By Mridul Bora
Topic 1- “How Assam Government can help increase Job creations and what are the sectors which are vital for Assam’s growth “ ?
Assam has been passing through Political turbulence since late 1980’s. The very existence of the Sons of the soil have been threatened by large scale influx of illegal immigrants from its neighbouring countries like Bangladesh. This has been possible, only due to encouragement by some Political Parties of Assam, having vested Political interest of Vote banks to win elections. Insurgency has broken the backbone of our economy, as no investor from outside, finds it secured to invest in such troubled premises.
But inspite of such a scerio, Assam , especially has developed as a rising economy, more so in the last decade. Industrialisation, especially in the Manufacturing sector has been fairly low, but Trading has seen a Boom. All Intertiol brands like KFC, LG, SAMSUNG, Whirlpool etc ( to me a few) in each and every Trade sector , is up for grabs in Assam Today. But the progress needs a shot in the arm, as we have lagged behind tiolly and Intertiolly, due to our own basket of problems, lethargy and a lack of vision, in the minds of the people, who have till now, wielded power and shaped our destiny.
A pragmatic and concerned Political leadership is a must for survival of Assam both as a Multi ethnic Multi Lingual State as well as An Economy which is at the threshold of taking off .Opening of Waterways with Bangladesh and Potential of Tourism, Agro Based Industries may accelerate the economy in no time . The NRC updation process has started and is underway in Assam and the indigenous Citizens of Assam, do have a chance to assert filly their Proud Citizenship of India. In our land, which has been for around 5 decades, thrown out of track, due to the huge illegal influx problem, a light seems to be glowing there, at the end of a dark deep tunnel. Atleast, the NRC updation process, if seriously carried out to its logical conclusion, would provide the framework of correctly identifying our bofide Citizens and protecting their Life, Rights and Property.
Having cleared the political uncertainty over Assam, Time has come for all of us to think Futuristic. It needs no further sermons to preach that Economy of our State needs a push to the Stage of boom, being placed at a strategically delicate point of Take –off. Having a couple of 5 Star Hotels and that too only in Guwahati, would not be real economic growth of our State. Camouflage, Window-dressing , Hog washes get exposed very easily nowadays, in highly media-sensitive times. We have to think about a Totalitarian and Futuristic steps, which are the need of the Day.
We appreciate the recent steps taken by the Central Government to open new waterways with Bangladesh. This comes as a welcome move after our recent understanding with Myanmar. This move with Bangladesh will help in the transportation of people, goods and machinery between the two countries- a welcome relief for the land locked North-Eastern Region of India and especially Assam. Sometimes, it is sad and frustrating to learn that only Cattle smuggling is going on ubated across the Indo- Bangladesh waterways. It is high time to set aside small time illegal activities and replace it with Long term, Futuristic Business of mutual benefit on a Mega Scale. India and Bangladesh share almost 1116 kms of riverine boundary and share more than 50 rivers, including the mighty Brahmaputra. We do feel an anguish when we come to know that right now only 4 inland water routes between India and Bangladesh are currently operatiol – Kolkatta – Pandu ( Southern Assam) via Bangladesh, Kolkatta- Karimganj ( southern Assam) via Bangladesh, Rajshahi ( Bangladesh) – Dhulian ( Southern Assam) and Karimganj – Pandu- Karimkanj via Bangladesh. Lots of Goods like Coal, Tea, Silk can be sent from Assam more economically to Bangaldesh, in an organized mode of Export trade rather than doing some Miniature Illegal deals of Dubious ture. However, right thinking has been recently made in this direction, which needs to be lauded. Even opening up the Stillwell road, will open up numerous Trade opportunities and direct bilateral trade with countries like Burma, Thailand and other parts of South east Asia.
I am excluding Petroleum and crude oil extraction from the purview of this discussion , as it is centrally controlled by Mega Central Government Public sector undertakings like OIL INDIA LTD, OIL AND TURAL GAS COMMISSION, GAS AUTHORITY OF INDIA LTD etc. The only role open for Assam Government is to try to enhance the royalty rates, recieved by it and to recover the huge payments receivable on this Account. Renovating the Paper Mills at Jagiroad,Jogighopa ad Panchagram, the Sugar Factories at Kampur, Chemical fertilizer plant at mrup, cement plant at Bokajan would also go a long way in reviving our fortunes.
Just framing a Vision document for the next 20 years and sitting on top of it ,will not hatch any eggs. The most practical and pragmatic way would be to introspect the minutest details of any Business activities. As far as I have been able to gather- the Coal of Assam is very rich in its heating elements and ash content is also less. The only obstacle coming in the way of Assam’s coal being the TOP INTERTIOL COAL variety is the presence of excess Suphur. Excess Sulphur has a tendency of damaging the Boiler Machines in Factories, which comes in the way of Assam Coal being selected as top product. States like Jharkand, Orissa are the top Coal exporting States due to lesser Sulphur Content in their coal. Improved and multiple waterways between Tamil du and Sri Lanka has boosted Coal Trade by million of dollars. But sadly, we have been sitting on this problem for the last few decades. Since Technology can solve any problems today, a certain De-sul
phurisation technology do exists , which can be imported from Foreign countries. Experts from Coal Industry and Concerned Government Officials should visit Foreign countries like Germany, Russia and find out how Coal with excess Sulphur is being treated and then implement it here. Instantly, our Huge Coal Reserves would become a Goldmine and would fetch high prices in The Intertiol Market. With improved water ways with Bangladesh, atleast one Major purchaser is sitting with open arms to purchase an improved variety of Coal. This is how, we can go ahead and gradually the undue importance of Bengal would get automatically reduced.
I advocate Tourism, very much in Assam. But without thinking too high or glamorous, I would dwell on the basics. Say, If a Group of Foreigners from Advanced countries like America, Great Britain ,United Arab Emiratesd etc want to go from Guwahati to Kaziranga, on a Traveller vehicle, then there are no wayside amenities or Hygienic toilets equally spread on the journey, for them even to answer the call of ture. The only places available might be the most unhygienic filthy toilets of a Roadside Dhaba or a Small countryside Inn. Before embarking on very high sounding Glamour events, it should have been the prerogative of our Government to provide the basic amenties first. Better late than never. There is still time to take up a Basic, Pragmatic scheme of things and set the ball rolling. Tourism can take Assam to new horizons of Growth and Development. Kaziranga, Pobitora, Mash sanctuaries need a facelift and new concepts of tourism.
Small and Margil Farmers, should be honestly provided with Modern Agricultural Implements, Bio-fertilizers, Tractors, Improved Seeds, Effective Irrigation facilities to produce improved varieties of food . Catchy and huge advertisement, in Media and Newspapers announcing Benefits to Farmers has no value if the real beneficiary does not get the support in hand. It should not be only Election gimmicks or Promotiol Campaigns. At times, we see Media Reports of hundreds of Tractors, Tube wells etc being dumped in some mysterious Godowns, instead of having been handed over to the farmers at the right place and right moment.The whole purpose and the right spirit get’s dampened by such heinous activities, of some dishonest Bigwigs. The whole Agriculture Sector of Assam right from producing tea, rice, citrus fruits, rapeseed, potatoes, ba, papaya etc can be made export quality , if the small and margil farmers are given adequate support by the Government Agencies. Export of Tea, Silk, Agricultural produce, Bamboo products, Silk, Jute etc can make Assam flourishing in the Intertiol Market. However, State Government has to sit down sincerely with these relevant people, discuss and solve their problems, provide them modern technology, streamline the pricing system, abolish the illegal Syndicates and Goonda Taxes and make a congenial atmosphere for Trade and Business to take place smoothly. The Insurgency problem, which has thwarted Assam’s progress for last 4 decades has to be solved , once for all.
However, time has come for all of us to put the monkey’s off our backs and really put our feet together on the sweet path of Progress, as this is the opportune time for all of us ,to move ahead as a cohesive unit.