When Chief Minister Ashok Chavan presided over the ground-breaking ceremony for Gulf Finance House’s (GFH) Rs 45,500-crore economic zone near Panvel, it completed a circle for Chavan.
He was industry minister in Vilasrao Deshmukh’s cabinet when the state signed the GFH deal three years ago. During his five years as industry minister, the state inked investment deals worth more than Rs 2 lakh crore, but he kept getting sidelined when most of the deals were struck.
Now, as CM, he is putting the weight of his position behind the projects that went into cold storage in that time, pushing state agencies to accelerate clearances and assist in setting up infrastructure.
On Sunday, he and GFH Chairman Esam Janahi formally set the project rolling. Unlike other troubled large projects such as the now defunct Reliance economic zone, this one did not suffer, primarily because its promoters acquired the 1,700 acres of land in consultation with local residents and political leaders. They also promised to develop infrastructure in the affected villages.
The GFH deal is said to be India’s largest foreign direct investment (FDI)-driven integrated development project. It underlines the state’s position as number one investment destination, from the top five Indian states attracting FDI — the others are Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi.
Chavan said the government had no role in speeding the GFH project. “It was all between the company and the people. We will continue to support them in other aspects, including clearances and infrastructure, through the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority.”
A bureaucrat close to Chavan, requesting anonymity, said the CM has been making serious efforts to help investors get their projects off the ground.
The 1,700-acre zone will have a business hub, shopping and amusement parks, and an information technology hub. It will also have housing for 1.4 lakh residents, and create more than 2.5 lakh direct and 7.7 lakh indirect jobs. The company is looking to complete infrastructure work in 30 months.