This potholed and gritty two-lane road was the main drag through a constellation of 3000 industrial units, Dada Nagar Industrial estate in Kanpur.
The condition was punishing. A cyclist would dread pedalling his way back home.
The road was re-laid just before the elections with Rs 37 lakhs. It wasn’t an election sop but fruit of four and a half years of hard labour by the industrialists. They had to stage 42 dharnas and lead 25 delegations to powers that be in Kanpur and Lucknow for one road.
“This is a sad story that speaks volume about how tough it is to run an industry in Kanpur and Uttar Pradesh,” says Tarun Khetarpal, national advisor, Indian Industries Association. “You have to fight for everything from roads to water to power.”
Kanpur, a bustling city of 5.6 million people, has 15,000 industrial units spanning four industrial clusters. It is the ninth largest economy, according to Pricewaterhouse Cooper, with annual contribution of 27 billion dollars to country’s GDP.
Other than spinning the economic flywheel, the city pays Rs 7,000 crore in taxes—highest in state-- and share 60% of revenue reaching centre from the state. Eroding infrastructure however outweighs the resilience the industrialists have shown to survive in face of odds.
But the issue hasn’t stirred the political parties, contesting assembly poll purely on development, and consciously avoid pandering to sole demand of industrialists: improve growth hobbling infrastructure. While crumbling roads in industrial estates have made transportation costlier by 2%, the power cuts induced a production loss of Rs 3000 crore in last fiscal alone.
“You could be surprised to hear—the state government didn’t initiate a single dialogue with industry in last five years, forget about problems, not to even discuss the state of industry in state,” says Khetarpal. Political parties campaigning hard haven’t assuaged the industry either.
“How can you think of industrial growth with our proper infrastructure? Kanpur is badly in need of it. Or else the exodus that has begun will continue to grow,” says Vikram Kothari, chairman of Kothari group. “What else you could do if you have political and bureaucratic coldness to brave. All we are asking to support industrialisation with proper roads, electricity and single-window redressal of our problems. Is it much to give?” he rues.
The indifference, the industry captains say, is attributable to vote bank politics. “We are not the vote-bank so we have fallen off radar. Politicians, time and again, have told this on our face,” says Atul Seth, secretary UP pharmaceutical manufacturer association.
Raj Kumar Lohia, chairman, Lohia Starlinger, calls for a movement for making Kanpur capital of Uttar Pradesh. “Probably only then we would start getting what we duly deserve for being the biggest earner for state,” he says. “Kanpur has far more industries than Noida and contributes to taxes far more than Noida. But one is marginalised and the other propped up. Why this disparity,” he asks.