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Not By ‘Mere' Industrialisation, Alone
There is something about the corporate world, in many parts of India, which is quite unique.
Vinayshil Gautam

Uniqueness has many manifestations, including the patterns of development of corporatisation. It is truly different from what is seen in any other part of the world.

For one, the uneven distribution of natural resources is matched by the unevenness of industrial development. Equally strange is the lack of coupling of the place from where the industrial units have sprouted and where the raw material supply is from. Illustratively, which investor in his right business senses would have set up one unit in Haridwar, another in Bhopal and the third in Trichy? This is the spread of the three plants of BHEL.

All of Assam and one almost say the North East is known for its hydrocarbon resources and mineral wealth. Yet there are very few significant refineries in that region which can be counted for their dynamic prowess. The other kinds of mineral wealth are either yet to be explored or to be harnessed. Raw material has to ‘flow’ several hundred kilometres down to Bengal and Odisha in parts, to see fruition.

Those industries which were in Bengal had the winds knocked out of their sail by the ‘great revolution’ generated in the early seventies. Not only there was a ‘flight of capital’ but also of factories and mills. It is another story that several mills ‘died while flying’ as it were. Even a casual ride on a boat from Howrah down the Hugli would establish the sheer barrenness — and loneliness — arising out of the sight of abandoned mills and factories on either side of the river.

The purpose cannot be to blame any political party because there were other political parties in power before the flight took place and there have been still other political parties in power since the flight of the industries took place. India is one of those places where perceptions of, so-called, social justice, in many cases become inextricably intertwined with productivity. Often the outcome is that while the cause of social justice is at the best dubiously served, the cause of productivity goes for a toss.

Put simply, not only private investments but public investments seem to have a strange logic of patronisation and political graft. At play are several considerations of investments other than tapping the natural resources for the general good and the welfare of all.

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September 2019