Odisha must change its approach towards the marginalized

JThe Odisha government’s approach must shift from an increase in state charity to investment in education, skills development and essential support for production – centered self-employment to change the economic condition of sections marginalized from the state.

The government should strive to secure the land, credit and marketing facilities needed to stimulate youth self-employment in productive activities through the growth of MSMEs. To make it more effective, it is necessary to enact a set of positive policies and supportive legislation to protect and promote marginalized sections.

In this context, many of the well-impacted development models followed in TN, Maharashtra, Kerala and many other states can be selectively replicated by the government of Odisha. As Odisha has a large presence of marginalized communities and a majority of people still live in a subsistence economy with increasing dependence on state aid for their survival, no major change in the quality of life for the majority of the poor was initiated. In recent years, severe unemployment and huge distress migration have increased alarmingly.

The Covid situation has exposed the vulnerability of migrant workers very well. It is observed that the states with the highest number of MSMEs are a major destination for migrant workers from backward states including Odisha. The State cannot develop economically by neglecting its productive forces from the marginalized strata, which constitute nearly half of the population.

Data from the Union Ministry of MSMEs shows that Maharashtra tops the list with the highest number of micro, small and medium entrepreneurs from scheduled castes with around one lakh businesses, followed by TN, Rajasthan, UP , Punjab and Karnataka. At the start of 2022, the number of SC-owned enterprises in the country was 4,53,972, including 4,50,835 micro-entrepreneurs, 3,009 small and 133 medium-sized. But the proportion of SC owners to the national total is only 6% and needs to be increased.

Under the inclusive business initiative, the central government and many state governments have launched a series of affirmative action strategies to encourage the participation of people from marginalized sections to develop as business creators. jobs rather than as job seekers. The program includes a supplier development policy, a 4% reservation in purchases from SC and ST contractors in the supply chain, preferential treatment in the allocation of land for business and industry, facilitation credit links and the credit-linked capital grant, onboarding and mentoring support by dedicated special centers. with corpus fund. The RBI has issued special credit policy guidelines for commercial banks for interest rate protection and collateral operations.

States like Maharashtra, PA, Telengana and Karnataka have set aside 20% of their industrial land for SCs and STs and offer them land at subsidized rates. Some of them have granted discounts on electricity tariffs for five years, subsidies on capital investments and interest rates, as well as a special impetus for the development of market links. Maharashtra has Dr. Ambedkar’s Special Group Entrepreneur Program. Kerala has a job and education abroad loan scheme for SCs and STs. The Kerala State Development Corporation for SCs and STs and the State Commission for SCs and STs have played major roles in promoting entrepreneurs. The Karnataka State Finance Corporation provides an interest subsidy of 4 percent to SC and ST entrepreneurs. These proactive measures taken by the respective state governments are a major driving force to increase inclusiveness in the business sector and particularly contribute to the growth of MSMEs.

Besides the government, there are also voluntary initiatives of societies and their collectives such as CII, Assocham and FICCI. Since 2012, in a voluntary code of conduct agreed by businesses and industrial companies, they have affirmed to make the market non-discriminatory to provide assistance and ensure transparency while ensuring respect for suppliers in the SC and ST communities. Tata and CII have developed affirmative action plans to address issues of inclusiveness in the market. But the lack of information and oversight mechanism has largely slowed progress and rendered it almost non-functional in backward states like Odisha.

The MSME ecosystem in Odisha has no coordination and lack of leadership from the state government to ground the plan for the benefit of its marginalized sections. Marginalized sections of Odisha have no visible platform to raise issues in appropriate public forums, while business and industry collectives in the state, mostly dominated by ruling elites, are silently apathetic to these problems.

In the coming days, the scope of government work will be limited with mechanization and privatization as many public sector assets and shares will be transferred to the private sector. Central and state governments have shrewdly swept the issue under the rug when it comes to affirmative action for the marginalized.

The share of SC and ST funding for MSMEs is negligible. Odisha’s public sector commercial banks are largely indifferent to the rising aspiration of educated youth from marginalized sections. Many members of the marginalized section are regularly harassed and discouraged when struggling to create MSMEs. They must struggle against the lack of capital as well as the inherent social constraints based on caste and class prejudices, social acceptability and lack of social support.

Major public sector companies such as Nalco, MCL, NTPC, OMC and many other private companies do not have visible state specific programs or affirmative action for marginalized sections of the state in promoting MSMEs in their peripheral area. The two main funds created under CAMPA and DMF have no such initiative to make young people employable and productive. State-level finance companies for SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities are almost non-functional despite being supposed to play a proactive role in promoting MSMEs.

Although lack of awareness and political mobilization is still a problem in Odisha, the state government and corporations have engaged in charitable, relief and so-called rehabilitation activities without looking for a long-term plan to sustainable generation of jobs and production.

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