It's business with Navratri pleasure at Gujarat business meet

Monday, 22 September 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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AHMEDABAD: The Navratri festival is barely a week away and preparations have reached a feverish pitch in Gujarat as the government adroitly combines business with pleasure and hosts a global business meet to coincide with it.

This year Navratri, the nine nights of music and mirth, dance and devotion beginning September 25, is special.

Huge turfs are being re-laid, pavilions put up and neighbourhoods touched up - not just because it is the most important event in the cultural calendar of the state but also because the government is commercially endorsing it for the first time.

Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues have travelled abroad to invite global business captains to the three-day global meet - Vibrant Gujarat - timed with the festival.

"The idea to invite potential investors to the three-day (September 28-30) Vibrant Gujarat is to enable them to see Gujarat for themselves and invest in the state," said an official in the state's Industrial Extension Bureau (iNDEXTb).

The state government has lined up a range of projects, from infrastructure development to information technology, for the potential investors but has kept a discreet silence on the response to the event so far.

"The summit would at least make Gujarat the talking point. At least some awareness will be created about the state's potential," Minister of State for Industry Anil Patel told IANS.

Patel had gone to the U.S. to invite investors, Modi had gone to Europe and Law Minister Ashok Bhatt had gone to the Gulf to mobilise participation for the meet.

"So far so good. A good attempt has been made. We have got some good feedback on the event and let us hope for the best," said Prakash Bhagwati, chairman of the Gujarat chapter of Indo-American Chamber of Commerce.

Concerned at the dip in investment graph, the state government has lined up 140 projects in gas, ports, roads, telecom and information technology.

Special emphasis is being given to projects within the 15-billion Dahej special economic zone (SEZ).

As many as nine groups have shown interest in developing the SEZ that includes details like infrastructure, township, power plant and effluent treatment facility, according to the iNDEXTb official.

Another ambitious project to be discussed during the summit is the 25-billion alumina project aimed at processing one million tonnes of bauxite ore in Kutch district.

Originally formulated in 1978 by the Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation (GMDC), the project attracted a Hungarian firm in 1983, which withdrew as it failed to mobilise the huge capital required.

Two American firms also showed interest in the project but opted out after signing a memorandum of understanding with the GMDC in 1998.

Said GMDC managing director B.K. Sinha: "The corporation has not yet decided on whether to take up the project as a joint venture or hand it over to a private firm.

"The corporation is a mining agency and it is not possible for it to handle a project of this size. At the most, GMDC could have a small equity, once the proposal is taken up for discussion at the investors meet."

Patel has hinted at an imminent change in government policy on awarding projects, particularly in the infrastructure development sector.

"We may revert to the old method of offering projects to chosen developers instead of the 'competitive route' that we follow," the iNDEXTb official said.

However, the government has tried to play down the hype surrounding the event saying that the focus of the event is on "exchange of information" rather than signing deals.

"We are expecting delegations from across the world. It (the three-day summit) will have more of information exchange with discussions, surveys and interaction with local entrepreneurs. If anyone believes that there will be announcements on investment, he is wrong," Hasmukh Adhia, the additional principal secretary to the chief minister, has said.

But no effort is being spared to make this a Navratri to remember.

Hectic activity is under way at the many venues where the traditional Navratri dance, called Garba, is being organised.

"We are constructing corporate and tourist pavilions so that visitors can have a good view of the dance. As for the music, there would be 75,000 watts of music blasting out of speakers hanging down over the dancing crowds," said Himanshu Shah of SOI, an event management group.

He is managing three venues, including the celebrations at the Gujarat University ground, the official venue of Gujarat tourism.

"We are also conducting cultural activities like 'mehndi' (henna) and lessons in 'dandiya' (the traditional stick dance) for the tourists. We are going to decorate several parts of the city to create an overall festive look," said Shah.

The state government has also contacted several organisers to add value to the events. Organisers at several places have planned food festivals, jewellery shows and handicraft exhibitions.

However, security is a major concern for the organisers. The threat perception has gone up several fold following the killing of an alleged terrorist Nasir, who had plans to disrupt Navratri celebrations in Mumbai, according to Mumbai Police.

But such concerns are likely to have little impact as the state gets ready to celebrate for nine nights - and nine days.

Source: IANS
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