When Chief Minister N Biren Singh appealed to industry houses and corporates to come and invest in the state of Manipur, a question whether there is really an investment friendly atmosphere in the state naturally came to mind. He talks about a dedicated and cheap labour, uninterrupted power and water supply besides an improved law-and-order situation. First, let us discuss the issue of dedicated and cheap labour.
Among the locals, there is no such thing as cheap labour. Besides the wages, the expenses of catering to their refreshment is quite high as compared to migrant labourers. The migrant labour does not expect much in terms of refreshment except perhaps a cup of tea from the home owner, while the local labour force expects a sumptuous refreshment and it is always burdensome to the home-owners.
Of course, the migrant labour charges by the square feet and there is no negotiating space, but considering the extraneous expenses homeowners opt for the migrant labour. That is exactly why migrant workers have taken over most of the jobs leaving the local skilled workers and artisans high and dry.
Many local carpenters, electricians, masons and construction workers etc except for a few industrious ones have left their avowed profession for want of work-orders. So, by cheap labour we are talking of the skilled migrant labour force while the local labour force is not going to benefit from any investment as such.
So, what should we do about it? Well, a support mechanism for the local workforce needs to be introduced. They also need to be updated on latest techniques and methods including up-to-date machinery and tools which the non-Manipuri workers are using, besides an education on work culture and ethics to keep them in demand from local home-owners. The state labour department has always been treated as a minor department in the government scheme of things. This serves as an impediment in empowering the local workforce.
We sincerely think the department should be upgraded to usher in a vibrant local labour force. We would like to suggest a state level camp for the local skilled labour force to explore ways of upgrading their skills and tools with loan support.
Secondly, we like to talk about the power and water supply system. Ever since, the prepaid meter system has been introduced in the state power supply and has greatly improved. But in recent times, frequent power outages have become quite common either due to transmission or distribution problems.
The two power companies responsible for transmission and distribution had been passing the buck to one another when such power outages happen. But, such excuses would not prevail with the big companies or corporates and so one needs to be prepared for that.
The chief minister needs to take care of that aspect so that power outages and inadequate water supply does not happen. As regards the law and order situation, everyone knows the score. Except for stray incidents of threats and extortion notices besides occasional bomb blasts, it is mostly quiet in the valley area as the local police force maintains its strict vigil on insurgent activities.
Yet, the fear factor is there and nuisance value of different factions of militant groups still exists in the nightmare of the general public. The draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1985 still remains in force in the hill areas of the state. When one talks of improvement of law and order, both hill and valley has to be taken into account.
Last but not the least, the chief minister seems to have forgotten the issue of bureaucratic red tape which most of the time discourages investors. The state needs to develop a sound investment policy so as to attract investment in different segments while also cutting bureaucratic red tape.