A day before the election results were declared, Metastrips, a defunct company managed to get approval to transfer 2.42 lakh square meters of land to another Company supposedly involved in logistics. In normal circumstances, this should be good news as it means a closed unit would now get a fresh lease of life and a new entity will take over and start an enterprise which will create new jobs.
Alas, that is not true, it appears to be one more operation where the people of Goa and more so the people of Cortalim whose land was acquired at a pittance and handed over to Metastrips are short changed. Metastrips was to start production and of course give jobs to locals. Having taken procession of 2.4 lakh square mts, the Company went ahead and built just 42232 square meters, of this approx 23000 square meters was actual production building, the rest utilities and also bachelor and labour accommodation. The built-up area was spread all over the campus and accounted for just 17% utilisation. If they did not need this land why did they take so much, did anyone in Goa Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) study their original project report that would have been submitted to justify the huge demand for land when in reality they had no use for it? The plant was in production for less than 10 years. The plant has been shut since and land which is a scarce resource in Goa is locked up.
The transfer is done in contravention of all rules currently in place and also against the terms of lease agreement signed by Metastrips with GIDC. The rules do not allow a plot marked for manufacturing to be transferred to a utility, why is this facility not allowed to other investors who are holding unused plots? The agreement clearly states that if not used for 30 years the plot will revert back to GIDC. The original owners would have got approx Rs 10sqm (for more they will be still fighting in court) and Metastrips who reportedly got 75 crore i.e approx 3500/sqm. For doing nothing...........in the hurry did GIDC get the correct transfer fee?
The new company, has their requirement for land been clearly accessed, was the Investment Promotion Board (IPB) involved? Does a logistics Company need 2.5 lakh sqm of land? Any allocation of plot above 3000 sqm needs IPB approval. What happened in this case? The GIDC transfer committee would have been suspended due to poll code. Who took the decision to allow the transfer? Why are other transfer cases not acted on so promptly? The answer is clear, this transaction is not in the interest of Goa and hence all this speed and subterfuge. When will we learn to act on behalf of Goa and not “pelf”?
Imagine the same scenario, where promoting investment in Goa was a priority. GIDC would reprocess the land as per the terms in the original agreement. GIDC would have repaid the original amount approx Rs 1.5 crore. The buildings could be valued and paid for by GIDC. Once re-processed, GIDC could have made plots for new industry, remember there is a shortage of land and there is no place for small scale units to be set up. The estate could have been divided into small and big plots, there are project pending before the IPB that require land. These plots could have been allotted to them and in 2.5 lakh sqm of land surely we could have seen a lot of industry starting.
The good news is that the new Government is listening to the feedback and now there is a move to restructure the IPB and make it more investment friendly. There is a demand to review the permissions given. The fact that two powerful MLA’s who are coalition partners are demanding changes bodes well.
Some of the changes one would like to see is clarity of jurisdiction. A lot of hotels were allowed in No Development Zones (NDZ). Once these permissions were challenged in Court the IPB seemed to be unsure if it had authority to override other State Laws especially zoning.
Level playing field: Alcohol manufacturers based inside industrial estates can neither start new units nor can they be expanded. All of a sudden the IPB gives permission for a new brewery in land demarcated as orchard. The Government kicked up a storm when they amended the Tree Act which seemed to allow the Company a free hand in cutting down 600 coconut trees to make way for the factory. The new TCP Minister is demanding a review of this project because of the trees. So while existing players cannot expand, a new player get the benefit. This does not seem fair, surely one policy should apply across the State. Alcohol is not an area that the IPB mandate prioritizes but feni industry is fighting hard to make it a world beater. Surely Government support would be welcome.
One Window: Goa has long decided that steel rolling mills are not an industry it wants to encourage, one they guzzle scarce power and two locals are not comfortable working in such units. The IPB turned down the request of Mohit Ispat to transfer from 5000sqm in Kundaim to 50000 sqm in Navelim. Guess what, the Parsekar Government overruled this decision in a cabinet decision. So, is the IPB which anyway has the Chief Minister as Chairman and a host of experts to assist in deciding what project Goa needs a final authority? Or will it be just another body which can be overruled at will if the decision is not politically favourable?
Hopefully good sense will prevail and the review will correct some of the decisions taken in haste and without keeping Goa at the centre. Viva Goa.
(The author prefers to write rather than chat