Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan was sworn in as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh on November 29, 2005. He essayed the role of star campaigner for Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) in the elections to 13th Vidhan Sabh On December 12, 2008 Shri Chouhan took the oath o the office of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister for the second time in Bhopal. Shivraj Singh Chouhan is a gold medalist in M.A. (Philosophy) from the Barkatullah University, Bhopa A humanitarian by nature, he has been organizing religious and cultural activities and seminars for many years. Mr. Chouhan is a low profile leader who has always remained a grass root politician even after occupyin the top post in the state. He himself assiduously cultivated his image as the common man’s chief minister, describing himself as one among them, a farmer’s son.
Below are excerpts of the interview Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan had with Dr. Lakhvinder Singh, managing editor of Asia-Pacific Business and Technology Report, during his recent visit to Korea to promote Invest Madayah Pradesh 2012.
Can you please introduce your state for the benefit of our readers? What are the main attractions and strengths of your state?
Well, first of all, Madhya Pradesh has a population of 73 million, which is 1.5 times the population of South Korea. It is also the second largest state in the country in terms of area. The economic growth rate is 10.2 percent per year. And we have a lot of raw resources. Our land is full of minerals and natural resources such as limestone, pyrophyllite, copper, diamonds, manganese, iron ore, bauxite, dolomite, and other mining resources. There are a lot of industries based on mining resources and they are coming to Madhya Pradesh now. The agricul- tural sector is also growing at 9 percent per year, which is higher than average for India. We are the most agriculturally diverse state with 5 different crop zones. We produce 60 percent of the entire coun- try’s soybeans, for example. We are num- ber 2 in wheat production as well. In addi- tion to our food, we also produce a lot of cotton, which supports a healthy textile industry in the state. We are interested in creating more value in our state, which will in turn facilitate more exports. A lot of food processing companies are coming to our state in order to take advantage of all of our resources. Tourism is also a very important sector. We have many hotels, resorts, and amuse- ment parks. We have many sites of reli- gious tourism such as Sanchi, Ahakalesh- war, Sonagiri, Amarkantak, and Maiher. We also have a healthy wellness tourism industry with a focus on Ayurvedic treat- ments in naturopathy centers in Bhopal and Indore. We have many different fa- mous bodies of water such as the Tawa reservoir, Halai Dam, and Gandhi Sagar. We have any different small villages fo- cused on arts and crafts such as Chanderi, and Maheshwar, which people can visit to buy and also learn of these crafts. We also have a very strong ecocultural heritage tourism industry with safari tours, the Khajuraho Dance Festival, and many dif- ferent forts and gharies being converted into heritage hotels to preserve our histo- ry and educate the curious. We also have 9 different national parks, complete with wild tigers. Madhya Pradesh is focused on becom- ing the power capital of India, looking into creating thermal power generation facilities. We are also looking very closely into green energy and solar energy. Since we get more than 300 days of sunlight every year, solar energy is very important for the state. We also have a geographic area that is useful for solar power gen- eration. The investment in infrastructure will definitely be appreciated by the num ber of factories in the auto, pharmaceuti cal, engineering, textile, and cement sec tors that are already present. We do not have a power generation problem now, but it is best to be prepared for growth.
What are the investment opportunities available to foreign investors?
Infrastructure is a major possibility in the state. We could always use more highways, more power generation. Being in the center of India, Madhya Pradesh is the site of many travel corridors. We have the Delhi-Mumbai corridor, the Delhi- Chennai, Delhi-Bangalore, and Delhi-Hy- derabad running through the state. The state government is promoting these cor- ridors for industrialization and increased infrastructure development.
What was main purpose of your visit to Korea? And what expectations did you have for this visit?
The main aim of coming to Korea was to invite investment to the state of Mad- hya Pradesh. We are already getting in- vestment from inside the country but we want additional investment from outside as well. We want to provide opportunities for international investors to come and visit our state, and perhaps create a joint venture. We know that Korea is quite strong in electronics. We visited Sam- sung yesterday. We would like to have an electronics park in our state as well. We would like to invite Korean companies to come to our state, whether in electronics or even other sectors. Our total focus is not Korea-specific, though. If companies from other coun- tries come, we’d like them all to be located in that particular area. So, for instance, if Korean companies come, we’d like them to be together in one particular place.
What other sectors apart from electronics are you interested in attracting?
Actually, organization is happening rapidly in our state. In 4 or 5 major cit- ies we would like the Korean concept to come to that particular area. We are build- ing roads and other types of infrastructure now, so we could really use some help from Korean experts in infrastructure to come to our state. We toured one facility that recycled wastewater, and we visited the Cheonggyecheon in the city during our stay here. We would also like to see similar technology and similar products come to our state. Also, as I have already mentioned, tour- ism is important in our state. We have a lot of islands. We would like the Korean people to explore the possibilities of con- verting those islands into tourist attrac- tions. They are welcome to have public or private partners in such a venture. We welcome work on this model of tourism.
What about the pharmaceutial sector?
We actually have a thriving pharmaceu- tical sector already, doing a trade of about US$1.2 billion per year. We have more than 350 pharmaceutical units located in different areas of the state. Some of the most populated areas, pharma-wise, are Dewas, Pithampur, Ujjain, and Govindpu- ra. We also have over 100 pharmaceutical- related colleges. We have many opportu- nities for companies who are interested in manufacturing everything from Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) to veg- etable color dyes to stem cell research units. We also have active clinical trial centers in the area.
The economic situation in India is not so good. What is your take on this problem?
Actually we believe this to be a tem- porary case, because the core strength of our country is still there. Savings were 35 percent of total income last year. The eco- nomic base is actually quite strong. Some of the states are growing very rapidly. Madhya Pradesh is growing at 10.2 per- cent each year, for instance. So while the rest of India might not be doing as well as Madhya Pradesh, we believe that this is only a temporary state.
What about the labor market and labor climate?
When it comes to labor, Madhya Pradesh is a very peaceful state. That is, there are no protests, no lockouts, and no man is lost to strikes. That is in stark contrast to other areas of India. Labor is hardworking and honest. It is an island of peace as far as labor and labor relations are concerned. Compared to Japan and Korea, workers in India are much cheap- er, and we have tried to also simplify the labor laws for maintaining peace and harmony when it comes to the industrial sector.
What about land? Do you have a land bank program created, for instance?
We do have a land bank in the state. We have already 20,000 acres of land in various places. If somebody wants land even outside of these places, we will help them get this land. When acquiring land from the farmers, keeping the farmers in land is not a problem. We have an abun- dance of geography. There is no problem there.
What would be the purpose of attracting investment to Madhya Pradesh? What are your end goals in doing so?
Madhya Pradesh is not very well known outside of India. When people talk of investment in India they often talk of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, or other places. Our first objective is to make Madhya Pradesh known throughout the world. Madhya Pradesh has an expectation to grow 12 percent in the next 4 years. We would like to make sure this happens in both urban and rural areas. So we are encouraging small-scale sectors also. We want not only investment from our own country but we also want global investment to come to our state. Our goals are to improve our state and to create a higher income and standard of living for our own people.
What incentives do you give to investors?
When it comes to policy incentives, we provide tax incentives, some capital incentives like for mega projects. And for certain investments, we give land and some concessions. We give some capital and interest subsidies as well. We refund taxes paid by the industry, either 50 per- cent or 75 percent of the tax paid depend- ing on the total investment that particu- lar year. These tax refund programs are in effect for a maximum of 10 years. So in case some industry invests, they soon can recover total investments through tax refunds. If investments are more than 20,000 gross rupees, then they qualify for a special package of investments.
What about education? Koreans want to go overseas and study. But India has not been attracting students. Have you done anything about this?
We are trying to make Madhya Pradesh an education hub. We have 136 colleges, and anyone who comes to any of three dif- ferent locations can convert them into education hubs. We have very good schools also. We do not have any special plans right now for foreign students, but we will think about this soon. We do have a lot of foreign students studying in our state right now from all over the world. It is a promising area to look into.
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