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Tied in red tape & graft, US tech major's 2.5 lakh sqft Tirunelveli project yet to boot.

Date: 10-05-2017
Subject: Tied in red tape & graft, US tech major's 2.5 lakh sqft Tirunelveli project yet to boot
TIRUNELVELI: A combination of red tape and corruption has hobbled Syntel's ambitious $4 billion plan to develop Gangaikondan near Tirunelveli, into a tech centre. The US corporation's facility spread across 100 acres has been awaiting approval for nearly two years after construction as its representatives refused to "meet the minister" and pay a "routine fee", as a source put it.

On April 24, 2013, Syntel announced it was setting up the Tirunelveli facility. "The first phase of the Tirunelveli campus will create 250,000sqft of work space with capacity for more than 2,500 employees. It will in clude a software development block with a dedicated security block, dining facilities and a welcome centre. The new facility is being constructed in multiple phases on a 100-acre plot in a tax-free special economic zone and is scheduled to be completed within two years," Syntel had said in a statement then.

More than four years later, the facility is yet to be operational despite the infrastructure being ready. The commerce ministry's March 2017 deadline for the SEZ lapsed recently. Sources said the Centre had cleared its part of the approvals. Some Union government officials have asked the state IT department and the chief secretary the reason for the delay despite it coming under the state government's singlewindow clearance system, a source said.

When TOI asked the question, a senior bureaucrat texted back: "I understand that they haven't obtained plant approval from the housing department (DTCP)." A detailed questionnaire to the IT secretary went unanswered. Syntel, too, did not respond to a TOI questionnaire. Industry insiders say corI ruption is making things difficult. "We factor in some of this as cost of doing business, but it has now reached unmanageable proportions. How can DTCP approvals be pending for a project inside an Elcot-promoted SEZ in Gangaikondan and Elcot is the nodal agency for all tech investments in the state. Where is the single-window clearance if investors have to go to every ministry for approval?" an industry official said.

Last September, tech ma jor Cognizant made a startling revelation to the US Department of Justice that it was "conducting an internal investigation into whether certain payments relating to facilities in India were made improperly and in possible violation of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other applicable laws." The illegal payments were made for facilities in Tamil Nadu.

Political and economics commentator S Gurumurthy said demand for bribe is killing investment.

"For the past three to four years, there has been flight of capital from the state to other parts like Gujarat. The demand for money is very high, but I am not sure if any new player is coming in and paying the kind of money the political rulers expect," he said.

Last week, Centre for Media Studies said Tamil Nadu is the third most corrupt state in India as a survey said nearly 68% of all respondents of the state said they had to bribe to get their job done.

Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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