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FIX FROM GROUND UP
August 1, 2022

Opinion: Poonam Munjal & Nijara Deka 

 

Prepare business strategies for districts and leverage existing government schemes to make India a global economic powerhouse

 

In the face of the COVId-19 pandemic and the rise in food and fuel prices, it may appear difficult for the country to reach its US $5-trillion economy target by 2025. But a study conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCaEr) shows that the targets are easily attainable by following the bottom- up approach recommended by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (dPIIT).

 
In 2018, a working group constituted by dPIIT proposed to treat districts as the primary unit for planning and policy interventions so that they contribute to the accelerated growth of the Indian economy. A key policy intervention is to prepare strategies for the districts centred around their local strengths and economic activities. To prepare a roadmap for implementing the working group’s recommendations, NCaEr between 2019 and 2021 conducted a series of studies in the districts of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra. It has identified four key areas that can help fast-track the economic growth of districts: i) finding potential sectors of growth; ii) implementing actions, such as assessing capacities of the district and identifying potential investors and sites for undertaking growth activities; iii) offering support to the district development unit as well as recommendations for course-correction; and iv) sharing the findings with local communities or the target groups. These areas of economic growth can then be implemented by leveraging existing central- or state-sponsored government schemes, notes NCaEr.

 

INFRASTRUCTURE IS KEY

Since both Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts fall in the Konkan region of Maharashtra, they share similar geographical characteristics and weather conditions, and thus have similar potential sectors of economic growth. NCaEr has identified that horticulture sector. Another suggestions to boost trade is the inclusion of cashew in the Centre’s One District, One Product scheme and setting up a “cashew export promotion council”.

 

Unlike cashew, mangoes are recognised as an important product; the Konkan region has been declared an agri-export zone due to its Alphonso mango. Ratnagiri has several processing units, some of which are 100 per cent export-oriented. But they often do not get mangoes of good quality due to a lack of cold storage and transportation facilities. Hence, here too NCaEr recommends setting up necessary facilities under existing central government- sponsored schemes. Quality fears plants, aquaculture centres and to promote deep-sea fishing. Crab cultivation can also be encouraged through subsidies or research grants under the Centre’s Mangrove Protection and Employment Generation Scheme 2017-18. The Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampadan Yojana can help develop a framework for fisheries.

 

For tourism, NCaEr encourages homestays and improving security and safety, basic amenities and cleanliness under the Centre’s Bed and Breakfast Scheme and the Maharashtra Tourism Policy.

 

Similarly, the Maharashtra Coir Policy can aid new industries, such as handicrafts and jewellery. NCaEr notes that local communities and resources hold the the cashew, mango, fisheries, crab, tourism and coir sectors show untapped growth potential in the both the districts. Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, for instance, account for 60 per cent of Maharashtra’s  total cashew production. However, NCaEr researchers observed that cashew is not directly exported from these districts due to transportation gaps.

 

This challenge can be partially resolved by building warehouses and cold storages. “Development of a storage facility by establishment of warehousing infrastructure” comes under the Rashtriya Krishi Vigyan Yojana (rkVY) that incentivises investment in agriculture and allied sectors.

 

Similar provisions are also there in the Centre’s Cluster Development Programme, which aims to enhance productivity of micro and small manufacturing enterprises, and the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture that promotes holistic growth of the can also be assuaged through awareness programmes that highlight its Geographic Indication tag and through training for farmers to adhere to international packaging standards. Farmers can also be encouraged to take up ultra- high density plantations of mango, where trees are planted in a dense pattern. This increases productivity and fertiliser uptake and reduces water usage by up to 50 per cent, raising the farm income.

 

The fisheries sector also has existing schemes for capacity- and infrastructure-building. The Blue Revolution: integrated development and management of fisheries, a central government-sponsored scheme, has provisions to set up basic facilities at landing points, processing units, effluent treatment key to India’s economic growth. In both the districts, institutions like NaBard (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development), Marine Products Export Development Authority and the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority have implemented certain projects to boost economic growth. But there is partial to no knowledge of these projects on the ground. While dPIIT has conducted awareness campaigns, there is a need for dedicated efforts to narrow the knowledge gap.

 

Published in: Down to Earth August 1-15, 2022