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food for thought

While reviewing various schemes under Panchayati Raj and Rural Development Ministry in Assam last month, Union Minister of State Ram Kripal Yadav had said the pace of implementation needs to pick up in the State. He made particular mention of the PM’s housing scheme for construction of nearly 8.84 lakh houses in Assam by 2019, of which only 30 percent has been completed so far. The delay is said to be due to NRC update exercise, but if this is true, then it is hardly likely the target will be reached in the election year when the present regime will be anxious to put up a good performance report before voters. After all, the NRC exercise is not ending anytime soon! In other rural development indices too, Assam continues to be a laggard despite being a primarily agrarian State. In the latest State performance report for 2017-18 brought out by Union Rural Development Ministry, it has been noted that expenditure on agricultural and allied works in Assam is low — only 38.95% when it should have been above 60%. Irrigation related works fared much worse, only 21.3%. The State government has been planning to converge the departments of Agriculture, Water Resources, State Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM) and Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (PMAY), but is yet to carry this out. The report has called for convergence both at inter and intra departmental levels. Obviously, there will be resistance from babus and other vested interests fearing loss of turf, but didn’t this regime promise strong governance? For that, necessary and targeted expenditure within stipulated time limit is a must, along with equal stress on rationalization and cutting waste. The Assam government eagerly awaits big ticket investors in industry and services. In the meantime, it would get tangible and faster results on the ground by effectively organizing agriculture, irrigation, small power generation and rural development works. This would help to harness huge productive energy of jobless rural youths and put money in their pockets. To enable the entrepreneurially minded among them to invest in start-ups would then be the next logical step. ‘Perform or Perish’ should be the yardstick by which all regimes should be judged.

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