Advantage Assam: hope and aspiration on the fray!

Advantage Assam: hope and aspiration on the fray!

By RAKTIM BARUAH | DECEMBER 10, 2017

In yet another international event in the name and style of investors’ summit is nearing in Assam. The BJP-led government of the North-east Indian state is organizing a two-day long global investors’ summit in its capital city, Guwahati on February 3 and 4 next year with a hope to bring in massive private investment from around the world. The government aims to showcase the state’s rich treasure of natural heritages as well as scope of investment in front of the would-be participating investors as well as industrialists. The state chief minister, reportedly, has taken strong step to make the summit a success. A few days ago the chief minister met a group of leading industrialists of the country at an event organized at Mumbai where he invited the industrialists and investors to come and invest in the state. The state, during the early period of Independence of the country recognized as agriculturally self-reliant, is yet to keep pace with some other states of the country like Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Karnataka in terms of investment and industrialization despite the fact that it is rich in natural resources.

The successive governments in the state since the Independence abstained from taking proper policy initiatives to boost investment as well as create ambience conducive for industrialization. It seems that through the rapid industrialization the BJP-led regime in the state now seeks to find out a succor for the state’s huge unemployment problem besides mitigating some other problems. The latest government data reveals that the state has around 15 lakh unemployed youths both skilled and unskilled. Till today, hardly any comprehensive scheme for tackling the robust unemployment problem is taken by the government in the state. The present BJP-led regime in the state has set up a Skill Development department to hone the skill of the unemployed youth which outcome is yet to release. Some have expected that the up-coming investors’ summit would bring a new horizon the state.

Like some other states of the country, Assam too has some PSUs. But unfortunately, the current state of many PSUs in the state is pathetic due to lack of will of the government to revive the sick PSUs. As for instance, the APOL, a state PSU which produces polyester garments was earlier categorized as profit-making industry is now in almost nadir thanks to the government’s apathy. Likewise, tea gardens listed under the Assam Tea Corporation face similar fate. The State Innovation and Transformation Aayog, a policy-making body formed by the state government, on the line of NITI Aayog, one and half years ago, has initially taken steps to revive some sick PSUs including the APOL outcome of which is yet to be out. The Central government, under its policy of disinvesting in the CPSUs, has initiated selling share of the oil-fields in Assam both profit-making and idle.

The upcoming investors’ summit christened as Advantage Assam is being considered as a step towards right direction by many. Considering the fact that only investment and industrialization could boost and ameliorate a state or country’s economic condition a section of experts keeps faith upon the government. They wait to comment on the event after it releases outcome. However, some experts have opined that going to organize such an even the government should have to consider the state’s power sector as problem of frequent electricity load-shedding still persists. According to them few would come for investment in the state if basic amenities like electricity and road connectivity remain costly. Nevertheless, the state government has kept no stone unturned to make the very event successful as it, reportedly, prepared to send its ministers to different parts of the country as well as the abroad to invite investors as well as industrialists.

Even after the 70 years of Independence problem of connectivity is yet to be addressed properly in Assam as well as other parts of the North-east. Provided that the rail- tracks have been upgraded to Broad Gauge in different course of time in the state and some parts of the region, yet double-tracking remains as a far dream and hence rail transportation both passengers and freight still remains as a much time consuming affair. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has dubbed the North-east as Asthalakhmi as the region consists of eight states. Despite this few big Centrally-funded development projects are implemented by his government in the region, which is often termed as remote part of the country, so far that could provide income avenue to many unemployed youths. In addition to this the NDA regime at the Centre has crooning the region as the country’s gate way to South-east Asia. However, unlike Modi no other previous Prime Minister gave due importance upon the North-east which could be rightly construed as the primary cause of these states’ lagging behind.

Indeed, for employment generation, a major issue that has been discussed in many a time in different spheres, needs proper policy formulation. However, the public sector alone could not cater jobs to all. As such, private sector occupies a place of level playing in the field of employment generation. Assam, now a state of more than 78 thousand square kilometers, has confronted different kind of turmoil arising from insurgency to bifurcation from time to time aftermath of the Independence. Through bifurcation of the state, earlier known as greater Assam, four states were formed since 1962. These new states were christened as Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. These new states were the results of either long arms struggle or peaceful protest of the respective ethnic people. Hence, the successive governments, till 1987, when Arunachal Pradesh was formed, could not dwell on their duties well. Among them Bimala Prasad Chaliha’s government faced more problems than others. During the 12 years long rule of Chaliha, the second longest serving chief minister of the state after Tarun Gogoi, took place the 1962 Indo-China war at a time the Naga separatist movement touched its peak. The then chief minister could overcome all these hindrance by virtue of his political acumen.  However, Tarun Gogoi and Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, two former chief ministers of the state could not contribute for the economic uplift of the state as expected despite the fact that the duo had not face any major hurdle during their chief ministerships.


The writer can be reached at   raktimbaruah20@gmail.com

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