Hollow words

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Over the years, politicians have been telling us that a reassuring political consensus is emerging for the state’s viable economic-roadmap. But little has changed and our state has not gone beyond its excessive reliance on the Centre for its economic and financial needs. Politicians of all shades will continue to spin rhetoric and tell us about endeavour to work out an investment based employment policy. Now it is difficult to decipher the import of such remarks without knowing the broad contours of what their investment plan are. Words like ‘sustainable economy’ and ‘investment based employment policy’ that are parried around regularly can sound exciting but remain a case of building castles in the air. It is not known what has been the assessment of the economic and unemployment distress within the state or its sagging economy and what rabbit the political parties wishes to pull out of its magic hat as a remedy to all these issues. However, simply going by the history of a ravaged economic structure of the state and its increasing dependence on central funds, which have become more a political tool to flaunt than to deliver relief to the people on the ground, in all probability this appears to be a case of hollow words. There is need first of all for realism and acknowledging that our stagnant economy has gone beyond the distress point. Any other way of describing it is nothing but pure jugglery of figures. There is nothing celebratory about what semblance of growth statistician shows, as the expenditure increase does not necessarily project productive growth, which actually remains missing. Here the actual expenditure is primarily accounted for by the government service sector where most of the state’s budget is focused to feed the huge sector of government employees. Employment schemes are more rooted in this already over-burdened government sector while two vital sectors – agriculture and industry – that can ensure productive growth and can generate employment, are totally ignored. In fact the neglect of the vital agricultural sector has not only led to low outputs but also contributed to food inflation and hampering of the ecosystem with conversion of vast tracts of agricultural land to commercial land. The industrial sector of the economy, however miniscule it is, remains bogged down by inefficient delivery system, bureaucratic hurdles and the inability to link industrial growth to the local resources of the state. Discouragement to this end has sagged the morale of the industry, even though a robust industrial plan can not only ensure sustainable economy but also ensure employment. Instead of the industrial sector registering growth, it has ended up in enhancing the levels of joblessness, especially after demonetization. Key other areas that can generate employment, where political, geographical and topographical complexities must inspire out of the box thinking, are also not given due importance. A successful model could have been government initiatives to set up new co-operative ventures and make the existing ones viable. Instead, existing co-operative structures and public sector under-takings are being destroyed and superseded. Handicrafts are not being promoted by creating markets and boosting exports. Instead of generating employment, this sector too is mostly dying and many artisans pushed to a life of penury. Another viable means to boost our economy is tourism, but it remains poorly planned. While political instability and the unresolved Naga issue destabilizes the number of tourists from time to time, poor infrastructure and inability to bring some potential areas on the tourism map or ensure dispersal of tourists both horizontally and vertically. Innovative, transformative and a well designed professional policy to give a much needed impetus to the tourism sector appears to be nowhere in sight. Flip flop, wavering and patch work approaches have deprived this vital sector of the state’s economy of having been fully exploited to contribute more than it traditionally in its inertial way does. We do not need any introduction to the outside world in terms of the abundance of tourism related treasures this state is blessed with but what we are lacking is a comprehensive and exhaustive tourism policy. Whatever is going on in this vital sector is going on its own in an unplanned and directionless way. Clearly sustainable employment generation cannot be expected without focusing on these key sectors.