Sundeep Bhutoria

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rajasthan – Out of sync

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot is in USA leading a delegation of cabinet ministers and senior bureaucrats. For attending the functions /meetings organised by the Rajasthan Association of North America (RANA) which is accredited to the Rajasthan Foundation of which I am currently the secretary for the Kolkata Chapter. 
Before leaving for the States Ashok Gehlot spoke to the press and said that his trip is not at all for inviting investments for the industry but to develop and create an emotional bonding between Rajasthan and non-resident Rajasthanis. He also said that it was during his tenure that the first Rajasthani Sammelan was organised by him. 
I
had attended that Pravasi Rajasthani Sammelan as the youngest invitee by the chief minister (picture top: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Governor Ansuman Singh.
picture belowSmt Sunita Gehlot, Smt Birla, Pandit Jasraj, Guru Maa J Sarawati, Late L M Singhvi, Raj K Purohit, L.N.Mittal, Rahul Bajaj, Santosh Bagrodia and other prominent NRRs at the Pravasi Rajasthani Sammelan function)
In that Sammelan L N Mittal and Rahul Bajaj had clearly said that emotion and industry are two different things and that business and industry could not be run on the basis of emotion alone.
It is ironical that Rajasthan, a state that produces top industrialists, is itself not so developed industrially.
Why so?
Well this question has bothered me a lot. Some of my industrialist friends from Rajasthan have an easy answer - “Rajasthan does not have proper infrastructure.”
I am not convinced by their reasoning and have my own perspective on the issue. Rajasthanis or the Marwari community people have panned out all over the world and established very successful businesses and conglomerates. The Rajasthanis are mainly into cement, power, tea and trade. Sadly, these are the areas in which Rajasthan neither has a good infrastructure nor a friendly industrial atmosphere to attract its own community members to set up big projects. On the other hand the tourism and hotel industry - the mainstay of Rajasthan’s business - are areas or domains in which the traditional Rajasthani businessmen are hardly present. In fact, the top five hotel groups in India are managed by non-Rajasthanis.
Rajasthan has excellent locales for shooting films and here again, with only a couple of notable exceptions, it is the South Indians and Maharashtrians who are the major players in the film industry. This is one area where the otherwise ubiquitous Marwari businessmen are conspicuous by their absence. 
So Rajasthan has opportunities in areas where the local business communities are not involved and the areas in which the Non-resident Rajasthanis (NRRs) are involved, the state does not have anything substantial to offer.
They are out of sync.
As a member and office bearer of various Rajasthani and NRR organisations, I have had the privilege to be with many of the state delegations with senior state ministers to develop tourism, trade and industry. But I can tell from my experience that these visits, apart from some memorandum of understandings (MoUs), have not achieved much. It is my observation that for the most part, whatever the reasons, the senior ministers and bureaucrats of the state do not have the requisite powers to clear projects while on their promotional tours.
The state’s efforts have centred solely on attracting the NRRs who are not interested in the type of business opportunities offered. 
I can’t recall any major initiative taken by any of the regimes in Rajasthan to attract investors from communities other than Rajasthanis in the high growth potential areas of business. Also, the state is yet to develop the areas where the NRRs can invest and catapult the state industry to a higher growth trajectory.
I feel the state government must immediately take steps to ameliorate this neglect and set in motion the process of creating the right investment climate for NRRs and also reach out to the investors from other communities.
I have often heard that there is marked difference in the attitude of the ministers from Rajasthan when they meet NRRs in their cities and when the NRRs come to meet them in Rajasthan.
Many people have alleged that the ministers hardly have time for those who are visiting the state. If this is true, then why such a waste of time, energy and resources sending delegates to woo NRRs.
I know Ashok ji for last 15 years now and have met him several times (pictures). Whenever we meet we discuss a lot about Rajasthan Foundation and other Rajasthani organisations and their activities.
I personally feel that he is a man who has an emotional attachment with the NRRs. But facts reflect a different picture and I believe that after he became the chief minister this time, there has been no growth in the chapters of Kolkata, Chennai or Coimbatore. In fact the activities in all the Chapters have declined.
Now with this trip, I hope the chief minister would look at the NRRs and Rajasthan Foundation - that he himself had initiated – with renewed interest.
ess bee

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