By Anupriya Singh
Edited by Shambhavi Singh, Senior editor, The Indian Economist
In his Independence Day ‘extempore’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the Red Fort invited the world to ‘come and make in India’. He got it absolutely right that promoting and deepening the Indian manufacturing sector is the key to providing jobs to millions who constitute the young and skilled Indian workforce. Apart from the employment boom, it will also cut down the nation’s dependence on the pricey imports. Likewise, this strategy will facilitate balance the ever widening current account deficit. But the transition from an agricultural centered country to a manufacturing one would not be an easy task, as it may seem.
A sneak peek into the current global scenario, and we could not ask for a better juncture of time to kick start the Indian version of a manufacturing revolution. The rapidly increasing labour cost in China is gradually diminishing its cost effective manufacturing destination tag worldwide. One the other side of the globe, the United States of America is witnessing a manufacturing sector rebirth with an extensive usage of automated machinery with every passing day. Predictably, global manufactures are in search for an alternate window for labour intensive manufacturing. Loaded with skilled and educated labour workforce, India comes forth as the perfect and highly promising candidate for the same.
There are many hurdles on the way. Stringent labour laws discourage several foreign as well as domestic investors. The political state of affairs in India further deters prospective investors. Free market capitalism on the Indian soil is a mere delusion to the eyes. In real time, it is politically controlled capitalism. Tata Nano’s West Bengal stint exemplifies this case. Environment clearance and land acquisition takes forever as piles of files gather dust on babus’ tables. The current government may be a pro-foreign investment brigade. The next government after five years may not have the same mind set. What happens to these investors, their capital and the legitimate profits then? Hence, there is a need to put a checkered barricade between government’s interventions and control over this sector. Business rules should be at par with the international standards in documents, spirits as well as practice and not just words. There is also a necessity of skill development for an efficient labour force. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), consolidating data collected from around 15,000 villages of India, revealed some highly disturbing figures. According to the report, though a high proportion of children are enrolled in schools, but more than half of the students in fifth standard can’t read a second grade text and 3 out of 4 students face difficulties while solving a simple division problem. The root of this problem is the Indian schooling system that focuses exclusively on completing the curriculum rather than imparting knowledge. Predictably, a staggering proportion of these children have neither skills, nor knowledge to advance to the secondary level of education and rather choose to drop out of this formal schooling regime, ill-prepared for a globalised work environment.
All these challenges need to be addressed effectively if the nation is to witness an economic boom as well as a significant rise in employment opportunities for the youth. But these are not insuperable hurdles. We don’t need a magic gun, what is required is a series of magic bullets. Nations like Japan, South Korea and even China have proved to the world that through effective and efficient government action plans along with requisite measures, manufacturing industry can be honed to be the fore-runner national sector. The day India follows their footsteps, that fine day will mark the inception of the manufacturing sector evolution. To frame it better, inception of the ‘acche din’.
Anupriya is a second year undergraduate student in Economics at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi. An avid reader, she wants to travel across India to comprehend the varied façade of the Indian culture and traditions. Apart from academics, Anupriya has also dabbled in extracurricular activities like debate and documentary making. She has won numerous awards for her documentaries on social issues. Sports, primarily football, and painting constitute her main interests.