In June this year, a major fire broke out at Daawat rice factory in Mandideep industrial area (MIA), about 25 km from Bhopal, gutting goods worth about Rs 200 crore. Local industrialists say the huge loss could have been averted had there been a better firefighting system in place.
The lone fire tender that was rushed to the spot was hardly enough to douse or control the blaze. And before any effective measures could be taken, the fire had engulfed the mounds of paddy placed on the factory premises and other facilities.
There had been similar fire incidents in the industrial area earlier too, but authorities did not learn their lessons, locals say. Besides ill-equipped firefighting system, under-developed infrastructure, poor law and order and tax-related issues have caused worries among industrialists having their units here.
Association of All Industries, Mandideep (AAIM) general secretary Neeraj Jain says, "The state government, which is busy in attracting investors for Global Investors' Summit (GIS) by presenting friendly, optimistic and barrier-free environment for industrialists, showed no concern over plight of existing industrialists. There are about 700 small, medium and large scale industries in MIA, but there is hardly any which is not facing any problem in producing, manufacturing and supplying of goods."
Industries at MIA generate revenues of about Rs 1,400 crore in form of central excise, commercial tax, income tax, sales tax, entry tax and property tax. However, in the name of facilities, they don’t have much to boast of. Disposal of solid waste and other industrial waste is a big concern, so is crumbling roads.
There is no disposal plant in the area and, AAIM says, the issue remains unaddressed despite it being highlighted several times. "Industrialists pay property tax, but government officials have never put any effort to establish a disposal plant," says Jain.
After 40 years of establishment of MIA, the government is now developing drainage system and roads in the area, but the issues like maintenance of power appliances, sanitation and a proper firefighting system are still pending before the government.
Mandideep industrial area is barely 25 km from the state capital, but industrialists here have to pay 1% entry tax to supply goods in Bhopal. This tax puts extra burden on industrialists, especially those associated with medium and small scale industries.
"Earlier, industrialists had to pay entry tax only on supply of goods to other states, but to generate more revenue, state government has started to take entry tax for supplying goods to other municipal corporations or municipal councils. Thus goods get costlier for both buyers and suppliers due to this extra tax," says VP Sharma, an industrialist.
Similarly, industrialists are facing trouble due to newly-introduced Form 49 of the sales tax department. "Many times sales tax department blocks our materials in the name of this form, and we have to suffer losses due to it," he says.
Frequent increase in the rate of lease rent and license fee is also responsible for suffering of industrialists. AAIM president Manoj Modi says, "Without considering its effects on industrialists, government increases rate of lease rent and licence fees."
"At one point of time, they increased the lease rent to 3%. We suggested to the industry department and Audyogiki Kendra Vikas Nigam (AKVN) officials that the decision was wrong and it would have negative impact on growth of industries. The officials agreed upon our suggestion and they reduced it to 1.5 %. MIA is the only area where lease rent rate is 1.5 %," he adds. The delay in drafting of land policy is also an issue for MIA industrialists.
Law and order
MIA has big industries like HEG, Lupin and P&G, but the situation of law and order here is worse than a small village, allege some industrialists.
"We asked an AKVN officer to establish a separate police station in the industrial area, but I was surprised to hear his reply. He told me that if I didn’t want to aggravate my problem I should forget about setting up of a separate police station," says Modi.
Jain says the theft of machines, goods and even doors and windows of closed factories is a common phenomenon at MIA. "Sometimes thieves and burglars have attacked employees and gatekeepers in night."
Earlier, there were about 600 products which had been exempted from any kind of clearance from the pollution control board (PCB), but now each industry has to take clearance from the body.
Sharma says, "Several units have been locked for failing to get the clearance from the PCB. The board has immense power to penalise the industrialists, hence they avoid raising even a genuine issue. An industrialist can face even criminal charges on supposed violation of pollution control norms."