Assam may be barely halfway through in achieving human development goals over last 15 years, but its new government wants to fast track the process with a more ambitious set of goals by 2030. Whether that will at all be possible depends on how well our planners read the present economic scerio and go about meeting the really big challenges. In its vision document, the Sarbanda Sonowal government has set a target of zero poverty by 2030, which last year stood at 27.3 percent. Other key goals include ending malnutrition and hunger, as well as significant reduction in materl mortality and child mortality ratios. These are in line with the sustaible development goals (SDGs) set for 2030 by the United tions, so it is good if Assam is to be judged in terms of its developmental performance in both tiol and intertiol frameworks. It helps to see how the State stands as far as developmental aspects are concerned, in the light of several reports. In the Assam Human Development Report 2014 released by the State government recently, some noteworthy figures have emerged. About one-third of Assam’s population is ‘multi-dimensiolly poor’, which means poor in more than one way. Another worrisome aspect is inequality. Take unemployment, which stands at 13.4 percent overall for people in the working age. However, the female unemployment rate is 33.9 percent compared to 8 percent for males. Human development of women, in general, was lower than that of men by around 14 percent. The unemployment rate among youths (15-24 years), the most volatile segment, stands as high as 37.7 percent; areawise, it is highest in tea gardens at 15.3 percent and flood-affected areas at 15.2 percent. About land holdings, it turns out that the top 20 percent of the population hold around 70 percent of total cultivable land, and shares around 45 percent of the total consumption expenditure.
Around one-third of the potential aggregate human development was lost due to inequalities underlying achievements in education, health and income dimensions. “The loss due to inequality is the highest in the income dimension (about 44 percent), followed by health (32 percent) and education (9 percent),” says the report. Overall, the Human Development Index (HDI) in Assam has been worked out to be 0.557 (it was 0.407 in 2003), while the all-India figure stood at 0.586. It is hardly surprising if the alysis found about two-thirds of the people dissatisfied with most of key processes in governce. While the State has shown ‘steady and continuous improvement’ over last 15 years in the level of human development, it still has far to go. A sense of general wellbeing can come only from concrete development on the ground across various sectors. In another study to help outline the ‘action agenda’ for the new Assam government, industry body Assocham has pointed out that the State needs to do far better than the average 6 percent growth registered from 2004-05 to 2014-15. In a state where 75 percent of the population is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture, this sector grew at average 3 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2004-05 to 2014-15; meanwhile the share of agriculture in the State’s GDP went down from 25 to 20 percent. Industry too remained stagnt at 5 percent CAGR, recording barely 18 percent share in State GDP. Expectedly, most of the growth was done by the services sector at 8 percent CAGR, contributing over half the State GDP at 57 percent. Only investment to the tune of Rs 2,00,000 crore over the next five years to clock double digit growth can create 35 lakh new jobs, says Assocham. These broad figures indicate the dimensions of the challenge facing the State, if hunger and poverty are to be totally elimited from it by 2030.