Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s impassioned speech at the Make in India Week’s inaugural session was touching for the earnestness with which he invited domestic and global investors to bring design capabilities and innovative ideas and invest in manufacturing and infrastructure. The PM’s unquestionable commitment and vision, however, must be matched by policies and actions of institutions and implementing authorities at the ground level. “Make In India” had several avatars in the past 10 years. CMs of various states went on expensive roadshows overseas, but had little to show afterwards. India had a strong manufacturing base in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, that was a major contributor to GDP; now it’s been overtaken by services. There are many imponderables.
Mr Modi mentioned the corrections made in changing archaic laws and impeding processes and practices like licensing, rationalising taxes, eschewing retrospective taxes, governance transparency, setting up dedicated commercial courts, introducing the bankruptcy law, protecting intellectual property rights, etc. But at the ground level things still move at a snail’s place. Even finance minister Arun Jaitley doesn’t seem to be on the same page as Mr Modi on the speed required. While the PM made it clear he wants a quantum leap in changes, the FM told CNN that the reforms were a step-by-step process, not a “big bang” one. Most people are thinking in this incremental manner, that is the anthesis of the PM’s vision. Mr Modi appealed to investors, institutions and political leaders to use the vast opportunities India offered and bring their design and innovative ideas, raise productivity and lower the cost of production. This is one of the major challenges manufacturers face.
They need to have a public policy that could push for better design infrastructure like training institutes and centres where designers/innovators from all economic classes can bring ideas that are relevant to the people’s needs. There is also a need to focus on rural design and rural artisans who include millions of tribals and women. There is also a lot of concern that investors who bring in funds may not necessarily be good paymasters. Several states have been creating labour laws that don’t protect workers’ rights. Contract labour seems to be the name of the game. This might have been acceptable if there were safety and security nets, but these are non-existent in India. This aspect should be looked into if the wealth created has to be shared by everyone. To this end, as Mr Modi has said, people must aim to become job creators. “Make in India” and “Start-Up India” should be able to foster this entrepreneurial spirit.