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Make In Where?

Monday, February 22, 2016

There were several names given to the mega Investment summit at Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), for the Centre it was the “Make In India Week”, for the State it was “Magnetic Maharashtra” and for the Shiv Sena it was Sena centric. Each one looked at it from its own point of view. Agreed the country needs investments, but more than that it needs to have the supporting infrastructure, availability of water, sustainable agriculture, strong power sector, labour reforms and above all political and economic stability. Another significant and overlooked factor is that of policy continuation, which often is a victim of regime change.

The pace at which the 2,594 Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) were being signed and about 8 trillion rupees worth investment pledged looks all good, on paper at least. But 2,594 MoUs in a space of just five odd days is too hard to believe at least at the pace at which they were being signed. Another aspect of it being debatable is about the ability of some of these companies to deliver and more importantly of the government’s ability to offer them required infrastructure to do business.

If it takes 10 years to construct just one Metro line between Versova to Ghatkopar and equally that many years to construct the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, then the investors might be thinking have they done the right thing. Or, might simply pull out if the atmosphere is not conducive for them to invest. The other day this reporter happened to overhear an interesting conversation at a local shop where a small trader summed it up nicely “If it is going to take me more than 12 hours by road to move my freight, raw material or finished product say between Mumbai and Surat, the costs shoot through the roof. It is just not worth it. The transport infrastructure has to be speedy and efficient”.

It is welcome that large part of that investment inflow will be in Vidarbha and the backward region of Marathwada. But as said earlier, for industries to survive mostly steel industry requires large amounts of water and electricity. Already Marathwada region is facing acute drought conditions for the last four years. Furthermore, the region does not boast of a well laid out railway network and has just one big airport at Aurangabad. The biggest thermal power plant at Parli-Vaijanath is now shut for want of water. This picture does not bode well for any prospective investor.

For the economy to sustain the growth momentum it also needs for Agriculture to thrive. Because until agriculture does not produce the raw materials like cotton for the industries and foodgrains for the people, both cannot sustain themselves. Just over 124 farmers in drought affected 14 districts of the state have so far committed suicides due to failed monsoons and mounting debt since the start of 2016. Why no international seminars or conventions have been held to tackle the Agrarian crisis?

Next week people will be eagerly awaiting the Union Railway and General Budget for triggers to boost the economy and action on the ground to translate the investments into reality. This will be followed by the state budget in March.

With economy facing challenges and agriculture growth slowing down, it will be an uphill task for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government to boost the economy in times dominated by volatile political non-issues.

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