The eleven-month-old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh is pulling out all stops to make the UP Investors Meet on February 21-22 a grand success and a spectacle to remember -- with promises to bring in investments of Rs 1 lakh crore (about $15 billion).
The government machinery in the state capital is on overdrive -- over 1,000 rooms have been booked in plush five- and four-star properties, four different menus of seven-course meals have been finalised, over 2,500 policemen have been requisitioned for the VVIP gathering and a fleet of dozens of cars has been booked.
That’s not all. Gallons of paint have been sanctioned to spruce up the roadsides, roads are being relaid, the entire route to be taken by the guests has been lit up with LED lights. Murals of prominent city monuments are being painted on the walls of flyovers, new greenery is being planted and more than a dozen bureaucrats are burning the midnight oil to make the event a mega success.
With President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley flying into the city for the two-day jamboree, the bureaucracy and the state government are trying to finalise the minutest of details and to ensure that the state is showcased in the best of ways to attract maximum investment.
A Who’s Who of the business world, including Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, and top executives from majors like Cadila, Mahindra and Mahindra, Torrent and Essel, have confirmed their attendance at the event, which is aimed at hard-selling the state which for years has had promises made but negligible investments.
A war room has been created at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Bhavan where dozens of bureaucrats, assisted by top company executives, are working “almost 24x7” to ensure that the loose ends are tied before the mega event. Alok Pandey, a Gujarat cadre IAS officer on deputation to Uttar Pradesh, who is also the nodal officer for the investors meet, informed IANS that “almost every day, all officials involved leave the war room only around midnight”. Other top bureaucrats involved are being led by Industrial and Infrastructure Development Commissioner (IIDC) Anoop Chandra Pandey and Principal Secretary Navneet Sehgal and many more.
Sources told IANS that MoUs for more than Rs 1 lakh crore investment have been signed and would be exchanged on the inaugural day in the presence of the Prime Minister.
The Adani group has shown its willingness to set up a Mega Logistics Hub in the NCR (National Capital Region). It has also offered to set up a private university in the NCR and the mandarins in the state government are scurrying for land for these projects. Some 1,000 acres have been offered in Bulandshahr, neighboring the NCR, and to show its seriousness to investors, the state government has also sent a proposal to the Union government to expand the NCR up to Bulandshahr, an official said.
The IIDC Pandey told IANS that the “state government is determined like never before to get investments and to ensure that the investors get the best possible facilities in return”. It is for the first time in the state that sector-wise policies are being made under the Investment and Employment Promotion Policy, officials said. With the state and the Centre ruled by the BJP, the ‘seriousness and convertibility of promises looks tempting’, averred a senior bureaucrat.
“There have been similar events by predecessor governments on a smaller scale, but with very little returns. This is possibly the last chance for the state to salvage its image as a promising destination for investment and to sell all that it has,” Kiron Chopra, a prominent city industrialist, pointed out, adding it should not be just to invite people with no deliverables.
A private PR company has been hired to handle the promotions and social media, and its staff is stationed at the war room to ensure that every event -- like the five road shows in various cities of the country -- are telecast live on social media and all pictures and news related to the event are posted on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.
The opposition is, however, unimpressed. Chief spokesman of the main opposition Samajwadi Party Rajendra Chowdhary said ‘public money is being wasted’ by the BJP government to ‘hide its failures in the 11 months of its rule in the state and four years at the Centre’.
He further accused the Yogi Adityanath government of trying to hoodwink the people with such grand events even as the state suffers from poor law and order, soaring crime and distress among the farmers.
Stuti Kaul, an old Lucknowite, however, is less cynical and more optimistic. She is happy that the city is being spruced up like never in the past and pats the BJP government for ‘at least trying’.
Whether the results of the mega event will show up or not is up to the future. It’s wait and watch till then as the state, for now, soaks itself in the spirit of the investors meet.