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NITI Aayog has recently released the India Innovation Index 2020. This is the second successive publication of the indexes since the last one published in 2019. The basic objectives of framing of the indexes are stated as "To scrutinise the innovation capacities and performance of Indian States. The Index provides an extensive framework for the constant evaluation of the innovation eco-system of the 28 Indian States and nine Union Territories. For this purpose seven indicators have been developed of which five are input indicators designated as "enablers" and two output indicators designated as "performance. The enablers are: i) Human capital, ii) investment, iii) knowledge workers, iv) business environment, and v) safety and legal environment. The two performance indicators are i) Knowledge output and ii) knowledge diffusion. Both the enablers and performance have been assessed depending on the score made by each State on certain pre-determined indicators. Each of these indicators again suggests the progress of the State in that particular area. Of the seven pillars mentioned above, we will discuss the indicators individually to assess the position of Assam in respective areas compared to other States. The index is determined indicator-wise as per performance of each State using a mathematical formula and depending on the average score in each indicator, the position of the State is determined. The State and Union territories are categorised under three heads depending on their geographical locations viz the first category is titled as major States where 17 States are included; the second category covers NE and other Hill States (total 10 in number) and the third category includes nine states.
The innovation index calculated for 27 States and 9 UTs places Delhi at the top of the list with the highest score of 46.60 while Lakshadweep with the score 11.71 is at the bottom of the list. Of the total 36 areas for which this index is calculated, the position of Assam is 29th i.e. 7th from last. Below Assam there are the States such as Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya and Lakshadweep. The average score of Assam in respect of enablers is 19.75 and in respect of performance is 13. Thus, the innovation index for Assam is calculated as 16.38.
This speaks of the State's overall pathetic performance in education – especially higher education and research - science and technology sector, industrial and employment sector. These are the areas where the Government claims growth and development – never before. Separating the score in respect of enablers and performance, we see that the position of Assam is 31 in respect of enablers while in respect of performance it is 23. Now let us have a look at the indicator-wise performance of the State of Assam.
In respect of human capital which is the first pillar of the enablers, a total of seven indicators were taken into consideration. These indicators are enrolment in PhD programs; enrolment in engineering and technology, colleges connected through the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT); higher education institutions with National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) grade A and above; pupil-teacher ratio (higher education), schools with ICT labs and National Achievement Survey (NAS) Scores (Class X). The highest average score is 74.82 which goes in favour of Chandigarh. This is mainly due to the high enrolment rate in PhD programs and provision of quality education in schools and colleges of the UT. This underlines the necessity of quality in education and not the number of institutions. Assam with the score of 32.08 secures the 30th position among the 37 areas (i.e. 28 states and 9 UTs). Assam has scored single digit in respect of enrolment in engineering and technology (3.65) higher education institution with NAAC grade A and above (6.84) and schools with ICT lab (5.72). It also scored low in enrolment in Oh D 19.41 only.
Manipur emerged as the top scoring State in respect of investment with average score of 41.18 followed by Arunachal Pradesh (33.66) and Karnataka (33.01). Investment is the second pillar of the enablers. Assam occupies the 25th position with the average score of only 5.44. In this area of investment, Assam's score in expenditure on higher and technical education is only 0.08, expenditure on science and technology and environment is 3.82 and FDI inflow is 0.02. Despite conducting "Advantage Assam with pomp and gaiety spending crores of rupees and the selling out the twin towers concept, no FDI is forthcoming to the State.
The third pillar is the knowledge workers. It comprises the indicators namely i) knowledge-intensive employment, NGOs involved in knowledge-intensive areas, private R&D units, and state-funded R&D units. Himachal Pradesh scored the highest point (36.86) followed by Goa (33.52) Sikkim (32.67), Chandigarh (30.04) Manipur (29.87). Assam with the average score of 5.69 occupies the 29th position. This pillar comprises of four indicators, namely knowledge-intensive employment, NGOs involved in knowledge-intensive areas, private R&D units, and state-funded R&D units. Assam scored single digit in respect of knowledge-intensive employment (1.83), NGOs involved in knowledge-intensive areas (6.15), private R&D units (1.83). While Manipur has scored perfect 100 in involving NGOs in the knowledge intensive areas and has a better score than Assam in respect of State funded Research and Development establishments. All these happen because the State has failed to make quality expenditure.
Business environment is the fourth pillar having six indicators, namely, the ease of doing business ranking, online service transactions, internet subscribers, incubator centres, common facility centres, and cluster strength. The business environment of the country is particularly held back by the lack of incubator centres and common facility centres. Delhi occupies the top position with the score of 39.72 followed by Goa (36.90), Kerala (37.12) and Tamil Nadu (31.84). The position of Assam with score of 9.41 is the 26th. Here again, out of the 6 indicators in respect of four, Assam scores poorly in single digits. In case of online service transactions, it scored only 2.94 while in case of internet subscriber, it scored only 6.21. This is despite the State Finance Department's tall claim that it has achieved a milestone in respect of online services. The State also falls short of adequate numbers of common facility centres and it scored only 5.77 in respect of this indicator.
The fifth pillar in respect of enablers is the safety and legal environment. This pillar consist of three indicators namely the number of offenses against Information Technology and Intellectual Property (IT/IP) related Acts, cyber-crime police stations, and pendency of court cases. Sikkim with the score of 99.20 occupies the top position followed by Chandigarh (86.11), Mizoram (80.73) and Nagaland (76.86). The position of Assam with score of 46.15 is 30th – a score which is not even the half of the score of Sikkim. Even among the North Eastern States Assam's position is at the bottom. Let us now have a look at the performance pillars.
The first performance pillar is the knowledge output. The score is determined as per performance of the indicators i) grassroots innovation, ii) number of trademark applications iii) Number of Patents applications filed, iv) Number of Industrial Design Applications filed, v) Number of Publications, vi) Number of Start-ups in the State. Delhi occupies the first position with 82.83 score followed by Chandigarh (55.10), Daman & Diu (43.48) and Maharashtra (34.57). The position of Assam as usual towards the lower ranks i.e 26th position with the average score of 10.28.
The knowledge diffusion pillar comprises of five indicators namely i) citations, ii) high tech manufacturing entities, iii) ICT export and IV) geographical indications registered. Karnataka occupies the top position in this pillar with average score of 72.26 followed by Tamil Nadu (52.73) and Maharashtra (48.12). Assam with the score of 15.73 occupies the 17th position. This is the only pillar where Assam reached the position within 20th. But except for the indicator of publication (45.69) no significant achievements have been made by the State in this area in respect of other indicators.
The above analysis makes it amply clear that, Assam needs to learn a lot about the patterns of public expenditure that the State needs to make for its development initiatives. Mere draining out of funds on individual items would not lead to public welfare. The State must choose the appropriate direction of its expenditure for attaining public wellbeing.