Industrialising Polls?

Industries Minister Sajjad Ahmad Kitchloo’s recent announcement about the government setting up 18 new industrial estates in Jammu and Kashmir sounds like a crude joke wrapped inside a poll promise that will eventually turn out to be a big dud.
Ask people already associated with the industrial and manufacturing sector, particularly those privileged enough to be enjoying the blessings of the so-called existing industrial estates. The consensus would certainly be that rather than entice potential political financiers with the juicy bait of nine estates apiece in the Kashmir and Jammu divisions, the NC-led government would have done far better by relieving the sorry condition of those already existing.

Except for the ones functioning in two particular districts of the Jammu district, industrial estates here remain poorly developed and struggling on a bare minimum of facilities

Except for the ones functioning in two particular districts of the Jammu district, industrial estates remain poorly developed and struggling on a bare minimum of facilities.

Besides, promoting industries is a highly-skewed enterprise in Jammu and Kashmir where successive governments have favoured a particular division – by pumping in cash, subsidies and other incentives – at the cost of the other. The results of the state government’s industrial policy speak for themselves, not only in terms of the number of industrial units, or enterprises, set up, but also by a humongous imbalance in the import and export of finished products. Annually, the state imports Rs 40,000 worth of consumer goods from different parts of India, but its exports, mainly unprocessed fruit and some handicrafts, do not touch even the Rs 8,000 crore mark. A totally consumer state, dependent on imports even in humble staples like rice (but that is another subject) which Jammu and Kashmir should have been self-sufficient in.

Successive dispensations here have also failed to achieve anything out of the much-talked-about Industrial Policy of 2004 where incentives running into thousands of crores of rupees have been provided by the Government of India. According to official audit reports released in 2012, the contribution of the manufacturing sector in J&K’s GSDP had been declining in recent years despite substantial concessions given to new industrial units. The sector’s share in the state economy had declined to 2. 71 per cent in 2012.

A few units doing well in the industrial estates in the Samba and Kathua districts of the Jammu division are only devouring resources and subsidies as they neither provide employment for locals nor benefit the local economy. More than eighty per cent of the workforce in these units – owned by Indian corporate houses – is comprised of non-state subjects.

At a time when the government should have been addressing such issues and developing industrial estates already in existence, announcing new ones appears to be a pure gimmick.

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