It is against a challenging backdrop that the ´Make in India´ campaign promises much. To be sure, the country´s manufacturing sector is at a critical point. And it´s been stuck there for sometime now. The sector´s contribution to GDP has been inert around the 15% mark for almost the last three decades. Compare that to China where manufacturing contributes 34% to the GDP. More significantly, China´s share of world manufacturing stands at a little over 20% while India´s share is less than 2%!
With just six-seven states in India that account for around 60-70% of the country´s manufacturing output, such a scenario is not surprising. Therefore, the ´Make in India´ campaign must create a broader geographical base. After all, if it is true that India resides in the villages, it is equally true India´s manufacturing lives in its small towns like Tirupur (textiles), Baddi (pharma), Surat (diamonds), Chakan (automotive), and many more. Each of these places have an inherent ¨strategic fit¨ with the corresponding sector. We must keep this geographical spread in mind, when we develop our manufacturing model.
The other interconnected issue is that of employment generation. While India´s services sector has hogged the limelight for long, and rightly so, alas, it cannot employ the masses. If India is to reap the fruits of its demographic dividend, providing employment will be crucial in a country projected to have about 1.7 billion people by 2050.
To this end, another of the government´s campaigns - the Skill India campaign û will be crucial for success of ´Make in India´, as it attempts to provide the many vocational skills needed for various sectors, including manufacturing. Done rightly, this can arm our manufacturing sector with a productive workforce, which in turn, can be a potential differentiator. As with every announcement, there´s no doubting the good intent behind such programmes. However, there are reports already of a lack of proper planning and implementation of this programme in certain projects or centres. The monitoring bodies will have to be watchful here.
Lastly, no nation can have a competitive manufacturing sector, without having world-class infrastructure. The western nations prioritised infrastructure over everything else decades earlier and and we know where this strategy has taken them.
We have to also get our basic infrastructure in place. Roads and highways, for instance, the subject of our cover story, are central to the growth of manufacturing and the core building blocks of any nation. Aptly then, the construction of the Golden Quadrilateral is looked upon as a watershed, a game-changer for the country for a number of reasons. In its full five-year term, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government conceptualised and built 2,360 km of roads as part of the 5,846 km Golden Quadrilateral project that aimed to connect the four metros. The rest was taken up by the succeeding UPA government and the project was declared completed in January 2012. Today, the Golden Quadrilateral accounts for more than 70 per cent of goods transported in India of which the Delhi-Mumbai route alone accounts for over 45 per cent. However, somewhere down the line, road projects have considerably slowed down. So, it is great to see the steps that are being taken now to revive stalled or delayed infrastructure projects.
Last but not least, no talk about India´s story of ascendance is complete without the mention of its illustrious leaders over the decades. The country lost one such leader, former President APJ Abdul Kalam, in July. The People´s President, Missile Man of India, scientist, leader and a humanitarian, the accolades are many. We will do well as a nation and as individuals if we are able to carry forward his legacy.