The just-concluded Advantage Assam Global Investors’ Summit marks a refreshing change in the style of administration, considering that in the past it was customary for the Chief Minister of the State to visit the capitals of the more advanced States of the country in order to seek investment in Assam by industrialists and entrepreneurs of those States. Unfortutely, all those efforts and all the promises made by the heads of different States to invest in Assam have remained fruitless. There has been an almost complete dearth of investments in the State by any of the captains of Indian industry. The just concluded two-day summit held in Guwahati resulted in 200 MoUs worth Rs 100,000 crore being signed by different companies, organizations and investors. What is more important is that some top-ranking industrialists attended the summit. While no one is ive enough to imagine that all the 200 MoUs worth a magnificent total of Rs 100,000 crore will come to fruition and bring about a wonderful and inconceivable industrial revolution in the State, there is no denying that even a fraction of the proposed investment can lead to a very substantial process of development. However, this cannot happen without the more important investments of dedicated planning and very hard work—activities that have ceased to be noticeable in the State. And since the captains of Indian industry are aware of the major shortcomings of the State that have come in the way of industrial development, at present the focus seems to be more on business rather than on industry and on treating the State as a springboard for travel to the Far East and for establishing commercial links with countries of the Far East that are more developed than States like Assam. Not surprisingly, an important area of investment in the State is likely to be in the tourism industry (at least in the early stages) so that the basic requirements of the tourism industry can work as the facilitators of certain kinds of manufacturing activities that can gradually turn into small- or medium-scale industries.
The Assam government will do well not to view this sudden eruption of investment interest in the State as some sort of magical transformation in the Centre’s attitude to our State. After all, independent India is 71 years old and our Republic is 68 years old. In all these years there had never been a time when Indian industrialists and organizations evinced the kind of investment interest in the State that was witnessed during the two days of the Advantage Assam Global Investors’ Summit. And the amount of investment proposed to be made in the next two years far exceeds the investments made during the last two decades. The sudden change in attitudes in regarding Assam as an advantageous investment destition certainly gives rise to some surprise. Could it be that the very culture of siphoning out huge Central grants has prompted industrialists to participate in the game of earning easy money? To a large extent this changed attitude reflects the ability of the present State government to attract investors and entrepreneurs to the State possibly with assurances that there will be no procedural delays in setting up industries in Assam. However, the more important reason for this remarkable change in attitudes about Assam stems from the fact that insurgency has been on the decline in the State for some time, giving Assam a better climate for industrial and commercial activity. The government must do everything possible to ensure that the law-and-order climate in the State remains congenial for industrial and entrepreneurial activity. And in order to also ensure that this heartening enthusiasm about Assam does not dissipate very fast due to a total dislike for work among our youth and within the bureaucracy, the government must ensure a very rapid development in skills and an earnest willingness for hard work among the youth so that we do not have to spend half-a-century for the kind of development that other States of India have already maged to achieve.