Issue No.1 : SME Sector
Needless to say, next to Agriculture, SME sector is the largest provider of employment to the people and contributor to national output and exports. Hence, it should receive special attention, to step up its growth momentum.
Recently held ‘Synergy – MSME 2013’, a 5-day Conclave from 16-20 September 2013, has created a tremendous growth momentum in this sector. A full day was earmarked for MCCI exclusively, to interact with potential investors on ‘Marketing and Supply Chain Management’. The large number of turn out at the Inaugural and Technical sessions was impressive. It reflected a huge impact of the Sessions among potential investors.
As a follow – up action, we have decided to draw a ‘Blue-Print of Growth Strategy for SMEs in West Bengal’ with the help of professional experts from IIMC, PwC and The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) as well as different industry – sector leaders in the State.
The highlights of the Report, to be submitted to the Hon’ble Chief Minister and other ministers concerned would be the following:
- Planned production of all ancillary items needed within next 3 years
- Quality improvement and Cost reduction.
- Induction of latest technology into production.
- Development of logistics and
- Improvement of Labour quality and discipline through Apprenticeship and In-plant Training Programmes.
We hope, that we can submit this Report within 3 months or so.
Further, to encourage quality production and innovative ideas in production and marketing, we have decided to offer ‘Excellence Awards’ to the SMEs operating in West Bengal, every year.
Issue No.2 : Skill development
A study made in 2008 by the Planning Commission shows that only 10 p.c. eligible youths in India gets training and out of them only 2 p.c. gets job. This is a dismal picture, compared to other countries like Korea (97 p.c.), Japan (80 p.c.) and U.K (68 p.c.). Besides, India is the youngest country with 65 p.c. of its population under 35 years of age. Hence, the need for training and skill development, to be eligible for employment is maximum in India. Australia has a national strategy for the youth and Germany offers on-the-job training. But India has none.
The National Council of Skill Development, 2008 and the National Skill Policy 2009 could achieve very little. Then in 2013 the Central Government decided to follow the Gujarat model of creating Skill Development Centres. The salient features of the model are –
- Incentives are given by the government for investments directed towards enhancing skill-levels of the man-power.
- Government has set up Gujarat Knowledge Society and Knowledge Corridors for higher education, in response to the current market trends so that industry – responsive and readily employable man-power, focusing on local resources, can be quickly built up.
- Government is planning to introduce industry responsive short-term Modular Courses in existing ITIs, Poly-techniques and Engineering Colleges with active user-industry participation and involvement on a PPP basis.
- Government has also proposed to set up Extensive Training Centres in IDCs, Industrial Parks, SEZs and Industrial Clusters.
- Anchor Institutes will also be set up to develop new training courses and benchmarking the existing courses in the context of International curriculum and for the purpose of training the trainers.
- ‘Incubation Centres’ are also proposed to be set up in partnership with the Private and Corporate sectors, Academia and Centres of Excellence under the PPP model, in order to fully harness the potential of the millions of youths in the country.
We think that this model is very much need – based, pragmatic and involves all the stake-holders such as Private and Corporate sectors, Academia, Centres of excellence etc. It is bound to minimise wastage of time, training and money and maximise the employability of the trained youth.
We intend to pursue this model of skill development with the State government and offer whatever is possible within our means to facilitate the developmental of skills in various trades and industries in West Bengal.
Issue No.3 : Population Policy
India has a population of around 1210 million, 2nd highest in the world and West Bengal has 91 million as per latest census. But
even 30 years ago, the population figures were only 683 million and 54 mn respectively, nearly half of what it is today. With only 2.4 p.c. of the world’s land area, India has to support 17 p.c. of the world population. West Bengal also has to bear undue pressure of population, at density of 1029 per sq. Km., second highest among the States in India.
We propose to submit to the Central and State governments that India should adopt a 2 – children Population Policy and carry on extensive campaign in favour of such a policy. Extensive publicity may be made through Social media, Schools and Colleges, NGOs, BPL/Ration Card holders, NREGA, Job seekers etc. backed up by economic dis-incentives by the government for non-compliance with this policy. Economic incentives may be announced for ‘one-child Family’. We shall act as an active facilitator of this policy in all possible ways.
Issue No.4 : Promoting Darjeeling as Tourist paradise
Darjeeling is called the ‘Queen of Hills’, but it is in a poor state now. Apart from political problems, it suffers from many economic disabilities, such as poor roads, inadequate power and water supply, absence of amusement, good food, hassle-free trekking and budget hotels etc. for the tourists. From the Chamber, we would like to focus attention of the State government on improvement of these facilities on a PPP model. In particular, I would like to focus on –
- Improvement of transport, cafeteria and restaurants, power and water supply round the clock, marketing Centres and above all, security for the tourists.
- Renovation of important places of interest like Gymkhana Club, Planters’ Club, Tourist Lodge, Hill- View points and Mall Roads etc. ‘Toy Train’ should be up-graded, Tourism Parks at Mirik, Kalimpong and Sandakfu etc. should be developed.
- There is also great scope for developing Tea-Tourism which is a pet project of the State government, and a lot of tourists visit Darjeeling during Summer, Sharadiya Puja and Christmas days. Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong may be developed as Education Hubs.
- T.V. Channels may also be opened for exclusive publicity of the beauty, charm and facilities available for tourists at Darjeeling, with our Brand Ambassador, Shah Rukh Khan uttering a few words of praise in his inimitable ways. This Strategy may enhance the attraction of Darjeeling immensely.
- Rejuvenation of sick Tea-Gardens can provide a big thrust to the attraction of Darjeeling. But certain issues in the sale of these gardens are coming in the way. If they are solved by the State, the private sector can play a big role in their growth and creation of modern facilities of entertainment for the tourists.
Issue No.5 : Land for Industry
The Investment & Industrial Policy 2013 of West Bengal is silent about the cases where land is purchased directly by the industry. Issues relating to ‘Bargadar’ are not clarified. It needs to be clearly stated that when land is bought directly and concerned ‘Bargadar’ is a confirming party in the registration process, government should not stop it and ask for a separate registration with the ‘Bargadar’ again.
Further, Section 14Y of the West Bengal Land Reforms Act. which permits acquisition of maximum 24 acres of land is too low for any medium-to-large industry. Case-to-case approval by the government for additional land acquisition is time-consuming and also leading to speculative increase in land prices when sellers come to know beforehand about the setting up of industry in the region/locality. We feel that under Sec.14Y the maximum land holdings should be raised to 150 acres minimum. Again some industrial units are held up for want of adjoining plots of land. In such cases, government should act as a facilitator in acquiring the land.
We shall pursue this matter with the State government and hope that the current provisions will be relaxed and made more transparent in the interest of rapid growth of industries and employment in the State.