Time to review development initiatives

In the backdrop of Chief Minister N Biren’s bold and proud claim that his Government has succeeded in bringing all-round development in the State, there is a need to analyse the State’s growth trajectory during the last five years. The Chief Minister’s claim sounds rather bombastic in view of the fact that all the economic activities were severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic for over two years. No doubt the State Government launched a number of schemes in addition to the ones undertaken by the Central Government. But the question is, how successful are these schemes in ensuring people’s welfare and economic growth of the State. It was the previous Government which launched the Make in Manipur initiative in line with the Central Government’s Make in India mission. The incumbent Government moved a step farther by launching Start-Up Manipur and Stand-Up Manipur. The previous Chief Minister as well as the incumbent one very often underscored the key roles of innovators and entrepreneurs, and their innovative ideas for accomplishment of these initiatives. No doubt, innovative ideas are crucial for such a grand initiative. But ideas are not enough.  It demands a slew of elements, the most fundamental being political will. There must also be modern physical infrastructure, adequate investment and capacity building.  Conducive atmosphere for investment and growth of entrepreneurship are other prerequisites.  But many of these prerequisites are conspicuously either absent or inadequate in the State as of now. By saying this we don’t intend to undermine the Government’s initiatives.  In fact, we are hoping for a socio-economic revolution out of the Government’s initiatives such as Make in Manipur, Start-Up Manipur, Stand-Up Manipur et al.
As far as what has been reported in media, the Stand-Up Manipur initiative intends to give soft loans to SC, ST, OBC and Minority entrepreneurs. So far, so good. Who knows Start-Up Manipur and Stand-up Manipur can prove to be a launch pad for a robust entrepreneurship movement in the State. Already loans have been given to many beneficiaries under these initiatives but it is not yet clear if these loans have succeeded in making any significant contribution to the State’s economy. Make in India was launched by the Government of India on September 25, 2014 under which 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is permitted with the exception of space industry, defence and media. It was almost one year later that the Modi-Government launched the Startup India campaign on August 15, 2015. While the Make in India is basically about opening the country to foreign direct investment, Startup India focuses on promotion of entrepreneurship for job creation through technical, scientific and financial support. The incumbent Government led by N Biren seems more interested in Startup campaign as evidenced by the Start-Up Manipur project. Even a conclave was held at the State capital on Manipur Startup on August 8, 2018 followed by another one on September 20 the following year. The two conclaves were seen as unmistakable signs of the State Government’s vigorous push for Start-up Manipur. However, if anything concrete has been achieved out of the two conclaves is anybody’s guess. It is not yet clear if the Make in Manipur initiative has been totally abandoned or replaced by the Start-Up Manipur. But the two initiatives should not be seen or treated as inter-changeable. The two must go side by side or concurrently if there should be rapid economic development in the State. It is also time to review the progress of all these economic development initiatives.