New Delhi, Mar 29 (PTI) Aiming to improve the ease of doing business in Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said the long-standing perception that the state was not very investor-friendly was slowly changing with a slew of measures being undertaken by the Left government.

Vijayan, 74, who completes two years in office on May 25, said the Kerala government is making efforts for eliminating the unnecessary delay in granting approvals for various investment proposals.

Seeking to rebrand “God’s own Country” as a preferred investment destination, the CPI-M strongman said the top priority was to create an enabling ecosystem to provide timely clearances in an effective and transparent manner and to ensure that it is maintained.

He said even though the state lacked sufficient land for attracting investments and setting up infrastructure, the government is trying to provide an appropriate working environment for various companies in the state.

“As part of Ease of Doing Business, we are rectifying certain complaints which came up. We want to create an investment friendly environment in the state. We are trying to eliminate the unnecessary delay in getting approvals,” he said in an exclusive interview to PTI here.

“If a decision has not been taken on an application within the time-frame allotted for it, the application will be considered as approved,” he said.

Vijayan said his government had held discussions with major companies such as Nissan, Intel and Tech Mahindra for investments in the state, days after the first-ever Global Digital Summit in Kerala, #FUTURE conclave that was held in Kochi. Nissan, a Japanese automotive major, is mulling setting up a digital hub in Kerala.

Acknowledging that there was always a perception of Kerala not being ‘business-friendly” which made investors wary of making huge investments in the state, Vijayan said this was “slowly changing”.

“We have only Kerala to market. Other states have enough land that they even provide it free of cost but we don’t have that much area. But we are trying to provide a good working atmosphere and all kinds of assistance from the government. This is what we are planning and we have held discussions with major companies like Nissan, Intel and many more.

“There is no more a sense of hopelessness in the state,” he said.

Kerala, in the recent months, has been trying to woo investors by showcasing its single window clearance mechanism, educated human power and impressive human development indices.

According to the statement on RBI’s regional office available on the website of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Kerala and Lakshadweep received about Rs 1,100 crore FDI equity during the nine-month period from April 2017.

Vijayan expressed confidence that with the proactive steps taken to improve the business environment in Kerala will improve its rating in ease of doing business vis-a-vis top ranked states in the country. Kerala is aiming to achieve a quantum jump in ‘Ease of doing business’ rankings from 21 to be among the top 10 by next year.

According to state officials, as part of reforms, an Investment Promotion and Facilitation Cell has been constituted on behalf of the Kerala State Single Window Board and it will be responsible for the smoother interaction with applicants and issuing speedy approvals.

The Single Window Board will have the power to issue composite clearances that will be binding on all departments and agencies.

To allay the fears of investors, the chief minister also said that the notorious Gawking Wage or the ‘nokkukooli’, as it is known colloquially, will end from May 1.

“All trade unions in the state have come out openly against ‘nokkukooli’. We have decided to end this practice from May 1. Some miscreants may still create trouble, but we plan to deal with them with a strong hand. Police have been directed to take strict action against it,” he said.

‘Nokkukooli’ is an euphemism for extortion by organised labour unions in Kerala under which wages are paid to trade union activists for allowing common householders/ investors/builders to unload belongings/materials using machines or their own labour.

On land issues coming in the way of investments, Vijayan said acquisition was necessary in the state to fulfil the greater public good, adding that the government understands the concern that some people have when they lose the little bit of land they own.

“We are short of land as you know. We understand the concern that some people have when they lose the little bit of land they own. However, it is necessary that we undertake such acquisitions to fulfil certain public needs.

“We are ready to provide adequate compensation and rehabilitation considering the plight of those who have to give up their land. People have been cooperative in this regard. People understand that we are not troubling them but we are doing it as we are out of options,” he said.

Referring to the recent Global Digital Summit held in Kochi, the chief minister said his government was doing its best to develop the Information Technology(IT) sector in the state.

“The IT industry organised such an event. Based on their suggestions, we have arranged a special wing at the CM’s office which can stay in touch with various companies. It has been a huge success. Many prominent personalities participated and we expect a change,” Vijayan said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.