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Is Odisha caught up in a ‘Rotten Potato’ syndrome?

One particular pair of shoes does not fit all.Hence, the Chinese created new shoes for themselves. With a new approach and attitude towards discipline, social etiquettes, health and hygiene etc. China created new priorities and economic theories and defined them to fit into their ground realities. Rest, as they say, has become history!Chinese housewife preferred throwing out all the ‘rotten potatoes in one go.

“A house wife checks her vegetable stock in the morning before starting her daily chore of cooking for the family. Finds a few potatoes getting spoiled. She chops off the rotten portions and cooks the rest for her family. The next day the same act gets repeated. Every morning few potatoes are found to be getting bad and the family continues to eat the remains of rotting potatoes.”

The same appears to be the story with Odisha as it goes on revising its Industrial Promotion Resolution (IPR) year after year, chopping off the obvious and visible ineffective components of previous IPR and hoping that the next one would revive the industrial climate in the state and bring in a revolution in the elusive manufacturing sector.

A much hailed ‘new’ IPR-2015 was launched in early October last year. For the first time policy declaration and notification for implementation was declared the same day.A welcome step since the previous ones saw time lag of not months but years, between the two. Not surprising that on earlier instances, before implementation began, it was time for writing the draft for the next IPR.

The state launched a website and E-handling of industrial application, approval and other development matters and also proclaimed formation of a land bank with all relevant information being available on the website. These are welcome ‘first time’ steps, though in many ways ‘too little- too late’. These could have been hailed as a ‘giant leap’, had the beginning been as much in time and on time as was envisaged originally by the planners.

Still,hopes are rife that this time around, the state would get out of the ‘rotten potato syndrome!

The dilemma:

In the first place, why did the house wife follow the course of action that she did?

Matter of habit? Sense of prudence? Seen others doing it? Following the general practice?

Whatever be the reason, the family continued eating ‘rotten potatoes’! As the cliché goes, Odisha continues to remain a ‘rich states inhabited by poor people’; in spite and despite so many revisions of its economic and industrial policies. This situation has been lingering for many decades now. One cannot imagine that any planner and administrator wishes the state to remain so, as like the housewife who also would not wish her family to go on eating ‘rotten potatoes’.

Intentions not to be faulted upon, could the fault be laid upon ‘execution’? Is it a matter of attitude? Could the fault lie in approach and outlook? Surely, when many states in the country with hardly any natural assets in hand have merrily grown to the higher strata of economic and social standing, for Odisha, poverty continuesto be treated as a fate-accomplice!

Could the housewife hastaken to rejecting all the partly rotten potatoes to start with? May be, ‘yes’, but may be, prudence and a ‘housewifely’ sense of economy wouldn’t have supported it then.

Could she have taken the decision as above after one or two trials and chosen to reject all partly rotten potatoes and gone on to use only the good ones thereafter? May be ‘yes’!

China did it:

There is an example of China before us. A nation struggling in 1980swith problems of maintaining the largest population on earth, tackling harsh climate, lack of natural resources etc. and above all, trying hard to come out of a history of socio-political turmoil and abject poverty. As the Chinese themselves say- what pulled them out of that rut was a total overhaul of attitude and approach to principles of socio-economic transformation. First, they had to throw out the developmental economic theories createdby thinkers in small nations like Scotland, Belgium, Britain and Germany etc. which had no semblance to geographic, climatic, social, religious, demographic and economic situation prevailing in a large multi-cultural country like China. After all, one shoe does not fit all! So, they created new shoes for themselves. The western nations didn’t need as much ‘human resource re-engineering’ in late 20th century as Chinadid. A new China, with a new approach and attitude towards discipline, social etiquettes, health and hygiene etc. had to be created. New priorities and economic theories had to be defined to fit into ground conditions. Rest, as they say has become history!

In other words, the Chinese house wife did throw out all the ‘rotten potatoes (the old western theories and dogmas of developmental economics)’ in one go, decided on a new menu and disregarding traditional approaches as passed on to her by previous generations, and said – “No rotten potatoes” for my family. Its welfare and specific need of health and happiness first to be met let the ‘me too’ approach be there for others to follow!

Many in India say that what is possible in China under its strict autocratic communist system is not feasible in India. For last plus 65 years, we as a nation have been trying out with borrowed socialistic, capitalistic and mixed economy models. Even that has not worked with us in India and Odisha is worse off in that respect. What would work may be debated till, as they say, “cows come back from the jungles” and question remains, till then, should we continue feeding generations with ‘rotten potatoes’?

Odisha’s Dilemma:

Odisha remaining a poor state, may be, wasn’t its own fault all together. It has, in general, always been a global phenomenon that natural resource rich regions of the world remained poor and those without such resources got richer with time. The regulations created after independence restrictedthe rightsof states like Odisha,to utilise their natural wealth for their own use. In other words, Odisha was handed down by the national planners a basket full of ‘rotten potatoes’ to start up in the form of a set of ‘lop sided’ policies.

But then, why did ancillary, auxiliary and downstream industries did not come up in Odisha, which became a hub of many core industrial commodity producing industries, as early as the 1950s? Why did the industrial estates built all over Odisha in 1980s and 90s, did not attract local entrepreneurship? How come unique and very well intentioned ‘1000 industries in 1000 days’ program in early 90s lasted only as long as the subsidy period lasted? How come  a state with one of the lowest population density in the country, the largest fertile land per head to its population and with +12% of nation’s natural inland water resources, remained backward and deficient in meeting its own needs of consumer, agriculture, horticulture,animal husbandry, poultry and similar basic human needs? Why did an average citizen of Odisha remained at the bottom of all national charts of quality of life, literacy, life expectancy and even integrity and ease of doing business etc.?

By following the ‘rotten potatoes’ syndrome, did Odisha went on piling more and more rotten potatoes into the basket, that was originally handed down?

May be answers to Odisha’s woes liein some or many more questions as above. May be the new IPR-2015, which prima-facia looks different from the previous IPRs would address some of these? May be, sooner than later a ‘new’ Odisha would emerge, sooner than later, a-la the ‘new’breed of Chinese with an attitude and approach different from that of their previous generations?

Till then, best wishes and ‘good speed’ for the creators and implementers of IPR-2015 !

About Shri BhabaniShankar Pani

Industrial Consultant & Entrepreneurship Mentor

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