Thursday, October 11, 2001 08:00 IST
Having a legendary industrial culture for over decades in the post Independence era, the state of Maharashtra state had been on the uppermost position in the economical and commercial arena of the country. However, the state in the recent past had been on a losing edge due to deviation of policy on the industry front coupled with parallel industrial developments in the neighboring states like Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka through their improvised industrial rules and incentives.
Today, the state is trying its best to make a comeback to its golden past as a result of innovative thinking. Biotechnology, the new buzzword in the modern business books is believed to be the State''s targeted avenue in this regard currently. With a few majors like Serum Institute of India, MAHYCO, Wockhardt, Venkateswara Hatcheries, BAIF and Reliance Biotech & Life Sciences already in place to lead the race, the state is presently all set to recapture the past, exploring the wide possibilities of biotechnology as its new mantra.
To start with, the government of Maharashtra has constituted a Task Force under the chairmanship of Dr. R. A. Mashelkar, director general, CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) and Secretary, Govt. of India. In a recent presentation, V Ranganathan, chief secretary, Government of Maharashtra, elaborated on the proposed government initiatives to encourage the industry in the state identifying biotechnology as a very prospective and suitable industrial segment for the state''s future economical development.
The chief secretary attributed a number of existing advantages such as natural resources like biodiversity, agriculture, horticulture and sugarcane, industrial infrastructure, information technology infrastructure, financial infrastructure, educational infra-structure progressive state government policies, hospital and health centers in the state to embark on the proposed biotechnology initiatives.
The Task Force, which has been formed to suggest and recommend the required policy framework and other institutional supports to the government for achieving the goal, according to the chief secretary, has experts in the field of biotechnology, chief executives of leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and governmentofficials. It will prepare a policy draft, which would deal with the desired schemes to promote the industry. "The draft is under finalization, however, the broad framework of the policy under discussion at present will take care of potential impact of biotechnology in the state," says Ranganathan.
These potential mainly result into adding value to natural resources like agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, livestock, marine products, plants and also the medical facilities and production, hospitals and health centres. As far as the industry is concerned, it will be of drugs and pharmaceuticals as well as healthcare. And the educational achievements would aim at global manpower supply and a developed bio-village, he said.
He added that the policy initiatives for leveraging these strengths are through facilitation by government i.e. tax structure, labour laws etc, biotechnology parks, bio-villages, National Technology Research Centre, Centre of Excellence in Biotechnology & Bio Informatics. The other state level initiatives will be aimed at leveraging the state''s strength in IT for bioinformatics, knowledge networks & communication, venture capital and special manpower initiatives.
"Ultimately, the vision of Maharashtra''s biotech future is to have an impact on economic wealth, social good like employment and improvement of quality of life and building image of Maharashtra as the most admired biotech destination globally," he said.
As an institutional mechanism to take the state to this goal, it has set up a Maharashtra Biotechnology Board with chief minister as chairman. The Board will also have biotechnologists of eminence; government officials and ministers of industries, agriculture, health & medical education, higher & technical education and energy.
According to the chief secretary, the Board will be a guiding force as far as development of biotechnology in the state is concerned.It will also monitor the growth and development of biotech in the state and suggest proactive and industry friendly policies for the accelerated growth of the funding of various biotech initiates.
As another institutional framework, a Biotechnology Commission will also be set up with pre-eminent scientist as its chairman.The commission will consist of practicing biotechnologists, academicians and government officials. Ranganathan said that the Commission will be responsible for acting as an advisory body to the government, implementation of Biotech Development Fund, approval of proposals for financing through Biotech Development Fund, management of Resource Centre & Business Facilitation Centre at the Pune Biotech Park, which has been already proposed. There will be an executive committee too under the chairmanship of the chief secretary, which will monitor the implementation of the Biotechnology Policy.
However, the possible incentives which will be proposed in the state, to promote biotechnology industry will include relaxed power tariff by making industrial power tariff applicable to all biotech industry engaged in the production of high-end biotech products, exemption from payment of electricity duty, permitting captive power generation, and exemption from power cuts.
The government is also proposing to give all benefits applicable to information technology companies to bio-informatics centers, exemption of Octroi. The Government will offer land at concessional rate for the "Center of Excellence" in the biotechnology area on a case-by-case basis, besides the promotion biotech parks and R&D centres, production facilities for undertaking contract research by taking equity stake in such projects. However, the government equity will mainly be in the form of land allotted for such projects. The benefit of double FSI will also be made available to biotech industries.
The other benefits proposed to be given for the promotion of biotechnology industry in the state includes the scheme to designate agriculture biotech industry as an agriculture activity for the purpose of tariff and NA assessment and labour related laws. The MIDC will make the land available to agri-biotech industries in its industrial areas for field-testing etc. The government would also make its machinery available for the trials of the product dissemination of the information about the product and the products using State machinery will have to be approved by the Biotechnology commission.
Even at present, under the State''s Industrial Policy 2001, new BT units have been covered under the package scheme of Incentives and are eligible for capital subsidy for new / expansion units, octroi refund, stamp duty exemption and electricity duty exemption developing and backward regions. Such units are also permitted captive power producers will be permitted BT parks for dedicated provision of power. The definition of BT units is being refined as a part of the policy proposal being prepared by the Mashelkar Task Force, the chief secretary informed.
MIDC has decided to set up Biotech Parks at Pune and Jalna. The Pune Biotech Park will concentrate on Pharma Biotechnology, Genomic, etc whereas the Jalna Biotech Park will concentrate on Agriculture Biotechnology. Currently, the Jalna - Aurangabad belt is the Seed Capital of India with major seed companies like Mahyco, Syngentam Seminis, Monsanto, Mahesndra Hybrid Seeds, Nath Seeds, Ateel Seeds Ltd., which have established their production as well as research facilities.
Soon , MAHYCO and MIDC will sign an MOU for the development of the BT Park MIDC will make available 100 acres of land and will provide basic infrastructure facilities required for it. It will also develop residential area with first class amenities such as school, hospital, clubhouse, shopping complexes etc. This Park will also be declared as an industrial township. MIDC will provide land at concessional rate for common research / scientific facility and for creating an academic Centre of Excellence in the park.
MAHYCO has already set up a biotech center of repute at Dawalwadi near Jalna. The Mahyco Research Foundation (MRF) and its promoted will help in conceptualization design and implementation of the Park and will also establish a research facility in the Park, which can be used by other biotech companies or it can be used as a contract research facility. Moreover, they will help MIDC in the marketing of the park for attracting biotech companies of international repute. Similarly they will assist in finding strategic partner for developing infrastructure for the Park.
The major thrust area of the Park will be Gene - discovery for biotic stresses using native plant and microbial population. Bioremediation, Fermentation Technologies, Post - harvest Technologies, Bioinformatics, sugarcane related biotechnologies, Diagnostics for agriculture and pharmaceuticals.
The Biotech Park is Coming up at Hinjawadi Phase-II, Pune over 150 acres of land as a part of the additional IT Park area MIDC will Provide basic infrastructure facilities required for development pf Park. 25 acres of land is reserved for academic center of excellence. GMP facility through joint venture will be set up in the Park Common facility for small biotech companies and R & D labs will also be provided. The Park will have a Biotech Business Facilitation Centre.
The chief secretary informed that Ernst & Young and Rabo Bank India have been appointed to assist MIDC in locating a strategic partner for development of the park finding investor for setting up GMP facility for developing tie-ups with international academic institutions, multilateral agencies and corporate for development of common infrastructure and to market the part internationally and for developing incubating facilities for biotech start-up companies.