Lesson learnt late
The Assam government is now exploring avenues to generate revenue on its own. With the NDA government at the Centre supposedly squeezing funds to the State, Dispur is desperately on the lookout for a bailout. After more than 14 years in power, the Tarun Gogoi-led government has now tied up with a consultancy firm ‘tiol Institute of Public Fince and Policy (NIPFP)’ to work on how the State can augment its resources further. With only four months left for assembly elections, what this government hopes to achieve with the knowledge gained so late in the day is anybody’s guess. Fince department officials have rued the demise of the Planning Commission, which had allocated Rs 55,480 crores for Assam, with Rs 47,148 crore slated to be the Centre’s contribution. Taking the Modi government to task for removing the special status Assam had hitherto enjoyed, they have blamed the NITI-Aayog for bringing as many as 75 projects in the State to a standstill. They have also pointed out that of Rs 26,338 crores allocated for the State in the current fincial year, only Rs 12,407 crores has been released so far. The biggest letdown for Assam is said to be the new formula for dividing tax resources — that despite the States getting 42 percent of the central pool of divisible resources compared to 32 percent earlier, Assam has not been benefited. All this offers genuine grounds for grievance — but did the powers-be in Dispur believe that the political dispensation at the Centre will remain the same, and more importantly, to their advantage? Even otherwise, a far-sighted view of the economic challenges before the country, particularly the need for continuing, deep-seated reforms of Central and State finces, should have made it clear that painful changes lay ahead. Now that the pain has come for Assam, the Tarun Gogoi government cannot escape responsibility for the mess by pointing at the Centre.