 31, 2017 – a total of 6,251 projects had been implemented, amounting to an investment of Rs 2,75,880 crore, while 4,280 projects were under implementation, bringing the total investment to Rs 9,96,458 crore.
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Projects that failed to take off
In January 2009, Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government announced formation of an industrial city in Dholera, a town in Ahmedabad district that is about 100 km away from Ahmedabad city. Later that year, MoUs were signed at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2009 for projects in the Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR) as the Gujarat Special Investment Region Act 2009 came into effect, and Dholera Industrial City Development Limited (DICDL) was formed.
Ten years later, when the Dholera SIR was showcased as an investment hub by the Gujarat government at Vibrant Gujarat summit 2019, the fact is that most projects signed in 2009 are yet to take off. An international airport, expressway connecting Dholera with Ahmedabad city and a 5000-MW solar power park are among the array of projects already announced for Dholera SIR.
MoU by Universal Success Enterprise (USEL) of Prasoon Mukherjee, the non-resident Indian businessman, for a township, a 10,000 MW power plant, a port and projects in SIR – a mammoth investment proposal of projects worth over Rs 80,000 – was signed in 2011 Vibrant Gujarat Summit, which is still in a limbo.
Another MoU worth Rs 40,000 crore for water city near Dholera that was signed by Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) during Vibrant Gujarat Summit does not have anything to show on the ground. Reportedly, HCC has missed the deadline for down payment of the land allotted to the project in Dholera SIR.
This apart, Jindal power plant worth Rs 11,000 crore, Gujarat Vittal Innovation City (GVIC) promoted by former bureaucrat-turned-entrepreneur N Vittal worth about Rs 11,500 continue to be in a state of inertia.
Protests against Vibrant Gujarat Summit
On January 18, farmers affected by several industrial and road projects protested against the “only investors-friendly” approach in organising the summit. The protesters included farmers and families that are affected by a spate of projects including land acquisition for Reliance SEZ, Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR), mining of limestone for UltraTech cement in Ucha Kotda in Mahuva, Bhavnagar, expansion of National Highway 8, Bullet Train, and mining at Bavi-Padva and surrounding 14 villages, Gogha, Bhavnagar. The victims of 2017 floods too are yet to receive compensation. They and the families affected by the Bharat Mala project – that will expand express highway 8 to eight lanes – expressed their dissent at forced displacement and lack of rehabilitation.
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“As you all know, today marks the beginning of the 9th edition of Vibrant Gujarat Summit with the development trajectory encouraging capitalists and industrialists, aggravating the socio-economic deprivation of farmers, agriculturalists and other marginal and vulnerable communities. Dozens of farmers who are directly affected by the only investor-friendly approach of the Gujarat government, have come together to voice their dissent,” stated Anand Yagnik, the advocate who is representing the cases of the farmers in Gujarat High Court.
Gujarat government has reportedly resorted to brutal police force while trying to execute the projects, facing backlash or resistance from the farmers and local residents.
The most recent incident of lathi charge being in Mahuva taluka of Bhavnagar district where 1700 hectares of land has been leased out for 50 years for mining limestone to the Ultra Tech Cement, owned by Aditya Birla Group.
“On January 2 this year, farmers from 13 villages of Mahuva taluka affected by the project had gathered for a peaceful protest. Police not only lathi charged on the farmers at the spot, but also arrested about 50 of them including me, and thrashed us in the custody. About 100 people have been injured, with fractured hands, skull and serious spine injuries,” said Bharat Bhil, one of the protesting farmers of Mahuva taluka.
In February last year, Bhavnagar police had also lathi charged and lobbed tear gas on farmers of Gogha taluka in the district, protesting against the land acquisition to open a thermal plant.
Earlier, in November 2018, Federation of Industries and Association (FIA) had threatened to boycott Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2019. The Gujarat unit of the organisation had stated that issues faced by small and medium industries remain unresolved.
According to a press release issued by Prabodh Patel, president, FIA, condition of about four lakh SMEs in Gujarat is worrisome.
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