For Narendra Modi's Atmanirbhar Bharat, bureaucrats in state govts must shed colonial mindset, think out of the box
Modi's resolve should be seen in the context of a time when COVID-19 brings a potential change in the world economic order.
In his latest address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for an Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India). Greater clarity on the issue followed a day later with Union ministers defining it as lessening of import and increasing exports, upgradation of technology and producing provisions of employment to people closer to their homes, among others.
Modi's resolve should be seen in the context of a time when COVID-19 brings a potential change in the world economic order. Several big multinational investors are likely move away from China and look for alternate destinations. India has to be in state of preparedness with right policy framework and infrastructure support. While the Centre’s role for the proposed scenario is clearly cut out, the onus will be largely on the state governments with increased internal competitiveness to grab the opportunities that may lie ahead.
The other thing guiding self-reliant resolve is the thought of home employment for people. The scale of migrant workers movement and heart wrenching visuals of hardships has stirred popular conscience.
In past two weeks we witnessed a series of labour laws relaxations made by Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and some other states. Rajasthan, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have amended factory laws to increase weekly working hours for work force. Inflexible labour laws was taken to be a hindering factor by investors, both foreign and domestic.
The emerging competiveness among states to bring investment is also a good trend. But it is important that government and institutional architecture in a state also changes. However, the system needs to change. The district magistrates and district collectors also act as CEOs who are wooing investors. The onus is on the states now.
The districts will be the base unit. The district magistrates and collectors will have to ensure that they are bringing in investment. Part of their KRA should include them assessing what does an investor want and work towards that goal. Currently the KRAs of DMs and DCs are very different. KRAs are essential to change, if priorities change.
District magistrates and collectors are not experts at driving and luring business. Some of them think out of box and go extra mile to attract investment, build infrastructure of the district, also ensuring law and order is maintained but bringing business for the district is not yet in their job description.
If the change in KRA is too much of a shuffle, the government should bring in leadership from the corporate sector who will coordinate with the DMs and the DCs. A chief marketing officer for the district could be hired from outside. Recently in an interview to Firstpost, Union Minister of Road Transport, Highways and MSME Nitin Gandkari said that “there are always some people who create problems in opportunities and there are some people who create opportunities in problems”.
State governments have to think out-of-the-box and change the colonial structure of district administration.
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