Coastline or seashore is the area where land meets the sea or the ocean. It can also be the boundary between the land and a lake. However, the precise definition of a coastline remains to evolve in a universally accepted manner.
Talking of India: India measures 3214 kms from North to South and 2933 kms from East to West. The Indian land frontier is 15200 kms and the coastline is 7517 kms. The figures speak for themselves and any conscious citizen can look at the news headlines in any media and come to a conclusion on how comprehensive and inclusive are the information cannels on national welfare.
There are 9 states which have a sea line running through their borders. They are Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal. Additionally, there are 4 Union Territories with coastline. They are Daman and Dui, Puducherry, Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands.
The entire scene is conscious neglect of a potential whose possibilities we are now beginning to be recognised in sporadic parts. The price of this approach may be bigger to pay than what came our way on the North-East Frontier.
Concurrently with security considerations, there are huge business opportunities whose potential is yet to be recognised. It is another matter that more-of-the-same attitude has created huge problems of employment, economic growth .Yet, otherwise successive, intelligent governments have done very little to develop this economic potential.
A comparative illustration may make the point clearer.
Let’s move to Australia. We will only consider two islands there – Philip Island and Hamilton Island. Philip Island is the quintessential habitat for watching Penguins. One has merely to cruise to Seal Rocks to see Seals in their original habitat. One is not even raising spot viewing of Koalas. It is an education to visit this zone and see how business and environment can co-exist. One is not even referring here to the fishing hotspots of this island and the rugged coastline for surfing.
There is not one business house and no government since 1947 that has even looked at this business dimension. If the Business Manager of tomorrow is to make it good it will not be because of its connects at various ‘Bhavans’ of the Capital or by partying with the politically high and mighty in appropriate cocktail circles. For proper business, cocktail circuit is a useful additional feature and not the end-all of achievement. This requires no social engineering but some thought.
There are other similar examples. A start-up business socially is deemed successful when the owner owns a Mercedes or a snazzy car. When the writer of these lines was in Kozhikode, he was advised of the only successful business house there, which originated and grew in Kozhikode. It had a net worth of about Rupees 20 crores. The owner was watched with awe because he was the only one in the city with a Mercedes! That is another story.
In a post-industrial ethos, the ownership of a fancy car is the beginning of the story and where the businessman actually begins his ‘journey of arrival’. What we see in India therefore, is a medley of known but untapped opportunities and search for social indicators rather than bench marking of business successes.
Let’s return to the coasts, the islands and the business possibilities there.
There is yet another island in Australia which fascinates many including the writer of these lines. It is the Hamilton Island. It is the largest inhabited island of the Whitsundays Islands in Queensland, Australia. It is positioned approximately 887 kms north of Brisbane and 512 kms south of Cairns. It is the only island on the Great Barrier Reef with its own commercial airport. It is a popular tourist destination round the year. At the time of the August Annual Hamilton Island Race, Yachting festival is held. Mumbai has also a Yatch Club strategically located. Its Guest rooms have been successfully converted, like many things in India, to a destination where people who have ‘arrived’, go to stay to mark their status. That is still another story.
Without any unnecessary analysis, the facts of the case of ports in India are the following.
At the time of writing of these lines, of the 13 major ports in India – which really means Government of India Ports- 7 don’t have a Chairman. Senior officials of one all-India cadre or another hold positions in the remaining five. Several of them are holding dual charges. Many of them got into positions of being CEO of a particular port because the destination had a family advantage. The house which went with the CEOs rank was lavish and inviting. Quite a few of them find it more productive to spend time hobnobbing with powers that be and seeking equivalent or better postings to migrate. Of course, there are several exceptions of some outstanding and talented incumbents.
But, business covering 7515 kms of coastline and 4 Islands needs a leadership pool of a different order altogether. One might in passing mention that the narrative above hasn’t even talked of the shores, the littoral zones or the foreshores. India is truly a land of business opportunities if only we could let it happen!