Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
Almost all products used in Northeast India and Arunachal Pradesh are imported from other states. This is because there are very few industries in the region.
The few industries in the region have to compete with products from well-established manufacturing giants located in mainland India. These manufacturing giants compete in volume, and thus can afford to drop prices to beat competition. As a result, it is extremely difficult for industries to sustain in Northeast India.
A discussion with a former broiler chicken farmer of our state revealed that he gave up broiler farming after trying for a few years. On further enquiry, he revealed that the local broiler pricing could not compete with the prices of the broilers imported from other states. Among the many reasons for the failure was unavailability of cheap skilled labour, expensive broiler feed, cartelization by established big players outside the state, and lack of supportive local policies.
Unless supported by local policies and the local population, it is extremely difficult for local products to compete with products from outside the state.
Can the local governments support and promote local products? How does the government ensure that a level playing field is provided to the local products vís-a-vís products imported from outside the state which are manufactured and aggressively marketed by established big players?
Some solutions may involve some combinations of the following steps. Step 1: To ensure that all government departments compulsorily procure local products, if manufactured and available within the state. This policy of preferential buying and preferential pricing already exists in our state. However, many government departments do not follow this policy. Many government departments are still using middlemen to import products from outside the state.
Step 2: Introduce tax subsidies, transport subsidies and power subsidies to the local manufacturers, farmers etc. This would reduce the manufacturing cost of local items and bring them at par with products produced outside the state.
Another question is, should mega stores like Vishal Mega Mart, Reliance Trends, etc, be allowed to sell rice from Punjab, dal from UP, garments from Ludhiana, etc, at prices below the prevalent local prices freely? One solution maybe is to ensure that these mega stores compulsorily procure 30 percent of their products from the local manufacturers.
India’s freedom struggle started with Swaraj. Slogans like ‘Be Indian, buy Indian’ and ‘Boycott Chinese products’ are propagated. In the same line, lesser developed states must promote and support local manufacturers and farmers by buying and using local products. The ideal support is when the local population, including local officers, local organisations, local NGOs, student groups, etc, instinctively buy and use local products.
If the local industries and the local farmers blossom, large-scale employment would be generated, the economy would be boosted, and dependence on central grants would be reduced.
To stop this economic drain outside the state, are Arunachalees and Northeasterners ready to promote and support local products? (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)