#RealityCheck: Industrial Growth At Halt, Youth Forced To Migrate; Solicits Govt Action
Industries in Agra have been particularly hit by the labour crisis and erratic power supply. The industrialists accuse the state industries department of not being very helpful in solving the problems
Entrepreneurs running hundreds of micro and small scale industries in the eco sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone, are finding the going tough and perilous as the scope for expansion and diversification is severely restricted by dozens of judicial and governmental orders.
In 1993 the Supreme Court intervened and directed closure of all polluting industries in Agra, Mathura and Firozabad to insulate the Taj Mahal from environmental pollution. Later, the state pollution control board on the recommendation of NEERI, categorised industries in several groups making opening of new units virtually impossible.
In sheer desperation a large number of industrialists are seriously planning shifting of base to greener pastures. Even hoteliers fave an uphill task complying with a set of restrictions that stunt their growth to the optimal level. Entrepreneurs are now exploring safer areas that promise higher returns on investments, security and better living standards.
Even though the overall conditions have significantly improved in recent years, the general perception is that their investments could yield higher returns abroad than in India.
Some of Agra’s shoe exporters feel conditions for business in India have improved dramatically over past few years, resulting in the setting up of Startups and Unicorns and hundreds of mega projects in the pipeline. But their optimism is not shared by hundreds of iron foundry, glassware, handicrafts owners in Agra. According to them Industrial growth in the 10,000 sq. km. eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone has come to a halt, forcing large-scale migration of rural labour to urban hubs.
This is because of the restrictions imposed by the Supreme Court on the expansion and opening of new industrial units in the districts of Agra, Mathura, Firozabad, Hathras and part of Aligarh, to contain air pollution, which was harming the Taj Mahal and other historical structures in the region.
Neither has the infrastructure improved nor the overall facilities for the industries have been streamlined, though the state government claims it has taken appropriate measures to promote ease of doing business in UP. Of late, there has been an acute shortage of labour in all sectors as rural labour is now migrating to the NCR (National Capital Region), where they get more facilities and higher wages.
Industries in Agra have been particularly hit by the labour crisis and erratic power supply. The industrialists accuse the state industries department of not being very helpful in solving the problems of the manufacturing sector in the Nunihai and Foundry Nagar industrial estates.
No new industries have opened in the past 30 years. On the other quite a big number of running industries has shifted to Rajasthan and MP, because the prospects of any significant expansion, appear bleak, according to local industry chambers.
The hospitality industry in Agra has been badly hit by the Covid pandemic.
The industrial scene in Firozabad, Mathura and Aligarh is equally dismal, forcing the local youth to migrate to Delhi and other metros.
"The Firozabad glass industry has not seen any major expansion or development and the existing units are facing all kinds of problems," said a local glass unit owner.
Similarly, the Aligarh lock industry faces a grim future due to outdated technology, fierce competition and rising costs plus erratic power supply.
Industrial organisations have now collectively urged the state government to provide support and broad-base infrastructure to halt the slide.
Industrialists say that "the state government doesn't have any long-term plan of action, nor do the state government agencies appear concerned about the falling industrial production."
Rajiv Gupta, a former president of the chamber of industries and commerce said "The officials in Lucknow are not the least bit concerned about industrial development of Agra. After the ban on polluting industries imposed by the apex court, they should have worked on promoting the IT or other service sectors, but they did nothing."
In the past Agra was a leading manufacturing hub of iron foundries, glass industries, leather shoes, handicrafts and the petha sweetmeat, but of late, industrial growth has shrunk, forcing units to permanently down shutters to migrate to greener pastures.
The industrial units that survive are also on the brink of collapse as scores of bottlenecks and pollution-related restrictions would not let them expand to their optimum level of performance.
The leather shoe industry has suffered from recessionary pressures and a steep decline in export orders, according to the Shoe Manufacturers' Association.
The centuries-old iron foundries were the first target. The pulses and the edible oil industries were the next to fold up. It is now the turn of the generator industry which, despite the demand, finds production badly hit due to labour shortages plus costly and erratic power supply.
The city does not lack entrepreneurship nor faces a resource crunch as many other areas do, but the absence of a clear government policy framework and vision has stalled broad-basing the industrial structure that could have provided jobs to hundreds of thousands of people.
An uncertain future awaits the recently developed Leather Park in Achnera block. The IT park in Shastripuram is also mired in controversy.
After polluting industries were forced to close, the centre and the state governments in 1996 had assured prompt help to non-polluting industries, but till date nothing has materialized.
The ten MLAs, three MPs, one mayor of the BJP, need to put their heads together to draw up a strategy to rejuvenate industries in Agra region. But will they?
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