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«INDUSTRIAL POLICY SINCE 1956 When India achieved Independence in 1947, the national consensus was in favour of rapid industrialization of the economy ...»

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• With a view to inject technological dynamism in the Indian industry, the Government provided automatic approval for technological agreements related to high priority industries and eased procedures for hiring of foreign technical expertise.

• Major initiatives towards restructuring of public sector units (PSUs) were initiated, in view of their low productivity, over staffing, lack of technological upgradation and low rate of return. In order to raise resources and ensure wider public participation PSUs, it was decided to offer its shareholding stake to mutual funds, financial institutions, general public and workers. Similarly, in order to revive and rehabilitate chronically sick PSUs, it was decided to refer them to the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR). The Policy also provided for greater managerial autonomy to the Boards of PSUs.

• The Industrial Policy Statement of 1991 recognized that the Government’s intervention in investment decisions of large companies through MRTP Act had proved to be deleterious for industrial growth.

Accordingly, pre-entry scrutiny of investment decisions of MRTP companies was abolished. The thrust of policy was more on controlling unfair and restrictive trade practices. The provisions restricting mergers, amalgamations and takeovers were also repealed.

Industrial Policy Measures Since 1991 Since 1991, industrial policy measures and procedural simplifications have been reviewed on an ongoing basis. Presently, there are only six industries which require compulsory licensing. Similarly, there are only three industries reserved for the public sector. Some of important policy measures initiated

since 1991 are set out below:

• Since 1991, promotion of foreign direct investment has been an integral part of India’s economic policy. The Government has ensured a liberal and transparent foreign investment regime where most activities are opened to foreign investment on automatic route without any limit on the extent of foreign ownership. FDI up to 100 per cent has also been allowed under automatic route for most manufacturing activities in Special Economic Zones (SEZs). More recently, in 2004, the FDI limits were raised in the private banking sector (up to 74 per cent), oil exploration (up to 100 per cent), petroleum product marketing (up to 100 per cent), petroleum product pipelines (up to 100 per cent), natural gas and LNG pipelines (up to 100 per cent) and printing of scientific and technical magazines, periodicals and journals (up to 100 per cent). In February 2005, the FDI ceiling in telecom sector in certain services was increased from 49 per cent to 74 per cent.

• Reservation of items of manufacture exclusively in the small scale sector has been an important tenet of industrial policy. Realizing the increased import competition with the removal of quantitative restrictions since April 2001, the Government has adopted a policy of dereservation and has pruned the list of items reserved for SSI sector gradually from 821 items as at end March 1999 to 506 items as on April 6, 2005. Further, the Union Budget 2005-06 has proposed to dereserve 108 items which were identified by Ministry of Small Scale Industries.

The investment limit in plant and machinery of small scale units has been raised by the Government from time to time. To enable some of the small scale units to achieve required economies of scale, a differential investment limit has been adopted for them since October

2001. Presently, there are 41 reserved items which are allowed investment limit up to Rs.50 million instead of present limit of Rs.10 million applicable for other small scale units.

• Equity participation up to 24 per cent of the total shareholding in small scale units by other industrial undertakings has been allowed. The objective therein has been to enable the small sector to access the capital market and encourage modernization, technological upgradation, ancillarisation, sub-contracting, etc.

• Under the framework provided by the Competition Act 2002, the Competition Commission of India was set up in 2003 so as to prevent practices having adverse impact on competition in markets.

• In an effort to mitigate regional imbalances, the Government announced a new North-East Industrial Policy in December 1997 for promoting industrialization in the North-Eastern region. This policy is applicable for the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The Policy has provided various concessions to industrial units in the North Eastern Region, e.g., development of industrial infrastructure, subsidies under various schemes, excise and income-tax exemption for a period of 10 years, etc.

North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd. has been designated as the nodal disbursing agency under the Scheme.

• The focus of disinvestment process of PSUs has shifted from sale of minority stakes to strategic sales. Up to December 2004, PSUs have been divested to an extent of Rs.478 billion.

• Apart from general policy measures, some industry specific measures have also been initiated. For instance, Electricity Act 2003 has been enacted which envisaged to delicense power generation and permit captive power plants. It is also intended to facilitate private sector participation in transmission sector and provide open access to grid sector. Various policy measures have facilitated increased private sector participation in key infrastructure sectors such as, telecommunication, roads and ports. Foreign equity participation up to 100 per cent has been allowed in construction and maintenance of roads and bridges. MRTP provisions have been relaxed to encourage private sector financing by large firms in the highway sector.

Evidently, in the process of evolution of industrial policy in India, the Government’s intervention has been extensive. Unlike many East Asian countries which used the State intervention to build strong private sector industries, India opted for the State control over key industries in the initial phase of development. In order to promote these industries the Government not only levied high tariffs and imposed import restrictions, but also subsidized the nationalized firms, directed investment funds to them, and controlled both land use and many prices.

In India, there has been a consensus for long on the role of government in providing infrastructure and maintaining stable macroeconomic policies.

However, the path to be pursued toward industrial development has evolved over time. The form of government intervention in the development strategy needs to be chosen from the two alternatives: ‘Outward-looking development policies’ encourage not only free trade but also the free movement of capital, workers and enterprises. By contrast, ‘inward-looking development policies’ stress the need for one’s own style of development. India initially adopted the latter strategy.

The advocates of import substitution in India believed that we should substitute imports with domestic production of both consumer goods and sophisticated manufactured items while ensuring imposition of high tariffs and quotas on imports. In the long run, these advocates cite the benefits of greater domestic industrial diversification and the ultimate ability to export previously protected manufactured goods, as economies of scale, low labour costs, and the positive externalities of learning by doing cause domestic prices to become more competitive than world prices. However, pursuit of such a policy forced the Indian industry to have low and inferior technology. It did not expose the industry to the rigours of competition and therefore it resulted in low efficiency. The inferior technology and inefficient production practices coupled with focus on traditional sectors choked further expansion of the India industry and thereby limited its ability to expand employment opportunities.

Considering these inadequacies, the reforms currently underway aim at infusing the state of the art technology, increasing domestic and external competition and diversification of the industrial base so that it can expand and create additional employment opportunities.

In retrospect, the Industrial Policy Resolutions of 1948 and 1956 reflected the desire of the Indian State to achieve self sufficiency in industrial production. Huge investments by the State in heavy industries were designed to put the Indian industry on a higher long-term growth trajectory. With limited availability of foreign exchange, the effort of the Government was to encourage domestic production. This basic strategy guided industrialization until the mid-1980s. Till the onset of reform process in 1991, industrial licensing played a crucial role in channeling investments, controlling entry and expansion of capacity in the Indian industrial sector. As such industrialization occurred in a protected environment, which led to various distortions. Tariffs and quantitative controls largely kept foreign competition out of the domestic market, and most Indian manufacturers looked on exports only as a residual possibility. Little attention was paid to ensure product quality, undertaking R&D for technological development and achieving economies of scale. The industrial policy announced in 1991, however, substantially dispensed with industrial licensing and facilitated foreign investment and technology transfers, and threw open the areas hitherto reserved for the public sector. The policy focus in the recent years has been on deregulating the Indian industry, enabling industrial restructuring, allowing the industry freedom and flexibility in responding to market forces and providing a business environment that facilitates and fosters overall industrial growth. The future growth of the Indian industry as widely believed, is crucially dependent upon improving the overall productivity of the manufacturing sector, rationalisation of the duty structure, technological upgradation, the search for export markets through promotional efforts and trade agreements and creating an enabling legal environment.


1. Ahluwalia, I.J. Productivity and Growth in Indian Manufacturing, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1991.

2. Government of India Annual Report 2003-04, Ministry of Commerce and Industry. New Delhi.

3. Government of India Handbook of Industrial Policy and Statistics (Various Issues), Office of Economic Adviser, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

New Delhi.

4. Government of India Economic Survey 2004-05, Ministry of Finance. New Delhi

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