A sudden spurt in activity usually means one thing in Gujarat — a high-profile event is approaching. But Modi's showpiece investment meet, the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, is still a year away. A former senior government official, who until recently was associated with GIFT, spilled the beans. "They are getting ready because they expect Modi to form the government at the Centre," he says, asking not to be named.
The delays GIFT has faced, he said, are due to red tape and a technical glitch. He pointed to the fine print of SEZ Act 2005, Section 18 to be exact, which says the government of India will approve only one international finance centre in an SEZ and regulators such as the RBI, Sebi and Irda will issue operating guidelines, subject to government approval. But the Centre is yet to notify the guidelines that govern an international financial centre.
That explains the delay the project has faced after it was conceptualized in 2007. Today, the cost outlay has shot up to Rs 78,000 crore. Of this, Rs 10,000 crore would be provided by authorities and the rest would come as private investments.
The initial hype over GIFT soon fizzled out. Financial institutions turned fence-sitters due to lack of operating guidelines. "Unless operating guidelines are finalized by the Centre, it would be hard to attract FIs," said the official.
GIFT is back in the spotlight now. On December 31, 2013, several developers such as Ajmera Realty, Hiranandani, Arihant Developers and Lodha visited the site to explore opportunities to bid for space. Last week, IL&FS said it would develop a car parking facility and a consortium led by Tata Communications said it would establish India's largest green data centre.
Authorities also said 8.4 million sq ft of built-up area has been allotted to companies. Requests for proposal for developing commercial and residential buildings in both the SEZ and non-SEZ areas have also been floated.
Ramakant Jha, group CEO at GIFT City, says the first phase of the project is almost complete. Under this phase, 13 million sq ft will be developed, of which 8.4 million sq ft has been allotted.
Jha disagrees with accusation of delays. Work started only after June 2011 when the state government transferred 675 acres, he says. "Unless we have the land, how we can start the project? Land is a critical issue in India," he says. He could well have been talking about the problems Modi's national plans will face.
The Sabarmati Riverfront project is said to be closer to Modi's heart. The river originates from the foothills of Aravalli ranges near Udaipur, Rajasthan, and flows downstream passing through Ahmedabad till Gulf of Cambay. The 109-km river runs across a stretch of about 11 km through Ahmedabad. It is this stretch that would be developed as an ambitious urban renewal project, significantly improving "the spatial structure and habitat conditions of the river and adjoining areas".