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Siddaramaiah Vows to Change Karnataka's Fate

Policy Pulse Correspondent Vijay Grover speaks to Siddaramaiah on his vision for the State. Excerpts from an exclusive interview

Vijay Grover
Publish Date: Feb 2 2016 6:02PM | Updated Date: Feb 2 2016 6:55PM

Siddaramaiah Vows to Change Karnataka's Fate
After a long gap, Karnataka has been blessed with a stable Government. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah who has been in the saddle for over 28 months now is busy giving finishing touches to this showcase event Invest Karnataka 2016, an initiative of the State Government to shore up investments for the State. Policy Pulse Correspondent Vijay Grover speaks to Siddharamaiah on his vision for the State. Excerpts from an exclusive interview 
We see a lot of activity happening on Invest Karnataka 2016. How important is this event? 
Let me make a point that
Invest Karnataka 2016 is to showcase 
The strengths of Karnataka
The investment opportunities available
The Shelf of Projects available in various Departments
Disseminate the initiatives of “Ease of Doing Business” 
We announced Invest Karnataka event in June 2015. For the last Seven months my team of ministers and officers has been working overtime to put in place all that is required to make the event a grand success.
This event would help us in taking another step towards achieving our vision – that of “Inclusive and equitable growth” throughout the State. 
When we announced the industrial policy in 2014, we had set out a target of creating 15 lakh jobs and attracting Rs 5 lakh crore investments. 
In the last three years since we came to power, we were able to approve projects with investment of about 1.25 lakh crores with employment potential for over 2.5 lakh people. We are confident we will surpass these goals early.
The State has seen several such events in the past, many of which were partially successful while a few fell apart as they could not bring the desired results. How different will be this event?
As I mentioned earlier, Invest Karnataka 2016 is a platform to showcase the strengths of the State. Investment commitments are a part of the event.
We are focusing on clearance of projects through Invest Karnataka 2016 and in case any project proponents intend to sign a MOI (Memorandum of Understanding) or EoI (Expression of Interest), we are not averse to signing them.
At the same time we should keep in mind that there are several diverse conditions, many of which are neither in the control of the State nor in the investors. For example, the steel sector, you all know the story of mining and that the global steel industry went through a downturn in the last three to four years. Mega investments which were to happen in this sector did not fructify.
You will agree with me that past performances are not a reliable indicator of future results. All our endeavors are subject to market conditions and consequently change over time.
We are definitely working to ensure that investment intentions are grounded. 
The focus usually at such events remains on land and even this time the focus seems to be on offering 12,000 acres of land to the investors. How different is your priority and strategy to generate employments and bring investments? 
Land is an integral part of any project, without land no industry can come up. Our focus as I said earlier is towards approval of investments which are ready to take off. Many of them are manufacturing industry which create jobs at all levels and is in the direction of our objective to bring about shared prosperity for the 65 million people of our State. We have a young and aspiring population and Government has a very important role in helping everyone meet their aspirations. 
We have sufficient land spread across the State. Apart from KIADB or Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board lands we have eased the direct procurement of land from land owners by independent investors at their choice of location by bringing in reforms in Section 209 of the KLR (Karnataka Land Revenue) Act.
Many reforms have been put in place across major departments including online filing of combined application and approvals to facilitate ease of doing business, optimum utilisation of resources, encourage vertical development in industrial area, protect industrial land, reduce inspections, enable submission of online returns etc to boost the morale of investors.  
Can you talk about key ongoing and upcoming mega projects that would take the State to the next level of growth?
The State is planning two corridors viz Chennai-Bengaluru-Chitradurga Investment Corridor (CBCIC) and Bengaluru-Mumbai Economic Corridor (BMEC) which will have an influencing zone of 150 kms on either side of the corridor. There will also be dedicated nodes across these corridors. Tumkuru NIMZ is one of the three nodes on the CBCIC corridor. Likewise Dharwad will be the first node on the BMEC corridor. Besides the corridors, State has 152 thriving industrial areas and 60 Special Economic Zones. Another 15 Industrial areas are planned to be operative in next few years. 
A new Greenfield industrial area under the National Investment and Manufacturing Zone (NIMZ) scheme of the Central Government is proposed at Vasanthanarasapura in Tumakuru District, the first such project in India. 
A total of 13,928 acres of land is being acquired and already the first phase of 4,146 acres is developed. A dedicated Machine Tool Park spread across about 500 acres and another dedicated Japanese Park of about 500 acres are planned. Korea, China, Germany and other countries have also evinced interest for their country specific dedicated parks. This will be the biggest industrial area in the State. Another two NIMZs, one in Kolar and other at Kalburgi are at the planning stage.
These initiatives of the State along with the progressive Industrial Policy 2014-19 are expected to create employment to attract investments of over 5 lakh crore and create employment opportunities for more than 15 lakh people in the coming five years which will aid in holistic development of State and look beyond Bengaluru.  
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister laid the foundation stone for HAL’s Helicopter facility at Tumakuru with an investment of about Rs. 5,000 Crore to produce 600 Light Utility Helicopters in the first 15 years; create 4,000 jobs in phase-1 and more than 3,000 jobs in phase-2.
Recent investments include that of Messrs Honda Scooters India Limited who have set up its world’s largest 2-wheeler manufacturing factory in Narsapur with a capacity to make 18 million two-wheelers a year. Messrs Asian Paints are putting up world’s largest water-based paint plant at Mysuru with a capacity to produce six lakh Kilo litres of paint per annum with an investment of Rs. 2300 crore. This is also Asian Paints largest unit. 
It is worthwhile to mention that Shell will be shortly opening its Research and Development centre. This would be the only one such centre anywhere outside the United States. Tata Power SED (Strategic Engineering Division) is investing in Defence Production unit at Vemgal Kolar and the industries which have already invested in Karnataka like  Tata Marco polo, Bosch, Toyota and many others are making further investments for capacity expansion. Messrs Toyota Kirloskar Motors have decided to stop importing engines from Thailand, and propose to make engines for ‘Fortuner’ and ‘Innova’ models in Karnataka.
Investment depends on the Industrial climate of a State. So how is the industrial climate in Karnataka? What are the steps taken to position the State as a top investment-friendly destination?
Many reforms have been put in place across major departments including online filing of combined application and approvals to facilitate ease of doing business, optimum utilisation of resources, encourage vertical development in industrial area, protect industrial land, reduce inspections, enable submission of online returns etc to boost the morale of investors. 
The aspects of “Ease of Doing business” are being personally looked into by the Minister of Large and Medium Scale Industries RV Deshpande. He has held several consultative meetings with stakeholders in different sectors. The aim is to identify how processes can be made simpler, faster and can be made online. I am sure all these steps will help Karnataka retain its eminent position and as investment friendly and most sought after destination in India.  
What’s your development and growth vision for Karnataka?
As Chief Minister of the State, it is my dream to empower each and every person to get the opportunity to become what he or she aspires to - be it a doctor or a technical person or an entrepreneur. We are committed to upgrade the skills of our workforce in order to meet the industry requirements. Today, Karnataka’s State GDP is about 120 Billion US$ at current prices and is growing at more than seven percent a year. Our Industrial Policy aims for an annual growth rate of 12 percent and to attract investments of Rs. 5 lakh crore, providing employment to 15 Lakh persons in the next five-year period. Through Invest Karnataka, we hope to reach that target at least one year earlier than the scheduled time. 
What’s being done to further tap Karnataka’s potential, particularly in the sectors of infrastructure and tourism?
Twenty-three projects with more than 1500 kilometres opportunity in road construction under KSHIP or Karnataka State Highway Improvement Project and KRDCL or Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited in the domain of road have been announced.
Out of 23 projects, 17 offer more than Rs 7000 crore (or USD 1273 million) opportunity. Two Industrial corridor projects with Tumakuru alone to be developed at Rs 13716 crore (USD 2286 million) is being put forward in the domain of urban infrastructure. We are making bold strides in tourism through our New Tourism Policy for the period 2015-20 introduced in 2015. Several initiatives like Tourist Mitra, Adoption of tourism destinations, etc have been taken up by the Tourism Department for development of variety of tourism and tourism friendly environment in Karnataka.   
Could you throw some light on the agriculture sector, and the thrust on promoting interests of farmers?
Karnataka is known for its leadership in IT, BT, Engineering, R&D and many other technological sectors. However, Agriculture is one of the mainstays of the economy with more than 60 percent of State population employed directly and indirectly by farming and agri-businesses. A significant segment of the population in the State is rural and is dependent on agriculture which makes it undoubtedly choice for focus for a government like ours which strives for wholesome and inclusive growth.The Government is committed towards increasing profitability of agriculture and allied activities. It is essential for us to attract the farmers to take up new technology and modern equipment. It is also equally important to add value to our agriculture produce. Food processing sector with high level of value addition helps in the reduction of wastage, improves value addition, promotes crop diversification, ensures better return to the farmers, promotes employment as well as increases earnings.  
What are your expectations from Invest Karnataka-2016?
As I mentioned earlier, Invest Karnataka 2016 is a platform to showcase the strengths of the State, investments commitments are a part of the event.
In Invest Karnataka 2016, we are focusing on clearance of projects and in case any project proponents intend to sign an MoU or EoI, we are not averse to signing them.
We are definitely working to ensure that all these investment intentions are grounded at the earliest.