Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
All of us know that the Northeast and Arunachal Pradesh have negligible industries and most products are imported from mainland India. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is a big lesson for the region. The NE and Arunachal had to import PPEs, masks, sanitizers, test kits from outside the region, including China. How long will the region be dependent on other states? The NE and Arunachal need an industrial revolution.
Lack of industries is leading to growing unemployment amongst the youth and increasing dependency on other states for most products. Government jobs are limited and unemployment leads to social problems like drug addiction, alcoholism, arson, theft, terrorism, etc. The panacea to most of these social problems is by providing gainful employment.
The NE and Arunachal are rich in many raw materials like oil, gas, iron ore, coal, limestone, tea, wood, bamboo, oranges, kiwi, apples, pineapple, betel nut, etc. Pure natural water is available in plenty in the region. Oil, coal, iron ore and limestone are related to production of POL, gas, iron and steel, cement, etc. Wood and bamboo are linked to furniture industry, artefacts, paper industry, toothpicks, matchbox, agarbatti, etc. Fruits are directly linked to juice industry, Jams, pickles, wine industry, paan masala, etc. Even then there are negligible industries.
What are the ways to increase industries in the region? The primary requirement is willingness of the state governments to set up and boost industries and public awareness. Once will is there, the government should simplify procedures for starting industries in the state. The industrial and investment policy must be suited and oriented for easy and quick investment in the state. The first requirement is a truly single window clearance system wherein investors should submit application, documents to one department. Once submitted, all necessary clearances should be processed and obtained from this single department. Presently, there are hundreds of windows and investors have to run to many departments for clearances. Towards better industrial and investment environment, there is a need for a separate dedicated government agency to look after this entire process of new industries in the state.
There are other important incentives for attracting industries like transport subsidy, electricity subsidy, capital subsidy/grants, working capital subsidy, etc. Another important incentive is grant of tax holiday for initial 10 years like being done for SEZs. These subsidies/grants will help local products compete with products from big manufacturing companies of mainland India.
Other major booster is promotional policies like preferential buying and pricing or ‘Vocal for local’. It must be made compulsory for all government departments to procure products from local manufacturers only. Infrastructure requirements include assured stabilized three-phase electricity to all industries and all industrial estates, water supply, good road/rail/air connectivity.
More industries will provide employment to local people, boost local enterprises like hotels/restaurants, rent houses, taxis, banking and transport, and contribute to the economy of the region. Increased employment to youths will lead to more peace and stability in society. Any takers for an industrial revolution in Arunachal and the Northeast? (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)