Protect foreign investment or watch them flee: Deshmukh

September 25th, 2008 - 4:12 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 25 (IANS) With some of his Indian competitors struggling to maintain law and order, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has said it is the “duty of the state” to protect investments, and has warned that investors will flee a climate of insecurity.“It is the duty of the state to give protection,” he told journalists here just before a meeting with investors Wednesday.

“People may not invest that much in a state” where there was insecurity and industrial unrest, he added.

Deshmukh, who has brought a large delegation of ministers and trade officials to London in search of fresh foreign capital, was asked if had any advice for his counterparts in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh who have seen often-violent protests against big business.

“In Maharashtra, if there is a problem, we ourselves go and try to sort it out very peacefully. Industry and labour are partners. We sit across the table and resolve the problem. We will not allow the industry to close down,” he said.

The sensitive issue of land acquisition was handled by the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation and went in conjunction with wider employment and ‘backward regions’ schemes, he added.

He later told a large group of investors that an indicator of Maharashtra’s success is the fact that it is home to 131 of the 400 Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in India. The state continues to top the list of destinations for foreign direct investment in India.

“Maharashtra is the safest and most encouraging area,” he told investors, who included G.P. Hinduja of the multinational Hinduja Group. “You’ll feel proud to be part of Maharashtra.”

In turn, Hinduja told Deshmukh his group wanted to invest in 10,000 megawatts of power in Mahrashtra.

And when another potential investor asked whether he could build a hospital in Mumbai, Deshmukh replied: “Come to Nagpur. We are creating an entire Health City there.”

The Maharashtra chief minister’s visit is timely, as it follows some adverse reactions to protests that have held up Tata Motors’ plans to manufacture the Nano motor car in West Bengal and this week’s lynching of the CEO of an Italian multinational company in Noida, Uttar Pradesh.

However, Indian High Commissioner Shiv Mukherjee pointed out that despite “adverse reports” there has been no decline in investment flows to India.

“If you ask around the investment world, you’ll see investors are conscious of the fact that these do not represent a pattern - they are isolated incidents and do not reflect neglect on the part of either the central or the state government,” Mukherjee said.

Sharon Bamford, head of the UK India Business Council, which facilitates two-way investments, agreed that investors are aware the protests in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are not the norm.

“There is so much of good news all over India, but they don’t hit the headlines,” Bamford said.

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