December , 2021
Infrastructure, not summits, will wean industry in states
16:26 pm

Buroshiva Dasgupta

It’s a pleasure to note two political rivals meet each other and wish themselves well. Mamata Banerjee went to the extent of inviting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come to the state and inaugurate the next business summit in West Bengal early 2022. The state really needs a push in industrialization, and one wishes that the prime minister accepts the invitation.

But wishes, unfortunately, are not horses; nor industries drop out of thin air. It needs, firstly, an infrastructure. The recently published 2021 report ‘Logistics Ease Across Different States’ (LEADS) of the Ministry of Industries
places West Bengal in the 15th position – one position above that of the 2019 report. The report writes:“the State has low scores in indicators Reasonableness of Road Freight Rates and Prices of Terminal Services and Ease of Obtaining all Approvals.

“The increased freight cost experienced by the industry could be partly explained by unwarranted stoppages by regulatory agencies. Heavy congestion on roads connecting to Haldia port (NH-41 and NH-116), also plays a part in the increased cost of movement of goods. Although the State has a single window mechanism, low score in the indicator of Ease of Obtaining all Approvals indicates that it may have not be successfully implemented yet. Evidencing the same, State has obtained less than the composite average indicator scores in Extent of Facilitation provided by the State.”

So however hard the chief minister might try, her state is not ready to move forward in the industrialisation process. The suggestions made by the LEADS report are worth a thought:

The State may inspect and investigate the constraints being faced by the industry and may undertake the following measures - The State may prepare and formalize a dedicated Logistics Policy. The State may further strengthen the institutional mechanism by the constitution of a State and city logistics coordination committee for the integrated development of logistics ecosystem. Implementation of digital initiatives to decrease the number of physical checks of commercial vehicles by enforcement officers.

The State may coordinate with NHAI to inspect and invest in widening, strengthening and maintenance of roads (NH-41 and NH116) connecting to the Haldia port terminal. The State may focus on maximum utilization of Kolkata port for the direct cargo movement to the south-eastern countries. The State may implement IT infrastructure for surveillance for monitoring the incidents related to unwarranted stoppage and harassment by RTO/ Police officials. The State may also consider strengthening the existing grievance redressal mechanism. The State may implement digital or paperless processing of documents relating to coastal shipping movement.

In this new age of global trade, its suicidal to ignore logistics. One can plan new ports (e.g., the seaport near Tajpur) or new international airports (e.g. Andal and Bagdogra) – but upgrading the existing infrastructural facilities is an easier and quicker option. Why cannot the state and centre cooperate to widen the vital link between Kolkata and Siliguri – NH45? Enough time has been wasted by blaming each other – the central and state agencies responsible for building the thoroughfare.

The LEADS report is an open document to reveal why Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Tamil Nādu, and Maharashtra secure the top five positions in matters of infrastructure. There are surprises as well. Uttar Pradesh has moved up to sixth position and Jharkhand to 12th – a position better than West Bengal. The criteria for selecting the states based on infrastructure as the mainstay for ‘ease of doing businesses’ has been more ‘objectively’ done than in previous years by a specialised group of professionals (Ernst& Young). The methodology adopted is transparent.

It is clear no amount of promotion or summits will make a state industrialised. Let them look inwards, do the homework and compete infrastructurally to wean in industry.



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