BENGALURU: The ongoing controversy over sale of more than 3,000 acres in Ballari to Jindal Steel Works (JSW) has added to Karnataka’s woes as it struggles to compete with Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in wooing investors with cheap land, say top officials in the state. The BJP-led opposition alleges that land was given to JSW dirt cheap and that the state should scrap the deal and lease out the land instead.“If this stalemate continues, the message to the big industries will be that Karnataka is incapable of providing a conducive investment climate,” said a government official. “The absolute sale deed with JSW was a done deal, considering they have given more than Rs 40,000 crore in investment to the state, thousands of jobs and supposed tax revenue to the tune of Rs 4,000 crore every year.” Sources said the neighbouring states of AP, Telangana and Maharashtra have slashed land prices, making it tough for Karnataka to draw investors. “In Karnataka, today, land is not available for anything less than Rs 25 lakh per acre for industrial purposes. Now, compare this with Andhra and Telangana and you are already under serious pressure to bring in investors,” said a senior government official, adding that land in Andhra was as cheap as Rs 5 lakh an acre. In some instances, the official pointed out, land was even being given for free in return for mega investment. “Despite having one of the highest prices of land acquisition, we are aware of the competition from the neighboring states. Karnataka, however, continues to be an investor-friendly state and we are trying to attract more big- ticket investments to the state,” commerce and industries secretary Gaurav Gupta said.
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