Five Years on, Government to Finally Launch Single-window Clearance Portal for Foreign and Domestic Investors

The government will finally launch its one-stop portal for foreign and domestic investors on September 22, in a major step to help entrepreneurs secure the plethora of clearances needed to establish and run a business in India.

More than half a decade after it was initially announced as an integral component of Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s Make in India plan, the single-window portal has finally been given finishing touches by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).

The one-stop digital portal has been in the making since 2016 but had run into a plethora of administrative and implementation challenges. It had also missed several deadlines over this period.

Aimed at raising the ease of doing business manifold, the portal can be used to properly scout for investment opportunities across India, get deep data regarding land, labour, logistics and costs, as well as to get in touch with government agencies on the ground. It is expected to provide time-bound approvals and real-time status updates to investors.

Most importantly, it can be used to obtain all the requisite Central and State clearances and approvals required to start and continue business operations in India.

Investment Clearance Cell

“Keeping in mind the large number of touchpoints such as District, State and Central governments, along with regulatory bodies, the portal has been designed to work as a centralised investment clearance cell,” an official said. It will provide end-to-end facilitation support, including pre-investment advisory, information related to land banks, and facilitate clearances at the Central and State level, as proposed in a Budget 2020-21 announcement.

The cell will integrate the existing clearance systems of the various Ministries and Departments of the Centre and of the State governments without disrupting the existing IT portals of Ministries and will have a single, unified application form. This will eliminate the need for domestic and foreign investors and entrepreneurs to visit multiple platforms/offices, which remains a major pain point for them.

The Economic Survey 2020-21 shows that to start manufacturing in India, a person, on average, needs to abide by 6,796 compliance items mandated by 51 Central and State laws.

Long time coming

Apart from the slow pace of policy movement itself, the portal was held up due to issues such as differences between States regarding available infrastructure and the lack of efficient data on land banks.

Since 2016, the Centre has been prodding States to map the available land at their disposal and create clusters of well-connected land banks that can attract foreign investment. But the level of work in this area varies widely among States with State legislatures struggling to amend regulations on common lands in panchayat areas to open them up to industrial development.

Also, heavily populated States such as West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have struggled to create industrial land parcels, while conflicts around land have risen.

In 2020, the government had initially integrated the Industrial Information System (IIS) portal with the Geographic Information System of six States. The combined data was mapped and a user interface created.

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