There is a long-standing lament in Assam that for decades we have had no initiatives of the State government towards promoting industrial development. Now it is evident that the situation is far worse than anyone could have imagined: our bureaucrats are determined not to permit any kind of industrial activity to take place so that the pretence that industrial development is not feasible in Assam can be sustained for all times to come. And they are determined to sustain this myth by hook or by crook because they are determined to prevent any changes in the existing administrative culture of avoiding all positive, purposeful activity. And the game plan for this kind of mischief is to take the entrepreneur or the would-be industrialist through the intricate business of applying for industrial loans, of securing benefits in the form of tax holidays, subsidies and so on, and then making sure that the enterprise fails, so that all that the poor entrepreneur is left with is the memory of a forgettable experience and the resolve never to burn his fingers with any attempts at ever venturing into the world of industry or enterprise in Assam. In fact, something much worse is happening. Those in charge of development are guilty of letting entrepreneurs take the initial steps to starting an industry and ensuring that any success at even getting started eludes the entrepreneur only after the prelimiry steps have been taken at considerable expense of public money.
The present scerio in the realm of development says it all rather eloquently. The most glaring failure of the Department of Industries and Commerce is that it is itself uware of the ‘present industrial status’ in the State. The department has been uble to provide this information to the Assam Assembly even on being requested to do so. The department has failed to carry out a survey of industries in the State, preferring to rely exclusively on the report of the survey of ‘Assam Industries’ conducted by the Development Commissioner of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) of the Centre carried out a decade ago in fiscal 2007-08. This reliance on a survey carried out ten years ago has complicated matters with thousands of listed industries of the State being off the list and remaining ‘untraceable’. In an attempt to reply to a recent question on the present status of industries in the State raised in the Assembly by BJP MLA Debanda Hazarika, Industries and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary had this to say: “The Development Commissioner of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) of the Centre did conduct a survey of Assam industries in fiscal 2007-08. Significantly, 4,209 industries were found untraceable. The survey found as many as 30,339 in the State, including 19,864 working ones, 6,266 closed ones and 4,209 untraceable ones. There has been no such survey after the one conducted in 2007-08, the fourth such survey in the country. The next such survey by the MSME Development Commissioner is going to be conducted soon.”
Patowary’s reply in the Assembly raises a few pertinent questions. Why has the State’s Department of Industries and Commerce not conducted any survey on the industrial status of Assam on its own? Why has it depended solely on the survey conducted by the MSME 10 years ago? What is the significance of 19,864 working industries as opposed to the 30,339 industries listed? How can 4,209 industries become ‘untraceable’ if their locations were properly recorded? What is likely to be very difficult to explain is how even with 19,864 working industries in the State, there should be such a total lack of visible industrial activity and evidence of products manufactured in Assam. There is something else that the Assam government has to explain to the people. How is it that entrepreneurs who have maged to get plots allotted to them in the industrial estates of Assam are able to use such plots for purposes other than industrial activities such as building apartments for sale and rent and so on? Our bureaucrats also have the responsibility of letting the people know how much longer they expect to carry on with their present activity of sabotaging all potential of industrial development in Assam.