At a political rally in Muzaffarpur on Sunday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in a jibe at the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar, prayed to local deity Chhathi Maiya to rid the state of “jungle raj”. By evening, Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav retorted, claiming that a state (Bihar) that creates news jobs is actually a “mangal raj”.
The next day, Bihar Industries Minister Sameer Mahaseth was in Delhi to address an investors’ meet. The event was a precursor to the Global Investors’ Summit that Bihar is slated to host in December in Patna. The summit is being seen as an attempt by the Nitish government not only to bring much-needed industrial transformation in the state, but also to shake off the “jungle raj” taunts of the BJP and to shore up the dwindling perception of Kumar as “Vikas Purush (development maven)”.
“Bihar Business Connect 2023 – A Global Investors’ Summit” is scheduled to take place on December 13-14 and will likely see the participation by investors from a dozen foreign countries, including, Japan, Taiwan, UAE, the US and Bangladesh. Coming months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, which will have unemployment among key issues, the event will likely be showcased politically by the JD(U)-RJD combine to build a narrative of “development-oriented” Bihar that “creates jobs”, sources said.
“What we are doing is already visible on the ground. In the last investors’ summit (in 2022), 86 investors had participated. As many as 66 have already set up their units in Bihar. For this summit, I have already travelled to Japan and the US to ensure investor participation. The idea is to showcase Bihar’s potential and what the government can and has been doing to promote business. Look at our ratings on various indices. They are constantly improving. All of this is eventually going to change Bihar’s image,” Mahaseth, who is an RJD MLA, told The Indian Express.
JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said the party has already begun a public outreach on their efforts to create entrepreneurial opportunities in the state under the Mukhyamantri Udyami Yojana which, he said, had shown encouraging results. “Fewer people are migrating out of Bihar. Not only is the state giving employment to the youth — with record numbers of recruitment of teachers and policemen, but also creating self-employment opportunities,” Neeraj said.
In the past decade, Nitish Kumar’s image as a ‘development-oriented’ CM has taken a beating. His critics have pointed out that despite improvement in infrastructure and law and order, his government has failed to meet the rising aspirations of Bihar’s youth. Given the small size of his caste base (Kurmis are around 4% of Bihar’s population), and with dwindling popularity, he is also perceived to have focused his energies on political management. Thus, the investors’ summit, which government sources claimed would be unprecedented in scale, assumes significance.
“We are hosting investor summits and roadshows in various states in the run-up to the December summit, which will see participation from not just India but many foreign countries. We have already organised summits in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Tirupur, Chandigarh in India, apart from USA, UAE and Bangladesh. We are also going to organise summits in Japan and Taiwan. A summit of the scale expected in December has not happened before,” said Sandeep Poundrik, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Industries, Bihar.
According to Poundrik, the government is focusing on bringing investments in three key sectors — textile and leather, food processing and Information Technology — as the state has required raw material and skilled manpower available for these. The government has already created a land bank of 3,000 acres, and announced an industrial policy that offers various incentives to industries, including something called “Plug and Play”, where the government would build industrial sheds for key sectors, which can be can be rented at nominal cost of Rs 4-8/sq ft, with the investor only required to bring his machinery.
“We have also spent Rs 1,400 crore on improving infrastructure in industrial areas in the past one year. Many offshore investors are showing interest. US-based Tiger Analytics has already announced a centre in Bihar. Shahi Exports, a big name in the textile sector, has already set up one. Britannia has invested Rs 250 crore. A new industry is coming up in the fish feed sector,” Poundrik said.
According to data from the state Department of Industries, since 2016, investments worth over Rs 67,000 crore involving close to 2,700 units have been proposed. Out of these, 567 units with cumulative investment of Rs 5,300 have already become operational, while 724 units involving investments of over Rs 7,400 crore have received approval and will begin operating in due course.
Poundrik also said Bihar was an attractive investment destination because of its strategic location, availability of raw material and manpower, and most importantly, a huge market.
“Bihar has a population of 13 crore. From here, you can supply to Nepal, the Northeast, Bengal and eastern UP. So you can cover around 40 crore people, which is one third of India’s population. We are also a growing market. Bihar’s state GDP growth has been more than the national average for years. So purchasing power in Bihar is increasing faster. Bihar is the best place to set up food processing units, as it has the best of foodgrains and fruits. Then, there are available human resources in the field of textile and leather,” he said.