The author is a Lucknow-based independent journalist with over 25 years experience in media - print, television and digital. He started his career with The Pioneer, working later with The Times of India, Newstime, Hyderabad and Tehelka. He also worked with Zee News and ETV (UP). He later founded Newstrack.com, and is Bureau Chief of Parliamentarian, Uttar Pradesh
On August 23, 2007, then Chief Minister Mayawati caused a major blow to investment flow in Uttar Pradesh when she shut the retail business of the country’s top business tycoon Mukesh Ambani. Reliance Retail’s ambitious Rs 10,000 crore investment plans in retail and agri sectors came to a standstill.
The company suffered losses to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore and vowed never to return to Uttar Pradesh to make any investment. In fact, there has been a sharp decline in industrialists making investments in the state ever since coalition politics came to stay there 1993 onwards. Political instability, coalition compulsions, poor infrastructure, deteriorating law and order, red-tapism, nepotism, corruption, non-availability of uninterrupted power, labour problems due to political interference and delay in clearances and approvals for setting up industries forced major industrial houses to stay away from the state.
What caused more concern among investors was heads of government showering favours to particular industrialists and making tailor-made policies to promote their business interests instead of creating investor-friendly environment to boost industrialisation. In 2003, then Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav sanctioned 2,500 acres of farmers’ land for setting up the 8,000 MW gas-based Dadri power plant to Anil Ambani’s power company. The land was acquired in 2004 and Mulayam government provided huge subsidy for acquisition of prized land in Dadri area of Noida.
As per the MoU, the production was to start in 2004. But due to RIL’s refusal to provide gas supply on subsidised rates, the project went into a limbo. But not many know that the registry of the acquired land was done in favour of Anil Ambani’s power company, whereas it should have been done jointly in the name of the UPPCL.
The land acquired by Anil Ambani’s power company with subsidy from the government with an estimated cost of Rs 350 crore is now worth over Rs 20,000 crore. Despite the Allahabad High Court order to return the land to farmers in 2009, the case continued to drag on. The acquisition escalated land prices in the area and politicians and bureaucrats made huge profits. Similarly, then Mayawati Chief Minister Mayawati allotted huge chunks of prized lands to its favourite JP Group of industries in Noida. The fate of power plants in Bara and Karchana in Allahabad under Mayawati is known to all. While a few of Mayawati, Mulayam and Akhikesh Yadav’s favourite industrialists pocketed prized lands and projects to make huge profits, development of the state took a backseat. With its sheer size and population and growth of 44 lakh MSMEs the backbone of the state economy and highest in the country, economists do not fight shy in saying that India’s economic growth is wedded to UP’s growth as the state contributes 8.1 per cent to its GDP. The state provides one of the biggest consumer markets in the world which no businessman can overlook. Industrialists and investors were waiting for a government to take over in the state which formulates investor-friendly policies and provides a conducive atmosphere for them to stage a comeback to the state with loads of investment. Many were surprised when saffron monk-turned politician Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who had little administrative experience, turned the table in a record year’s time. In one of his interviews, Yogi Adityanath admitted that no bank was willing to give loans to the state when he was raising funds for farmers’ loan waiver scheme. “We generated Rs 36,000 crore from our own resources by curtailing unnecessary expenditures, dropping schemes and trimming whopping budgets of projects not benefitting people of the state,” he claimed.
Buoyed by the success, Yogi Adityanath held a marathon meeting with his ministers and top bureaucrats of the industries and other departments to draw up a plan for wooing investors back into the state.
“We were surprised the way he unfolded his plan and vision with minutest details for the speeding up development to create job opportunities for youth in the state by rolling out red carpets for investors,” said Dr Anoop Chandra Pandey, then Industrial Development Commissioner, who was instrumental in raising funds for the loan waiver scheme. He later became the Chief Secretary of the state.
During the middle of the meeting, then DGP was also called in. All industry and infrastructure related departments, including labour, transport, civil aviation, tourism, power, etc., were asked to prepare a blue-print of a transparent, corruption-free system and a draft for policy changes and support they require to achieve the target of bringing no less than Rs six lakh crore investment in the next four years. The DGP was given a free hand to launch an offensive against listed criminals and Mafiosi to control law and order and instill confidence among industrialists. The IT and Electronics department was directed to develop an online single-window transparent system for clearances and approvals.
Within 15 days, all government departments were ready with blue-prints and about 21 new policies or changes into the existing one to create an investor-friendly atmosphere in a state which was marred by political anarchy, instability, deteriorating law and order, corruption, red-tapism, etc., over the last 15 years. The Chief Minister’s one district one product (ODOP) plan was an instant hit among investors who were ready to tap on the vast potential and growth of the MSMEs in the state. The ODOP scheme plans to promote traditional industries synonymous with the districts to spur local development and create jobs
Delegations of ministers and top bureaucrats were sent to Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and other states to study their development models and align it with state’s investor-friendly policies and plan of extending concessions to those willing to make investments into Uttar Pradesh. NRIs and their organisations all over the world were approached and invited to visit the state to witness the change. A special monitoring cell was created at the CM’s Office to keep a watch on the progress being made by different departments in this direction. “It was all done in record time and we were ready to showcase our policies and plan to investors and industrialists. Before the first UP Investors’ Summit, we showcased a new investor-friendly Uttar Pradesh in all major cities of the country and invited industrialists to the state in the summit,” said Satish Mahana, the Industry Minister.
Prior to the summit, a business delegation with 26 top firms, including Boeing, Facebook, Adobe, Pratt and Whiteny, Merch, Azure Power, Cargill, etc., from the US visited the state in October 2017 and showed their willingness to invest in the state.
Top bureaucrats claimed that it created a buzzword in the corporate world. Within the next three months, about 8,000 top Fortune 500 and medium sized companies registered themselves to participate in the UP Investors’ Summit. The Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath personally requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate the two-day summit, beginning February 22. Top 50 industrialists of the country, including Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, Aditya Birla, Sanjiv Puri, Dr Subhash Chandra were personally present to support the historic economic changes taking place in the state. As many as 1,045 MoUs worth Rs 4.28 lakh crores were signed during the summit. Buoyed by the presence of top industrialists, the Prime Minister Naredra Modi said that now Uttar Pradesh will become a trillion dollar economy to compete with a state like Maharashtra. He had also asked Yogi Adityanath to ensure that the MoUs are taken to fruitions.
MoUs worth several lakhs of rupees were signed in the past also during the Ram Prakash Gupta, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav governments but investments which came to the state were almost negligible.
“We divided the MoUs signed into sectors and created dedicated teams of officials to hold interactions with industrialists and investors to resolve their queries and address their problems with regard to availability of land, power, infrastructure, clearances then and there, and close their files for investments into the state,” said Industry Minister Satish Mahana. Within five months, the state machinery matured MoUs worth a whopping Rs 60,000 crore and another Rs 50,000 crore over the next three months. A Ground Breaking Ceremony was organised on July 29 with the Prime Minister launching as many as 80 projects worth Rs 60,000 crore in investment-starved Uttar Pradesh. It was a big leap and a major achievement if one compares with past regimes. In her five-year rule, Mayawati could bring only an investment of Rs 54,000 crores while Akhilesh Yadav took it to Rs 57,000 crores. But here is Yogi Adityanath government which brought an investment of Rs 60,000 crores in less than a year.
“Uttar Pradesh will soon emerge as the growth engine of India. Another investment of Rs 50,000 crore is in the pipeline. We aim to mature 90 per cent of the total MoUs signed during the Investor Summit,” stated Yogi Adityanath. On the occasion, Modi said that it was the result of the leadership’s success. “It should be called Record Breaking Ceremony instead of Ground Breaking Ceremony. Investment was a challenge in Uttar Pradesh but Yogi and his team has turned into an opportunity for investors,” lauded Modi.
After the ground breaking ceremony the Chief Minister held a marathon meeting with top officials and personally called industrialists to thank them for reposing faith in Uttar Pradesh. The state is now planning to organise separate MSME and Global Summits within the next six months to woo investors into small and medium industry sectors and world players to market and take quality products from Uttar Pradesh across globe.