The extension of the truncated Industrial Package to 2017 in Uttarakhand cannot really do anything significant in rebuilding the momentum that was lost when the disastrous decision was taken to cut it short. However, the initiative does represent an acknowledgement among the powers that be of a mistake having been made. To the extent that certain industries that were originally set up under the package will get some reprieve, it should prove an advantage. It will also be an object lesson in not fiddling around with the economy for the sake of political rivalry. The damage suffered in every way can last a long time.
One unfortunate aspect of the industrial package fiasco has been the collapse of the original development vision forged for the state. The government now needs to begin with scratch. It has displayed its sincerity towards Industry by ‘correcting’ its earlier mistake, but it should not try and develop the old strategy. The present Congress government has three years of its term left, which is more than sufficient to refurbish and put into play a new approach to development. This would be particularly moot in the light of the experiences after the June 2013 natural disaster.
As earlier stated in these columns, there should be two distinct development plans for the hills and the plains. These should be prepared and implemented by two separate sets of officials with experience in and inclination for that particular philosophy. The basic parameters have already been established – even if too often forgotten. Non-polluting small and medium state of the art manufacturing industries can continue to be established in the plains. However, a more elaborately worked out and sophisticated policy is required for the hills, which will interlace tourism (including pilgrimage) with other livelihood activities of the people ranging from organic agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry and handicrafts to IT and production of culture related software. Either way, it is not possible without an integrated vision implemented by committed go-getters.
On the face of it, every one of these sectors is being developed in the state but largely as a bureaucratic exercise. The actual ‘successes’ are coming largely unregulated and without regard to the larger picture – not just in the environmental sense, but also economically. Unless each activity feeds the other, and those involved in them understand the need for the interconnectivity, the necessary balance will not be achieved that would make the whole a viable ‘product’.
It is very difficult to recover from an economic slowdown caused by disasters and bad decisions. It is only a committed approach that can combat the demoralisation and depletion of resources. It must draw energy from the traditional strengths and experiences of the people, as well as the potential that new technologies and occupations present. The state government requires a heightened awareness of all these issues – at every level – to be able to play its role. It should not confine itself to merely reshaping central schemes that channelise funds into the system and, instead, identify the areas that require a boost. The way forward needs to be charted with the help of the larger community by holding regular seminars and interactions on specific and general issues.
There has been an attitudinal change – let it go all the way.