India Today - - NEWS - ( Aroon Purie)

There is an air of gloom all around us. A co­matose Govern­ment, mul­ti­ple eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors in free fall, and daily episodes of crime against women are the or­der of the day. Our so­cio- po­lit­i­cal land­scape seems to be strewn with fallen icons, in­clud­ing a re­li­gious leader ac­cused of rape and se­rial sex­ual mis­con­duct. Even the world of sport, re­cov­er­ing from a cricket spot- fix­ing scan­dal, has been shaken by the con­tin­ued sus­pen­sion of an ar­ro­gant and self- serv­ing In­dian Olympic As­so­ci­a­tion. It is at times such as th­ese that it be­comes im­por­tant to re­mind our­selves that there is still some joy in the sim­ple plea­sures of life. To re­dis­cover the lit­tle al­coves of hap­pi­ness that our coun­try still has to of­fer, ir­re­spec­tive of who is run­ning it and how low the morale is.

For this week’s cover story, there­fore, we ask some of our best- known tal­ents from across fields to help us ex­pe­ri­ence In­dia as they have ex­pe­ri­enced it. We travel with crick­eter Yu­vraj Singh to Goa, where, he says, “real beauty lies in the back al­leys of small fish­ing vil­lages and on the green fields that line nar­row streets con­nect­ing two hid­den towns”. We go with ac­tor Ir­rfan Khan to the National School of Drama, “where theatre is still taught and per­formed for the right rea­sons, rather than to cre­ate com­mer­cial en­ti­ties”.

Politi­cian Priya Dutt takes us to Mum­bai’s Me­hboob Stu­dio, where her par­ents Su­nil Dutt and Nar­gis had shot the ever­last­ing Mother In­dia ( 1957). We go with Gul Panag on a bike ride to in­cred­i­ble Leh, and we en­ter a labyrinth of criss- cross­ing streets near Church­gate with John Abra­ham in search of the finest ‘ cut­ting’ chai. Lawyer Har­ish Salve shares with us his pas­sion for sushi. Jammu and Kash­mir Chief Min­is­ter Omar Ab­dul­lah takes us ski­ing on the cel­e­brated slopes of Gul­marg. And bad­minton star Jwala Gutta helps us find the best haleem among thou­sands of restau­rants that make that claim across Hyderabad’s bustling mar­kets.

Along with this up­lift­ing pack­age about In­dia’s small won­ders, this is­sue also brings you a de­flat­ing ac­count about the death of man­u­fac­tur­ing. Our re­porters dis­cover first- hand from me­tal fabri­ca­tors in Dur­ga­pur, ma­chine tool mak­ers in Coim­bat­ore, and ma­chin­ery man­u­fac­tur­ers in in­dus­trial es­tates near Mum­bai, that there is a sense of hope­less­ness within the sec­tor. Caught in red tape, poor in­fra­struc­ture, ar­chaic land laws, and labour statutes that pre­date In­de­pen­dence, In­dia’s steel, tex­tile and con­sumer durables in­dus­tries are dy­ing a slow death. Some of our top busi­ness houses, such as Tata Group and L& T, are hap­pier to ex­pand over­seas than at home.

The sum to­tal is that our man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor is be­ing forced to sub­mit to a host of reck­less for­eign im­ports. Our un­prece­dented de­mo­graphic div­i­dend lies wasted as we’re throw­ing up al­most no new skilled jobs for the mil­lions of po­ten­tial work­ers who are com­ing of age ev­ery year. In­stead we are hir­ing them as se­cu­rity guards, el­e­va­tor op­er­a­tors, pe­ons and couri­ers, or not at all.

The share of man­u­fac­tur­ing in Thai­land’s GDP is 35.6 per cent, South Korea 31.2 per cent and China 29.6 per cent, as com­pared to In­dia’s 15.2 per cent. The Govern­ment has asked the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion and National Man­u­fac­tur­ing Com­pet­i­tive­ness Coun­cil ( NMCC) to de­velop co­or­di­nated ac­tion plans with states to boost man­u­fac­tur­ing. In July, the Pro­ject Man­age­ment Group ( PMG) cleared 17 large projects. But th­ese pla­ca­tory mea­sures a year be­fore the Gen­eral Elec­tions smack of op­por­tunism rather than in­tent. This is not how Asia’s ris­ing economies got rich. This is not how In­dia, once a favoured des­ti­na­tion for for­eign in­vestors, will be able to ful­fil its po­ten­tial.

Hope­fully, th­ese di­a­met­ri­cally dif­fer­ent sto­ries will in­spire our lead­ers to give us more rea­sons to be happy rather than feel let down by the sys­tem.


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