ImageEven after two years of the announcement, the Ayush department's ambitious Rs 100-crore 'cluster scheme' project to give boost to the sagging Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani (ASU) sector in the country, is yet to take off as the scheme is still entangled in official apathy.

Though the ASU manufacturers have been running from pillar to post to get the scheme amended by the Ayush department to make it feasible, the department has been ignoring their grievances, sources said. If the situation continues like this, the Rs 100 crore earmarked by the Ayush department to fund the pilot projects in the 11th five-year Plan, may lapse as the manufacturers do not show interest in the scheme at its present form.

That the scheme lacked feasibility was evident from the fact that against the proposal to set up 25 clusters in different parts of the country, the government could attract only five proposals so far. The Ayush department has so far received five proposals from Nasik, Pune and Kokan in Maharashtra, Thrissur in Kerala and one from Orissa. But, they have asked the government to make necessary amendments in the scheme to make it feasible and attractive.

Instead of making the scheme more attractive, the government recently amended the scheme, making the norms further rigid for the Rs 100 crore project. As per initial announcement, SPV formed by at least 15 enterprises located in an existing cluster was eligible for funding. But in the amendment, it said that the SPV formed by at least 15 GMP manufacturing enterprises located in an existing cluster shall be eligible for funding under the scheme and of these at least three to five units should have annual turnover of Rs 50.00 lakh and above and 5 units of Rs 20.00 lakh and above to ensure the viability of the cluster. There are several other irritants the manufacturers wanted to remove to make the scheme attractive.

Aiming to give a fillip to the ASU industry, the Ayush department had proposed to set up clusters in different parts of the country. Implemented on a public-private partnership, clusters will be useful to the industry, especially the small and medium manufacturers who cannot afford to establish advanced facilities on their own, as there will be all types of common facilities in the clusters.

With the government shifting its focus on quality, the clusters will go a long way in upgrading the quality of these products. The cluster scheme will enable the ASU manufactures to fill in the critical gaps in the sector especially related to standardization, quality assurance and control, productivity, marketing, infrastructure and capacity building through a cluster based approach. Testing facilities such as Analytical Lab, Toxicology Centre, Process & Product Validation Laboratory, Raw Material Testing, Standardisation laboratory, etc will enable better quality assurance and control.

Under the scheme, the Ayush department will give a grant upto 60 per cent of the cost subject to a maximum of Rs 10 crore. The remaining 40 per cent would be required to be arranged by the manufacturers through equity and borrowings from banks.