FROM THE EDITOR- IN- CHIEF
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.
OUR OCTOBER 2006 COVER