Stage set for first 'Advantage Vidarbha' conclave

Nagpur, Feb 24 (IANS) Hoping to attract investment of over Rs.15,000 crore, the Maharashtra state government is bending over backwards to make a success of the two-day "Advantage Vidarbha-2013", opening here Monday, officials said.

Hectic last-minute preparations are underway to lay the red carpet for top industrialists like Tata Group Chairman Cyrus Mistry, Raymond Group's Hari Singhania, and Jindal Group vice-chairman and managing director Sajjan Jindal, among others, who are expected to attend the mega-event.

Besides, there is possibility of top officials from Maruti Udyog Ltd and Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, besides Birla Group's Kumarmangalam Birla, Godrej's Adi Godrej and other big names attending the event, to be inaugurated by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

"Advantage Vidarbha" is being organised jointly by Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, Maharashtra Airport Development Company, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority and the City and Industrial Development Corporation.

The aim of the two-day event is to showcase Vidarbha, comprising 11 districts of eastern Maharashtra, with a population of 3.50 crore -- including 45 percent tribals and backward classes -- as the new investment destination for central India, said event convenor and state Social Justice Minister Shivajirao Moghe.

"Vidarbha offers a ready-made platform for industries like textile and garments, automobiles, tourism, and agro-processing industries," Moghe told IANS.

This is because the best high quality cotton is grown in Vidarbha. And the region is blessed with abundant deposits of iron ore, manganese and coal, along with vast green forests, including two tiger sanctuaries, unlimited water and power supply, Moghe pointed out.

The state government has also made other attempts to attract industries to Vidarbha, as Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Pune and Nashik regions are now virtually saturated, he added.

The 4,000-hectare Multi-modal International Cargo Hub and Airport project at Nagpur is on the verge of take-off, with the participation of TCS and Boeing, among many others, Moghe said.

In the past few days, the chief minister has taken personal initiatives to ensure that "Advantage Vidarbha" sends investment cash registers ringing. The initiative comes a year ahead of the Lok Sabha and state assembly elections.

Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti chief Kishore Tiwari, who is also part of the initiative, said a good number of political leaders have set up scores of colleges and technical institutions in the Vidarbha region.

"They churn out 20,000 graduates each year and over two million graduates from Vidarbha are working in Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore, besides the US, South America and elsewhere. They want to return to their native land even at half their salaries, but there are no opportunities available. We hope "Advantage Vidarbha" will help in creating jobs for these people," Tiwari told IANS.

Tiwari urged the state government to allot land free to industries, power at half the usual rates, and a package of special incentives on the lines of SEZs.

Leaders and social activists from the region have urged the government to make the mega-event a success, since it would be in the interest of the farmers and tribals who have been neglected for decades. Development, it is hoped, would create lasting peace in the region, parts of which are reeling under Maoist terror.