The micro challenges of the Make in India campaign – analysis
Last year, I was on a family vacation in the United States (USA). As the heat wave hit Texas, we took a break on the beach. We also decided to adapt the car windows with tint. We found a dealer who showed us a selection of brands of dye films. “This one,” said the dealer, “is from India.” When we left with solar control on glass surfaces, we were proud to sport a “Made in India” brand.
This month, I decided to start my car’s engine after two months of hibernation. Upon opening the car doors, I noticed that there was a strong toxic smell of burnt plastic coming from the synthetic leather seat covers exposed to the strong Delhi sun. Recognizing the dire need for shade to cool the cabin temperature, I decided to put a solar control film on the glass surfaces of the car.
I Googled a suitable dealer in Delhi and found that there is a total ban on tinting windows and windshields of cars in India. He knew that the Indian Motor Vehicle Act had prescribed a standard for light transmission, but not that aftermarket tinting was completely prohibited. I did a little research. Why is this Indian product available and working well in the United States banned in India? What government entity prohibited it? When?
In that story lies a microcosm of the challenges facing the Make in India initiative and the drive for manufacturing in India. It also illustrates the challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s quest for a self-sufficient India, highly dependent on a thriving national industry that is local but globally acting and is an integral part of global supply chains.
In a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in 2012 in the Supreme Court (SC), a Calcutta-based petitioner prayed that, in light of the rise in crimes against women, car theft and so on, the film black should be prohibited. SC banned not only black film but all films that could be applied to vehicle glass surfaces. It is acceptable if the tint on the vehicle glass came with the manufacture, which is according to Indian standards. But the same brightness, according to Indian standards, is not allowed if the tint is achieved by adding a film. Overnight, the dye film application industry was declared illegal.
But the SC seems to have been tricked. PIL stated that tinting on the aftermarket is not allowed even in developed countries. He cited the examples of the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States. This was cited in the sentence. But the fact is that tinting, by fixing the film externally, is allowed in most countries of the world, including the United States; alone, due to the federal nature of the country, the permitted light transmission standards are different. The Indian brand I found in the United States is recognized as a renowned brand on the international market in more than 80 countries.
Adding tint to car glasses in a warm country like India has its merits. Heat from the cab of a parked car puts the engine under extreme stress as it bears the added load of the air conditioning system for extended periods. Unlike in colder climates, the radiation from direct sunlight and its reflection from the ground makes the cabin temperature unbearable.
According to a report from the Institute of Energy and Resources, dyeing can save Rs 1 billion worth of fuel, as well as reduce CO2 consumption. We must remember that factory-installed tinted glass in vehicles is very expensive and most cars on Indian roads do not. Therefore, it has the potential to optimize energy resources and contribute to climate sustainability.
There are also security benefits. A crash can break the windshield, but the film will prevent glass shards from flying out. Most importantly, tinting, according to the International Window Film Association, can filter 98% of harmful cancer-causing ultraviolet rays.
While the order was also largely based on the perception that wearing polarized glasses could undermine women’s safety, the data on the theft of jewelry and handbags related to the car, the theft of computers from the booths of cars, humiliation and harassment of women due to lack of privacy for a strong case for stained glass in India. In fact, violent crimes, including rape, have been committed after identifying women as passengers in the car and dragging them.
There are some broad lessons. As an industry grows, think carefully and scientifically about all the elements associated with it before introducing restrictions, either through executive or court orders. When an industry is doing well globally, allow it to take advantage of national markets if it is not breaking the law. Create an enabling environment for it. And only then will India become a true and independent manufacturing hub.
Sanjay Singh is the former resident chief executive, Tata Sons
The opinions expressed are personal.