Unfolding of an industrial story

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 07 Jun 2018 10:01:58


In those days, it was a dream place, in the sense it represented the dream of the Government as well as of people -- the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation -- MIDC -- Industrial Estate on Hingna Road. Soon after Maharashtra State was formed on May 1, 1960, that the new Government planned industrial estates all over. The Hingna Road Industrial Estate came up as part of that omnibus plan, much to everybody’s delight, much to satisfy everybody’s desire to ride the new-wave industrialisation.

After all, those were the days of new industrial policy that came in a short time after Independence. Those were also the days when stories abounded about the Tatas and the Birlas and the Mahindras who were the heroes of modern India and industries the temples of the changed times.

So, the MIDC Industrial Estate on Hingna Road was a place that symbolised all that. Of course, the city did have industrial estates at other places, too, but the one on Hingna Road had a special place in people’s thought. It was almost a picnic spot of sorts where people went for evening drives to see how industries came up. In those days, those sheds with tall chimneys standing as flag-staffs looked very special, very attractive.

Every now and then, we would see industrial units coming up in the estate. The chimneys emitting smoke were the tell-tale signs of beginning of industrial activity. It was a happy sight to see  hundreds of workers, mostly in dark-blue industrial overalls, emerging from the gates of the units, mostly on their bicycles, to go home after the end of their shifts. For the society in general, they were the ambassadors of new industry that promised prosperity.

Of course, for the citizens of Nagpur, industry was never a new experience. For, was it not in Nagpur that Jamshedji Nusarwanji Tata had launched the Empress Mills nearly a hundred years ago? And hadn’t the Nagpurians seen the Model Mills, too, coming up in style and substance not much far from the Empress Mills? There also used to be
the Glass Factory of the Ogale family in those days, plus other pioneering industries.

But, MIDC Hingna Road Industrial Estate was different. For, it started coming up almost simultaneously with the Ordnance Factory at Ambajhari on Amravati Road. For today’s youngsters, all that development would never ring any bell in the head. But for us kids who were just about ten or so years old, all that activity stood for a new India. For a ten-year-old today, it may not matter much if industry is coming up in the surrounding. For, funnily, today’s kids are not taught to relate to the larger Indian story or picture.

Back then, however, we felt thrilled to know that industry was coming up in the surrounding, representing a new India. In those days, the society’s emotional quotient was much higher than it is these days, especially in the case of kids. Unfortunately, today’s kids are raised more as individualist personalities, unlike then when every kid related to the larger society in a much more
emotional and intense manner.

Let alone all that! For us, the MIDC Industrial Estate on Hingna Road continued to hold a special attraction as many of the people of Nagpur often made short trips to the place on Sunday evenings to see the progress.
In a few more years, I became part of the reporting brigade of Nagpur newspapers. To my good fortune, my editors gave me industry as a beat for coverage. That gave me opportunity to travel to all industrial estates to report development -- positive or even negative. In those days when the roads were single-lane with almost no surfacing, travelling long distances to industrial estate on bicycle was an ordeal. Yet, that was a happy assignment -- at least for me. Meeting those industrialists and entrepreneurs and discussing with them various issues that confronted them, was one experience that I always cherished.

I used to feel terribly proud of myself to see an almost immediate impact of my reporting on the Government establishment handling industry.

Despite all the good things that were happening in Hingna Road Industrial Estate, some bad signs, too, had begun to emerge in a few years. By the mid-1970s, the industrial story had begun to assume a rather melancholic dimension as some industries started facing problems and also closure, thanks to various factors including hostile market conditions, inability of the unit-owner to manage things, the unfriendly attitude of banks, the unfair trade-unionism ...!

Reporting all those negative developments was painful, to say the least. True, even amid collapse, new industries were still coming up, raising hope, giving assurance, forming new dreams ...! Yet, for reasons that one could analyse so much later, MIDC Hingna Road Industrial Estate kept sliding down on the scale of collective performance. The estate kept accumulating bigger numbers of dark sheds of closed industries. Now also, the picture is more or less the same -- saddening, dampening, darkening.

But then, the MIDC Hingna Road Estate also has some brilliant examples of great growth, great management skills, great leadership qualities that their managers and owners have displayed. One cannot take names of only a few units as that may annoy many others who have succeeded. But even as there are examples of failure, whose names one cannot and should not utter, there are many cases of tremendous success even by global standards. If some industries closed down or shrank to very small sizes, some of them have grown beyond anybody’s imagination. They have added more land to their original plots and expanded their already massive sheds, and also have added massive numbers to their originally huge workforces.

After years of watching all this happen, now one can infer that vitality and fatality are integral to industrial story of any place. Some units are all the time closing down, while some newer ones are all the time coming up. This happens all over the world. Then, how can the one estate on Hingna Road be an exception?

Yet, closing down of even a small unit still leaves a sense of utter disappointment in my head and heart. And contrastingly, opening of even a small unit anywhere makes me feel elated. And in case of MIDC Hingna Road Industrial Estate, such stories make a more special impact on my mind. For, the relationship between the place and the young reporter (who refuses to die) has always been special.

Now also, the relationship endures, no matter the “Five Star” industrial estate at Buti Bori. For, with Hingna Road my emotions are indelibly linked. For, it was in that place that a young reporter had begun understanding the meaning what industry meant.