Two recent statements of Odisha’s Chief Minister need careful and serious consideration. First one relates to the state of law and order in the state. Asserting that the state continues to be a peaceful state Chief Minister clarified that the fact that investment is flowing into the state is a strong enough proof that the state is peaceful.
It is nobody’s case that one case of gruesome killing of a Cabinet Minister allegedly by a police officer from point blank range does not make the state look a pretty bad one from the point of view of peace and tranquillity and somewhat unsafe to invest and do business in. Such unfortunate incident can happen anywhere.
It is however a fact that people of Odisha are temperamentally peaceful. We need, however to examine if the state has actually been attracting investment satisfactory enough to feel cheerful about.
FDI inflow in 2021 has been 74.01 $ billion. FDI flow depends on factors like availability of natural resources, favourable market, the size thereof, available infrastructure and political and general investment climate.
Union Minister of State, Commerce and Industry had informed Lok Sabha on March 23, 2022 about flow of FDI to various states in 2021.While FDI flow to Karnataka was $ 18,554.29 million (MD) and Maharashtra received 12,226.15 MD, Delhi, 7,647.63 MD, Tamilnadu, 3,023.33MD, Gujarat, 2,709.81MD, Odisha had a measly flow of only $39.46 million. Unfortunately, Odisha remains highly unattractive for FDI reasons of which have not been seriously addressed by government.
Contrary to the satisfaction expressed by the Chief Minister on Odisha farmer’s income having increased by 100 percent, the situation continues to be grim. The issue being important enough, merits a detailed analysis. On December 22, 2022, Union Minister Agriculture furnished in the Rajya Sabha state wise position on monthly income of agricultural household on the basis of the situation assessment survey of Agricultural Households in rural areas conducted by NSO during the 77th Round (January 2019 to December 2019) with reference to Agricultural year -- July 2018 to June 2019. For Odisha, agricultural household monthly income stood at Rs 5112/- and was the lowest among all states other than Jharkhand (Rs 4895/-) while the country’s average stood at Rs 10,218/-. Meghalaya had the highest income at Rs 29,348/- followed by Punjab (Rs 26,701/-) and Haryana (Rs 22,841/-). The pathetically low monthly income does not even seem to be at par with the daily minimum wage for unskilled worker in the state or minimum wage fixed under the MGNREGS. The position in 2015-16 is quite relevant. In a comprehensive Report of the Committee on Doubling Farmers’ Income, the farmer household income for Odisha in 2015-16 was Rs.63,285/- which worked out to a monthly sum of Rs.5273/- at 2012-13 price. In other words, the income is dipping instead of increasing.
It is both worrisome and unfortunate that instead of the real plight of Odisha farmers being addressed, an unreal “feel good“picture is being shown. It would hurt millions of Odisha farmers if the “business as usual” approach is made to continue. Detailed micro-planning, adequate flow of investment, functional infrastructure and hassle free marketing arrangement have to be done.
In addition, non farm income generating activities have to be facilitated so that farmers come out of the vice-like grip of poverty. Industrial activities have to be more and more dovetailed into agricultural sector to ensure value addition advantage to the farmer. The picture of Gujarat could be relevant. In 2021, the state had over 30 thousand food processing units, 560 cold storages, 1200 fish processing plants. The state accounted for 33% of pharmaceutical products turnover and 18% of the export of pharma sector.
Industrialisation of a state doesn’t impact household income if it comprises a few highly capital intensive and highly automated mega industries. Odisha unfortunately pursues such a model and seems to be committed to it. This approach must change and appropriate industries must be facilitated on a widely dispersed manner. It is rather ironical that while even in seventies, Odisha adopted such an approach, MSME sector of late has not been receiving the importance and support it deserves. Most rural areas of the state are yet to have a meaningful monetisation of its economy. No wonder that even in 2022, of the total 6,798 Grama Panchayats (GP), only 2,502 GPs had bank branches while 4,234 GPs were covered by banking correspondents (BCs) and 13 GPs, by postal banks. This calls for deep penetration of industrial activities into the interior areas of the state.
It is indeed surprising that the state is yet to come up with a credible blueprint both on investment and thrust areas in farm and industrial sectors. It is worrisome that in two Maps showing India Night-time luminosity of 2012 and 2021 shown in the country’s Economic Survey Report of 2021-22, the dark area over a vast stretch of Odisha in the map of 2012 persists also in 2021 indicating extremely poor growth of electricity use.
It is reported that Chief Minister would soon visit Japan to attract investment to Odisha. While this initiative is welcome, more urgent is the need for setting up industries that are low on investment but high on job creation opportunities. A bicycle project , a mega textile park in cotton growing areas of western part of the state, a slew of pharmaceutical industries in rich bio-diversity zones of Kalahandi, Phulbani are a few industries that could get priority.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)