Slow pace of industrialization in Nagpur: Is political will lacking?

Mihan
Nagpur: ‘As the BJP-led government turns three on October 31, the chief minister’s much-touted agenda of improving the investment climate in the state remains a work in progress. Even as the government has unveiled a slew of policy measures to better the ease of doing business and make the state more business friendly, investment statistics appear to indicate the pitch has not quite bucked the recessionary trend.’ Quoting from a report in leading daily Indian Express.

Yesterday, we had carried a report on how investments and consequently employment is suffering in Nagpur despite MIHAN, despite Metro and other positive developments.

It is time to probe why for decades together the promise of Vibrant Vidarbha does not translate into reality.
Do our leaders still lack the ‘killer instinct?’

This year in September, this journalist had attended a Seminar on potential of Nagpur as a Defense hub. Speakers, who had gathered from all over the country to speak on the subject had painted a very rosy picture – with the caveat that we, in Vidarbha, also work towards making it a possibility.

Nagpur, they opined, can really become the national hub for Aviation and Defense Industry, with world wide potential.

Their only advise was that our many Engineering colleges should modify their curriculum and impart the ‘skills’ required to make our youth employment worthy in these sectors.

There were many Engineering college Principles and Deans also present among the audience; few had traveled from outside Nagpur from places like Amraoti and Wardha to attend it. They had a animated discussion on the training issue with Industry Captains during the conference itself. At the outcome of the event, everyone returned very hopeful about this new ‘sunshine’ industry that could come to Nagpur/ Vidarbha.

At this very conference the Divisional Commissioner of Nagpur, Anoop Kumar had made a very impassioned plea to right the century old wrongs that had been inflicted on this area of Vidarbha.

Two days ago, I had the opportunity to meet the Conveners of the ‘Vidarbha Defense Industrial Hub’ again at a post Diwali get together of leading city industrialists.

“What is the response you are getting from industries for the Defense hub?” I enquired.

“Very encouraging! Many foreign Companies are keenly interested in coming to Central India” he replied.

Central India? Not Nagpur, or Vidarbha, mind you! That is because our neighboring states like A.P. and Telengana have also sensed the potential and are trying their best to attract this industry to their states.

“What is our C.M. saying?” I asked.

“We are yet to get an appointment with him! We have been sending requests, we will definitely get an audience with him soon and we can proceed further.” The retired Army General who is spearheading the efforts replied, trying his best to sound hopeful. (He speaks very highly of Fadnavis, of his grasp over ideas, his sincerity, his hard work etc. But he is still quite fearful that we, just CANNOT match the efforts that A.P. and Telengana, not to mention M.P. and Chattisgarh make to woo investors to their states.

Instead of new industries coming in, old are facing closure!
While it is tough to draw in fresh investment in the state, data from the Annual Survey of Industries shows that the the total number of industries in the state has been falling. According to the ASI report, Maharashtra, as of 2014-15 (the latest figures available), has 28,601 industries. The number is fewer by 522 compared to 2013-14 when the state had 29,123 industries. The closure of these 522 industries has led to a job loss for 2,000 people.

In October 2015, a 340-Point Business Reform Action Plan (BRAP) was circulated by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) to all state governments. The plan, if implemented properly, was meant to lower the burden of entrepreneurs in dealing with government regulatory practices and processes in each state.A year into Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s tenure, Maharashtra was ranked eighth in its implementation of this action plan.

A year later, as the new rankings came up in 2016, Maharashtra slipped two ranks to number 10. The DIPP, in its report, claimed that even though Maharashtra was doing admirably well in addressing issues such as single-window systems, labour registration, environmental registration, commercial taxes and inspections reforms; it still had substantial scope for improvement on land and property registration, construction permits and enforcing contracts.

Developing the Logistics Hub
Nagpur is also said to have excellent potential to develop into the Logistics Hub of the country with its very central location and excellent connectivity. We have both the North- South and the East- West arterial National Highways passing right through Nagpur. We are also one city that has the Divisional H.Q. of not one but two Indian Railway Divisions. (Central Railway and South Eastern Railway).

But why does the potential never get fulfilled?
Very recently, there was another conference held on this subject which was attended by our Guardian Minister, Chandrashekhar Bawankule.

He made a very pro active speech on the subject and encouraged anyone who has land and spare capital to begin planning their “cold storage/ industrial logistics hubs” – promising, “if you face any problems, come to me, I will solve!”

On the sidelines of the same conference, a Ruling Party M.L.A. commented privately ” we have been made this promise for over 2 decades now!! Why has nothing happened? Has our state government even made a policy decision or passed a resolution or a GR for this industry to be located in Nagpur?”

There is a political doctrine that suggests that the further a city or a town is from the State’s political capital, the slower its growth will be. In our case Mumbai is not only the political but also the Finance and the Industrial capital of the state. And Nagpur, is sadly the city furthest away from this Capital.

Out of sight, out of mind??
To this unfortunate fact of Nagpur being so far away from Mumbai – a distance that the ‘Samrudhi Marg’ will not really decrease – is added injustice like important functionaries for Nagpur area, still sitting in Mumbai!

Can anyone answer as to why MIHAN M.D. is not Nagpur based? Why have such M.D.s been inflicted on us, who we have more chance of ‘meeting’ on TV channels judging ‘Lavani’ dances, wearing gajras in their hand, than on meeting in MIHAN office in Nagpur?!

THAT in a nutshell is how and why development of Nagpur and entire Vidarbha still suffers…and will suffer.

—Sunita Mudaliar (Executive Editor)