Create right setup to tap India's assets

Indians don't perform well at home due to lack of opportunities and sycophantic work environment.

India can grow only when it manages its assets and liabilities well. India’s assets range from its vast land mass, a wide network of river system, abundant mineral resources and energy sources, 24 agro-climatic zones, a long coast line, rich handicraft and handloom traditions, tourism and pilgrimage sectors, diverse flora and fauna, missiles technology, space technology, a vibrant service sector, etc.

There are other intangible assets like the nation’s 5,000-year-old civilisation – its biggest social capital which has all the ingredients of a strong nation as outlined by the 19 th century French philosopher, Ernst Renan in his famous essay ‘Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?’: “A heroic past, great men, glory, that is the social capital upon which one bases a national idea.” But, how to make the assets perform is the biggest challenge before the nation.

Nature has blessed India with huge reservoir of natural resources, yet, unfortunately, the country has failed to tap this sector. For example, India’s forestry sector has an immense potential to generate income and employment. However, over the years, it has been
plundered by a few looters in connivance with politico-middlemen.

Forest brigand, Veerappan killed more than 20,000 elephants and smuggled out an inestimable quantity of tusks and sandalwood from the forests of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The tusks and sandalwood, with value addition in India would have earned huge revenue. The cost of red sandalwood is more than Rs 1 crore per tonne in international market.

Over the decades, huge quantity of red sandal worth several hundred crores of rupees has been smuggled out from the forests of Chittoor and Kadapa for value addition in foreign countries. Like forest products, minerals worth lakhs of crores of rupees have been looted from Indian mines.

Though, the revenue loss from coal mines between 1993 and 2010 is estimated at Rs 1.86 lakh crore, the actual loss from all mines due to theft, mismanagement, smuggling and spurious auctions in the last 65 years has not been scientifically accessed.

The Indian agriculture sector with 24 agro climatic zones continues to be a low performer in spite of growing demand for food world over. Politicisation of farmers’ societies, mono-cropping, low private investment in agriculture, growing idle energy mainly due to misuse of Rs 1 per kg rice, poor extension services, poor input management and lack of research etc. are a few detrimental factors. In Keonjhar district of Odisha, more than 60 per cent of farmland remains idle due to Rs 1 per kg rice. A majority of people sell it in black market and skip work.

Tribal communities in Nandapur block in Koraput district, Odisha produce purely orga-nic potato, onion, garlic, coriander, brinjal, drumstick, cauliflower, cabbage, chilli, rajma, moongdal, coffee beans, tejpatta, sargum, ragi, finger millet, groundnut etc. But they don’t get a transparent market to have a moderate profit margin. Market yards across the country are infested with several layers of middlemen.

Man-made crisis

The present crisis in agriculture is more manmade than climate-related. Andhra Pradesh has allowed the destruction of more than 60,000 ha of mangrove which has led to crop damage during cyclone. Mangrove acts as a natural defence against cyclone.

India loses 70 per cent of its surface water in runoff. According to the Ministry of Water Resources, a total of 85,807 water bodies in India are not in use, out of which 8,152 have totally dried up. There is no dedicated river census to know the actual damage to the river system. The 2011 River census in China had revealed that 28,000 rivers have disappeared from China.

India has a vibrant handicraft and handloom sector. Though the handicraft export grows at 10 per cent per annum, the environment does not encourage artisans. The Chikankari artisans of Lucknow, Himroo and Paithani weavers of Ahmednagar, Pattachitra, silver filigree, handloom weavers and horn artisans of Odisha, toy makers of Nirmal and bidri artisans of Bidar have lost much of their skill mainly due to lack of transparent market and the growing influence of middlemen. The young generations of artisans have switched over to other professions.

Many Indian minds have contributed greatly to the economic growth and intellectual capital of developed nations. A detailed analysis of the 2011 British census found Indians to be most successful ethnic minority occupying 15.4 per cent of higher managerial jobs in Britain. Nearly 41 per cent of doctors in Britain are of Indian origin. A recent US backed study found that 40 per cent of Indian-born researchers are working in foreign countries.

Yet, the same Indian minds don’t perform well in their own country due to lack of inclusive opportunities and proper infrastructure, and due to work environment infested with sycophancy. It is high time now to create the right environment for India’s assets to perform.

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