The Aditya Birla Group has received in-principle approval from the Kerala government to set up a Rs 4,000-crore IT and Biotech Knowledge Park and a branch of Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences (BITS) at Kozhikode.
The Knowledge Park, planned as one of the largest of its kind in India, and the branch of BITS, are expected to come up on 320 acres at Mavoor in the suburbs of Kozhikode, at the site of a defunct pulp and fibre unit owned by Gwalior Rayons (now Grasim).
The state government considered the proposal a week ago and has given in-principle approval. Now the Birlas have to submit a detailed project report for final clearances, T Balakrishnan, additional chief secretary and secretary for Industries, Kerala, told Business Standard.
Sources said the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), which completed four years in power this week, has included the proposal for final approval within a year before completion of its five-year term.
"Now the ball is in their court and we expect a detailed proposal at the earliest", said the official.
The Knowledge Park will house non-polluting projects related to nano-technology, biotechnology and related cutting-edge research and development (R&D), knowledge process management, besides advanced information technology (IT) services. The project will be among the first for manufacturing and commodity products that will drive Aditya Birla Group's foray into industries related to future technologies, a Birla Group executive had said earlier.
Elamaram Kareem, Kerala industries and commerce minister, had said the project would create direct employment for over 100,000 professionals and indirect employment for 300,000 people. Kareem, who started his career as a Mavoor Rayons employee and later became the president of Mavoor Grasim Industries Workers' Union, had made several attempts to re-open the closed factory.
An Aditya Birla spokesperson and an executive handling the project was not reachable for comments.
The Aditya Birla Group came up with a blue print for the IT and Biotech Knowledge Park, following a suggestion made by the government that Grasim consider setting up non-polluting projects at the site of the factory, which was closed in 2001 owing to cheap competition from imported fibre and an intense environmental agitation against the management for polluting the Chaliyar River, the lifeline of Kozhikode city.
The Birlas had set up a rayon-grade pulp unit in 1962 and a fibre factory six years later at Mavoor, just 30 kms from the Karipur International airport.
As part of plans to revive the fortunes of the erstwhile Gwalior Rayons, the former government led by the Congress had suggested the Birlas either set up another industry or return the land to the state government. The revenue department had also decided to take the land back, invoking provisions of the Land Reforms Act, if the management failed to develop an alternative project. The Birla Group had filed a case against the government on the land issue in the high court.
Now the Kerala government hopes that Birlas would settle the legal issue out of court, with the clearance given for the project, said Balakrishnan.
Sources said the Aditya Birla group had hired an international consultant for a detailed feasibility study on possible non-polluting industrial ventures at Mavoor.
Mavoor was in the news in the early part of this decade for the alleged suicide of about 11 of the 3,000-plus workers who lost their jobs when the factory closed.