New Delhi: Land prices may have shot up, but Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar is confident that his state’s economy could still be charged with more Gurgaon-style city development.

Overseas investors are keen to lead urban infrastructure development in Haryana, says Khattar, who is currently touring the country looking for investments to his state. Income from agriculture is no match to one-time receipts from land sale, so people are willing to switch to other livelihoods, he says.

Unlike in other farm-dependent states such as West Bengal and Odisha, the state government doesn’t need to nudge people to sell land—they do so on their own with the help of private land aggregators, Khattar says. The Haryana model bypasses administrative red tape and speeds up project execution from the industry’s standpoint. Edited excerpts from an interview:

Can you create another Gurgaon? Land prices have shot up and haven’t the realities of real estate development vastly changed?

It will not be so difficult to repeat the Gurgaon model in other parts of Haryana. Delhi is surrounded by Haryana on three sides, and 13 of our 21 districts are part of the NCR (national capital region). Around 57% of Haryana falls under the NCR, which makes me hopeful that the model can be repeated.

Land prices may have gone up, but in Haryana, it isn’t difficult to buy land. The lure of making a substantial sum from land sale is too tempting for farmers to hold on to farming. Income from farming is no match either. So, a large number of private land aggregators have emerged from among common people who are helping businesses buy land. In Haryana, the state doesn’t intervene directly in land transactions.

On the other hand, to expedite matters, we have simplified the process of getting administrative clearance for changing the end use of land (so called CLU, or change in land use). In some blocks, it is automatic and you don’t need any clearance at all.

What incentives can you offer to businesses to mitigate the effect of land price escalation?

We are extremely conscious about the cost factor. Some 31 backward blocks have been identified where industrial penetration is low. Our aim is to take businesses into these blocks to ensure that they are not hit by spiralling land prices.

Businesses buying land in these blocks will get a full refund of stamp duty. That apart, power is being supplied at a subsidized rate and job creation will be rewarded with cash compensation for every person employed in these backward blocks.

This way we are trying to make sure that economic development is widely spread across the state. Both businesses and the local population will benefit from it. The key to success is to find virgin spaces with road connectivity. We already have 10,000 acres of vacant land with ready infrastructure or at places where major highways are to come up within two years.

In your bid to find investors, you have come to West Bengal, a state which itself is trying to get investments from outside. Did the visit go as planned?

In our kind of federalism, states will compete against each other for investment-led growth. I can’t speak for Bengal, but our attempt to reach out to businesses here has been quite rewarding. We have received investment proposals for various sectors of industry such as food processing, manufacturing, infrastructure development, power, hospitality, software technology and education. If all these proposals from this part of the country materialize, we will see some 5,000 crore flowing into Haryana from here alone.

That apart, we have major investment commitments from Chinese infrastructure developers who are keen to build townships (of) 3,000-4,000 acres.

Haryana, has for long, had an abnormally skewed sex ratio of around 850 girls for every 1,000 male births. This has a strong social bearing on law and order and in many other ways. What are you doing to address this demographic imbalance?

To my mind, it is absolutely clear that law and order is a precondition for attracting investments into the state. Everything else such as cost of doing business comes later. I am happy that the current monthly average has improved to a little over 900 girls for every 1,000 boys born, and hopefully within the next six months we will be able to push it up to 950. The sex ratio has improved because of various social incentive schemes that we have launched for girl children.

So what is your medium-term vision in terms of economic growth in your state?

Haryana is a family of 25 million people. We are pushing for investment-led growth, but the ultimate aim is that investments should translate into better living conditions and inclusive growth for the weaker sections as well. So our focus is on job creation. In the past year, we have created some 54,000 new jobs at industrial units. The target is to create at least 400,000 more new jobs.

Manohar Lal Khattar, 61Khattar joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1977 and moved to the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1994. In October 2014, he took over as the chief minister of Haryana. He was in Kolkata on 30 January to attend a road show organized by his government to attract investors to his state during its first-ever investors’ summit scheduled to be held on 7-8 March.
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