At a recent meeting of Verna Industries Association with the new Power Minister Milind Naik and Industries Minister Mahadev Naik, the anguish felt by industry across Goa was expressed by the units in Verna, in one voice.
The issues remain the same over the years as no concrete actions are taken to resolve the key issues at the grass root level. The issue of availability of land, power and water availability remain a sore point. However the issues are not something that cannot be sorted out. It just needs some focused attention. The reason industry needs some attention from the Government is, because it has the ability to provide jobs. Today the job market is stagnant and youth are forced to look outside the State for jobs.
However, existing industry is saturated and cannot absorb more people easily. Their expansion plans are hampered. If the basic issues are resolved it would allow units to expand and at the same time make Goa an attractive destination for new investment. Today, industry is looking for infrastructure and not subsidy like in the old days.
Let us look at the issues which are hampering Goa’s industrial growth and examine solutions discussed but not executed till date.
Land which is in the control of GIDC was made a scarce commodity because of the manipulations of the previous Chairman. He had no idea about bringing in industry but offered land to the highest bidder. The example of 35000 sq metres handed over to Mehul Developers for IT/ITES when the Company had no track record or holding 15000 sq metres by Savita Kavlekar show the direction GIDC was going towards. All this while a reputed company like BOSCH was begging for a plot. So for almost four years nothing happened on the land as the brokers could not get the right price.
Industry cannot start anything anywhere in the State except in an industrial area. The land available for industry within the industrial areas is limited. Yet GIDC had no qualms about giving land to build corporate offices, showrooms for cars/ marble and mobile towers. This despite the fact that GIDC has acquired the land purely for industrial purposes and anything other activity is within their power to a lot. Car service centres are defined as industrial activity so they are permissible, but car show rooms can be set up in any village or city without a problem.
Today GIDC has embarked on realigning itself to an industrial focus and ways are being looked at to free locked land and if necessary acquire land. When a final decision comes with respect to the SEZ’s, a lot of land will be available especially in Verna. So in the near future this issue has a positive outlook.
Water. There is a major tussle between the villages surrounding estates and the industrial estate itself. The key issues is treated water, because in Goa which is blessed with abundant rainfall, and two major rivers where water literally flows into the sea all year round. In the case of Verna, against a daily requirement of 10 MLD the supply is closer to 1MLD. To offset this shortage, many companies opted for bore wells. This added to the angst of the villagers. Without water industry cannot run, even in an IT company where there is no requirement of process water; if there is no water for the domestic needs of employees, the unit has to close. Drinking water can be sourced from water processing units at a higher cost.
Given this background, the proposal was made years back to pipe raw water to the industrial estate. The raw water can be used directly for gardening purposes and those units which need water for process already have their own treatment plants. A simple win-win situation. To supply raw water to Verna, the use of the old Selaulim to Vasco pipeline was proposed with addition of pumps which were missing. Technology exists where one can set up a two lacs litres or larger holding tank within a month. The conventional concrete tanks could take a year. The present Government has shown an inclination to solve this problem and tendering is in progress. The key will be execution. Once the experiment is successful for Verna other industrial estates can be covered and the issue solved permanently.
Power is the last but not the least of the issues. There is just no capacity available. If it is available there are no transformers. Many new units or expansions in Verna are unable to begin production because of non availability of power. Goa needs clean manufacturing or IT industry; locals prefer to work only in this kind of environment. Yet Goa has so many power guzzlers in the form of steel units where Goans are loathe to work. Surprisingly, they enjoy the cheapest power. Hopefully this anomaly will be corrected if the new governments hike in power rates is accepted.
For power new transformers would help, but the biggest issue is can Goa set up its own power generation source. Today, Goa is dependent on power from outside. The Minister has asked for three years to remedy the situation. We will have to wait and watch this issue and time will tell.
Right now the solutions need Government support and the fact that the new government has shown some inclination to solve the issues is very promising.