J&K is a state which has been craving for corporate investment to address burgeoning unemployment scenario and transform economic landscape. Even as Indian corporate Inc has always been promising to explore investment opportunities in the state, particularly in Kashmir, we haven’t come across any such initiative. However, it was heartening to see Mahindra Powerol, one of the largest diesel generator manufacturing companies of the country and a part of one of India’s biggest business conglomerates Mahindra Group, to launch a new Diesel Genset manufacturing plant in Kashmir at Rahim Engineering Works in Rangreth.
For the first time, we heard an Indian corporate initiating investment in the valley with intentions beyond business. The Mahindra group has dished out its intentions to have presence of a factory locally which ensures large-scale employment for local youth. It was equally heartening when the corporate announced its corporate social responsibility (CSR) spending in the Valley. The corporate magnate has donated funds to a local NGO to procure dialysis machines for rendering services to the poor patients.
J&K has always been seeking proactive engagement of major corporate houses from across the country to channelize substantive investment to the State. But the corporate Inc has always been avoiding engagement with the state and its people, which otherwise could have helped to put the State on a faster path of development and growth.
It’s a known fact that one of the major impediments to the overall economic growth of our state has been step-motherly attitude of the major corporate houses towards the development of the state. Interestingly, this India Inc contrary to its core competencies is quick enough to be part of any political debate around Kashmir, but always shamelessly turn its back whenever asked investment support within their competencies in the state.
Precisely, socio-economic and to a large extent political scenario of the state would a different landscape to present than what the state is confronted with at present. Some six years back the government of India (GoI) bundled out top corporate bigwigs of the country including Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group of Companies, Kumara Manglam, Chairman of the Aditya Birla Group, Deepak Parekh, Chairman of HDFC and Team Lease co-founder Ashok Reddy to the valley. It was a move to attract investment from India Inc and create jobs for valley youth.
Corporate magnate Ratan Tata during his visit to the valley in October 2012 is on record to state that not a window but a door for Indian Inc to invest in Jammu and Kashmir is open. He raised high hopes when he said India Inc is keen to invest in the state and play its role in the economic development of the state. But this proved only a statement and practically, the state continued to receive a step motherly treatment from the Indian Inc. These corporate bigwigs punctured the hope when they later listed peace in the valley as pre-condition for investment.
Precisely, India Inc has developed a habit of visiting to the valley to take stock of miseries which people here have been facing for decades. They display caution and leave with a promise of a ‘helping hand’. And this ‘helping hand’ never sees light of the day.
Kashmir will remain a conflict zone till a permanent solution is carved out. Here fortunes will continue to turn like a wheel. Sometimes there will be peace and prosperity at its full swing and sometimes there will be turmoil. Of course investment here is loaded with huge risk. But this doesn’t mean Indian Inc has no role here. At least, investments apart, they can take up projects under their corporate social responsibility (CSR) banner to support the local socio-economic sectors, like they do in other states in health, education and other key sectors.
I think the investment of Mahindra Group in Kashmir by establishing a Diesel Genset factory here in Srinagar has brought J&K into the focus of the Indian Inc. The state government should seize the opportunity, come out with a strategically designed awareness campaigns and launch it across the Indian corporate world to motivate them to invest in the state. The government has the responsibility to come clear on the conflicting situation and the laws governing the land. While wooing the corporates for investment in the state, politics has to be set aside.
Meanwhile, Mahindra Group deserves kudos for breaking the ice and exhibiting ‘embrace the conflict’ attitude by investing in Kashmir. It’s fervently hoped that other corporate magnates would also be falling in line to help the state in its endeavor to achieve peace and prosperity.
(The views are of the author and not that of the institution he works for)