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Sustainably developing manufacturing sector…

The ‘Make in India’ campaign dreams of making India a manufacturing hub. Given ground realities, is there substance to this dream?

The first harsh reality is the perception of business in general. In India, people’s image of industry is largely of the brick and mortar type, owned and managed by private promoters in distant metros far away from the gaze of workers. Even public limited companies with a large body of shareholders are considered to be controlled by a core of private promoters. The natural feeling of workmen towards big industry is one of antagonism, expressing itself in the form of strikes and go slow practices, often tainted with violence. The local public behaves as if industry is an intrusion into its peace and tranquility and overlooks the gains and prosperity that industry can bring about.    

 

Job creation not at par with growth...

The second reality is that economic liberalisation aimed at overall national growth is seen to widen the marginalisation of the poor. This is due to the fact that job creation has not been at par with growth and in such a condition income disparities are bound to widen.

Thirdly, in the last three decades, industrialisation has come to be seen as disruptive of the natural environment as is reflected by the growing volume of public interest litigation against industrial projects. In consequence, proposals for greenfield projects or capacity expansions at existing locations have come up against a sequence of hurdles mostly in the form of delay in securing environmental and forest clearances. Hence, there is a national concern over the possible pace of economic growth.

Fourthly, external developments too have exacerbated the situation. Global warming and resultant climate change which are the consequences of industrialisation and rising standards of living in the developed world over the last two centuries, have come to cast their shadow over developing societies. The oft-cited threats of resources exhaustion and concepts like common responsibilities and inter-generational equity have thrown an added burden on the developing countries.  

As a responsible nation and an emerging force in global economy, India cannot keep away from this discourse.

 

Reorient from profit to people and planet...

Hence, government and industry must come to grips with these realities to make “Make in India” into a socially and environmentally realisable goal. In this joint effort, business has a greater role to play than the government. Business should reorient its approach from profit to people and planet. Milton Friedman’s adage, “the business of business is business,” is no longer true. Business needs to have a meaningful image makeover, both internally and externally.  

This brings us to two business mantras, namely Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Corporate Sustainable Development (CSD).  Indian examples of financially successful companies committed to environmental and social sustainability are many. They are drawn from diverse sections of the industry, from power to pharmaceuticals, steel to software and construction to banking. These should be emulated to realise make in India in a sustainable way.

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