October 3, 2009
His name is synonymous with Mangalore Special Economic Zone Limited (MSEZ). As the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of MSEZL he has been the target of anger, flak and mud-slinging from all quarters though he is just implementing a Government project strictly adhering to rules and regulations. Alike-Gurupur Gopalakrishna Pai is the man at the helm shouldering the onerous responsibility of implementing the project and all the associated work that comes in its implementation.
A graduate in Chemical Engineering from National Institute of Technology A G Pai has 26 years of working experience having worked in various capacities in MCF, Zuari Agro Chemicals, Goa, and Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL) before he was deputed to MSEZ as Chief Operating Officer in 2006. He is also trained in various countries like UK, USA, France, Germany, Malaysia etc., which keeps him in good stead in carrying out his duties with élan. He has a keen sense of humour which he uses as an antidote to ward of stress that comes with the present responsibility.
In a free wheeling chat with Florine Roche, A G Pai clears all controversies and misconceptions surrounding MSEZ and also his vision for the area development of this region resulting in ample employment opportunities to the people of this district.
You say you are concerned about the area development of this region. Can you elaborate on this aspect?
Any development activity as long as it does not bring laurels to people of that Area, is of no avail. Through investments and development of industrial infrastructure such as road development, port facilities, development of railway connectivity, water supply, development of clean power (taking care of environmental aspects leading to sustainable development) opens up floodgates of employment opportunities for the people of the district. Investment Infrastructure and Capital Investments are interrelated. The basic investment required for developing Industrial Infrastructure will be provided by MSEZL.
This Industrial Infrastructure development would result in attracting large scale investments both foreign and Indian other than the Rs.25,000 crore investment by ONGC and group companies. All this would result in generating the much needed employment opportunities for the people of this region. The wholesome development of the people and of the region is what I term as area development.
You are basically trained in Chemical Engineering. How come you have chosen a field that has got a lot to do with human resource development?
Whatever course of career one takes ultimately has to manifest itself in the development of the people and the area. When I saw a visionary like the formerChairman of ONGC, Subir Raha, who is not from Mangalore, evincing enormous interest in the development of this region, being a local person I was naturally driven by a sense of motivation to do something for the area development. I did not want to restrict myself to the limited cause of Chemical Engineering. Every human being needs some impetus and I derived it from this visionary, which was the guiding force of my decision.
You say this is the only Multi Product & Government sponsored SEZ coming up in the entire state of Karnataka. Why Mangalore was chosen for setting up this SEZ ?
Mangalore has a maritime port which is not utilized to its fullest capacity. Three National Highways pass through the district providing good road connectivity to the district. Mangalore also has intense Railway connectivity and air connectivity now that the airport has been upgraded into an international airport status. World class financial institutions, high degree of literacy and ample water availability due to high rainfall are other reasons. The initiative for setting up the SEZ was first mooted by the local Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Mangalore and we just joined hands with them in their endeavour.
What is the present status of MSEZ?
Master plan of phase I is nearing completion. We have taken up Rs. 53 crore worth pipeline work between STP Kavoor and SEZ. Work of developing the green belt has also been taken up by planting about 42,000 trees which have been germinated and grown up. A total of 2,70,000 trees have to be planned, the work of which will be taken up in a phased manner within the next four years. Electrical sub station work of the project will also commence shortly. Site grading, storm water drains, underground drainage, sewers and corridor cum road connectivity engineering work is completed and tenders are getting ready. MRPL phase III is coming up at Rs.12,400 crore investment and equipments worth more than 50% of the above investment, are already ordered. The inflow of this equipment will commence from March 2010. OMPL project of Rs. 6500 crores is in tendering stage and Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited (ISPRL) has already commenced construction activity for underground crude storage.
How much land has been acquired for the project so far?
MSEZ is coming up in 3985 acres of land and 2250 acres (including colony land) has been acquired so far. Out of this 250 acres is set aside for the R & R Colony which is coming up with all modern amenities. As for the land for the second phase of the project we are happy that people are coming forward voluntarily and have offered more than 1000 acres of land. Joint Measurement Certification (JMC) has been completed in 850 acres. We are not having any problem for land acquisition. People are coming one by one offering their land and with the involvement of Pragathipara Krishikara Hitharakshana Vedike, which is finalizing the acquisition of land. We are in advanced stage on the rate fixation which is expected to be completed very shortly.
There have been allegations that land for the project is being acquired forcibly?
The people of this district are highly literate and knowledgeable. We cannot force people to part with their land at least in a highly educated district like ours. This is a Government project and we have to go according to set rules and regulations. Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB), a state government body, is acquiring the land based on clearance from state ministry. If we were to forcibly grab the land there was no need for us to wait for two years. We are going a ahead by taking people into confidence and only by consent.
What about the legality of the land acquisition in Kudubi Padavu?
In survey number 32 in Permude Village land measuring 14.43 acres which is part of Greater land of 2035 acres under acquisition (process delayed to unnecessary interference of unrelated people) is legally acquired and rehabilitation of several temples, nagabanas and related families is a process completed. In order to trouble the project displaces families (PDF’s) in 14.43 acres intruders who are basically stark outsiders have colluded with two out of the 40 families in about 2.5 acres of land and are preventing road connectivity to 14.43 acres colony. The 2.5 acres of land is under acquisition for road connectivity. Only after the acquisition of land, MSEZL will establish the road connectivity in this area.
There is a Sathya Shodhana (fact finding committee) Samiti to look into the so called illegalities involved in land acquisition for 14.43 acres Colony?
We don’t know who is behind this Committee as we are not informed about this. If there are doubts, anyone can come to us and seek clarification on all issues.
There are conflicting reports about MSEZL from politicians, elected representatives and from various NGO’s. Some religious leaders have been expressing opposition to phase II of the project…
The state government is a partner for building the only multi product SEZ coming up in Karnataka. Also this in my opinion, is the only large scale Industrial Investment in the State. We have read in newspapers regarding various statements from various channels, which has created confusion in public mind. As long as land owners are ready to part with the land and be a part of this project of national importance and the green signal from the State Government is there, the project will make progress. MSEZL respects all religious leaders but requests them not to be misled by the malicious propaganda carried out by opponents of development and those having vested interests.
Is it true that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is going to inaugurate MSEZL in November?
The Union Law Minister has openly stated recently that Dr Manmohan Singh will
inaugurate MSEZL along with the inauguration of the new Airport Terminal at Bajpe scheduled for November this year.
How important is the acquisition of land for the II phase?
Both phase I and phase II of the project are very important for the over all development of our region. Therefore acquisition of the remaining acres of land has become imperative to make MSEZL a reality and to open up the floodgates of employment to the people of this district when it becomes operational. In fact, phase II generates far more employment than phase I of the project.
Is the Benkinatheshwara temple issue resolved once and for all?
Benkinatheshwara issue is amicably resolved. We have provided a 12 meter approach road to the temple. The owner of the Guthinamane has agreed to shift his house, the construction of which has already begun. A separate 4 acre colony is also provided to the families of those related to the temple.
You have been the object of anger and flak from various quarters directed towards you. How do you react to this?
The initial hiccups will always be there. Several personal attacks were made on
me without any basis. However, recently the situation has changed for the better. I feel we have been able to convince the people of this region that all our efforts are towards better future for the people of this district through the mantra called Development, which is inevitable.
Finally what would you like to say to the opponents of the project?
Constructive criticism is welcome and we will do everything in our capacity to set
Right and convince. However, opposing just for the sake of opposing will not yield any results. I also request them to refrain from resorting to character assassination by making personal attacks, at least in future. MSEZL has been built on firm footings of transparency and we have nothing to fear.