Competitiveness of Manipur : Factors of production

Oinam Nabakishore Singh *

Every nation, state or city, compete with its counterparts in order to attract investment. Those who are better in efficiency and productivity are said to be more competitive. Since the publication of “The Competitive Advantage of Nations” by Michael E. Porter in 1990 and his Diamond Framework in 1990s, countries, business and cities have been analyzed using the parameters of Diamond Framework.

Factor conditions or factors of production of Manipur may be analyzed one by one. The first important factor is natural endowments of Manipur. Human resource in terms of education, knowledge of science and technology, demography in terms of age, discipline, culture of hard work and dedication, adaptation to changes, etc. are extremely important to make a place competitive. People of the state primarily work in agricultural operations-mostly at subsistence level.

In the hills, which constitute almost ninety percent of land area, slash and burn(jhoom) practice of paddy cultivation is still going on except on some patches of terraced cultivation in Senapati and Ukhrul districts and flat valley cultivation in small areas of hill districts. The use of technology in agriculture is primitive.

Of late, in the valley areas adoption of farm mechanization for ploughing of fields, harvesting and threshing of rice, to some extent, is noticed.However, since agricultural operations are mostly limited to small areas, less than one hectare, and single crop in a year due to lack of assured irrigation, farmers are engaged in farming as no better alternative is available.

Among natural endowments of Manipur, climate in terms of moderate and pleasant temperature, heavy rainfall, moderate winter, etc. make Manipur an attractive destination for tourists and great for growth of forests and vegetation. Different types of forestscovers are found.

Thick and green vegetation in high altitudes expanding like an undulating carpet in Senapati, Tamenglong, Churachandpur, Chandel, Kamjong, Noney and Ukhrul districts presents a breathtaking sight. Natural beauty of the hills, valleys and lakes surrounded by green trees in Manipur can match the best natural surroundings in any part of the world. It is lack of access to the beautiful places, promotion and facilities which are coming in the way of attracting tourists-domestic and international.

Another factor of production is land. The whole of Manipur including mountains and hills is fertile and suitable for plantation of different crops. Present land use of Manipur for agriculture and horticulture has to examined from the point of view of income to the farmers. In general, land holding in the valley in a compact area is less than one hectare, and cultivation by individual farmer is further reduced to about one acre.

Most of the farmers in the valley areas are planting high yielding paddy, which requires irrigation by rain water or irrigation. Such operation requires a lot of water. If the cost of plantation and harvest of paddy is deducted from the yield of about one acre of paddy field, the net income of the farmer is quite negligible.

Having no other alternative, farmers continue to plant paddy in spite of frequent loss of crop due to flood, pest or drought like situations. With little net income, the economic condition of farmers can hardly improve. It is high time to ponder over the continuation of paddy plantation in the same way.

Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” If we want to improve the lot of farmers, two approaches may be considered. One is to educate the farmer and skill him in doing some other job, take him out of agriculture to employ in manufacturing or service industry.

Another approach is shift from high yielding varieties of rice to traditional Manipuri paddy, black rice, high value crops like strawberry, etc. Recently China has started importing non-Basmati rice from India. Traditional Manipuri sticky rice grown organically will command premium price in international market.

We are endowed with 90 percent hill tract, which still has good forest cover and foliage. It is in our interest to prevent further deforestation by jhum cultivation and lumber collection. We will lose precious trees, flora and fauna and bio-diversity, which will be impossible to retrieve after being lost.

Minerals, oil and gas are other natural endowments responsible for prosperity of nations. Oil rich countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Brunei, etc. achieved high per capita income mainly on account of extraction and sale of oil and gas. Three oil and gas blocks in Tamenglong, Jiribam and Churachandpur districts, were awarded to ONGC(1) and Jubilant Energy(2) for exploration and development.

Being close to oil and gas bearing areas of Assam and Mizoram, the prospect of finding gas in these blocks was good. Jubilant is learnt to have invested about Rs.80.00 crores in mobilizing equipment for exploration of the two blocks. Later on, they withdrew citing grounds of lack of infrastructure and accessibility even though the actual reason was pressure from civil society organizations.

ONGC did not do much substantial. By being deprived of oil and gas, which can be used for power generation, setting up of fertilizer plants, Manipur has been deprived of development to that extent and loss of potential revenue from oil royalty.

Land is also an inevitable factor of production, whose availability will make the place competitive. There has been no proper land use planning in Manipur even though Master Plans have been notified by the Town and Country Planning Department for the Greater Imphal area from time to time. Because of lack of awareness and enforcement of planned land use, the planning remains on paper only.

In case we want Manipur to be competitive in manufacturing, logistics and service industry, land has got to be earmarked and made available. Present legislation restricting diversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural use requires amendment to provide for land for manufacturing and service industry.

The requirement of technically qualified persons for industries is increasing. Recent studies have shown that employability of engineers has increase to about 55 percent. New industries like artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, etc. will require technically and digitally qualified persons.

To make Manipur competitive, we need research and development institutes, Universities, Engineering colleges, which teach subjects related to digital solutions. The share of digital solutions to the knowledge economy too is growing. It is imperative to equip the new generations will relevant technical knowledge.

With linking of Manipur valley with the rest of India through rail network before 2021-22, the cost of transportation of goods will decrease significant. Further railways will help in quick evacuation of high volume agricultural and horticultural produces of Manipur to other parts of India easier. Overall, we will become competitive with other states.

Demography of a place too decides its competitiveness or otherwise. Presence of young population is a good source of labour force. In order to make young people productive and useful labour force, it is necessary to train them in trades, which are in great demand in labour market.

Culture of Manipur makes its youths very much employable in service industry like retails, where physical interface between customers and sales personnels is inevitable. Every individual coming from metrocities share with us that Manipuri boys and girls working in retail sector are great as they are polite and non-intrusive.

I have seen that there is still lack of professionalism in several industries, especially when the industry is located in the state.

Views expressed are personal.

* Oinam Nabakishore Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on 05th December , 2018 .

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