DATELINE Guwahati /Wasbir Hussain
In about a week's time or a little more, there will be a new government in Assam. The high voter turnout, which was close to 85 per cent, can be interpreted as an indication of the people's conscious participation in the government formation process. What could the people of Assam possibly want in return from the new government?
I would think they would want the following: first, they would want a stable government comprising ministers who are motivated, capable, try out new ideas or borrow them, and have a mindset that is suitable for the progress and growth of all communities and groups of people living in the State. Secondly, they would want the government to prove it is led by the elected representatives and not the bureaucracy as all bureaucrats may not be as motivated to do things for the State's welfare as those elected by a popular vote. Thirdly, of course, everybody would like to see Assam emerge out of the economic morass and provide livelihood options for the thousands of jobless youths.
For the new government to be successful, they have to do several new things: find out means to buy power to take care of the power deficit that is hampering growth, come up with its own set of incentives to attract investment, take full advantage of the Centre's skill development initiatives and use it on a mission-mode, revamp moribund and idea-less state organisations like the Assam Industrial Development Corporation, set up an agency dedicated to job creation and monitor job vacancies and potential job avenues, create new areas for employment and so on. Basically, the new government's biggest challenge will be in the field of economic growth that would lead to creation of livelihood options.
If the new government can get Assam an image makeover by making the state a great place to work, things will change. That will need industrial parks and power before that, that will need a friendly and investor appreciating set of bureaucrats, an effective synergy with the private sector, and less of promises and lot of action on the ground! For that to happen, the new chief minister will have to adopt a no nonsense approach. Ministers who do not perform must be axed after a proper assessment, may be, within 18 months. Politics is a continuous process and governments come and governments go, but only a few leaders and some governments can make things happen and are able to secure their place in history. Hope the new government will be able to etch its mark in the anls of Assam's history.
An interface between the new government and the academia and research institutions existing in the State is extremely important. The state government, in the past two decades, did not think it necessary to have any interface with those in the non-government sector who are engaged in research and studies on issues and subjects critical to the State. Such an interface was not in the agenda of the previous governments. To understand or find out the gaps that need to be plugged, it is important to first have reliable inputs from the ground. This is an exercise the new government will have to undertake with utmost seriousness. They have to know the livelihood gaps, the possible livelihood options, the loopholes in the agri sector, the deadly fertilisers used by the farmers to boost yield, the condition of the minorities who live in the riverine areas, the health and education scene in the tea garden areas, the flood damage and rehab possibilities, road linkages, and many other issues.
A heavy dose of sincerity, motivation, ideas, imagition and the will to bulldoze things and shake the bureaucracy to get things done are some of the expectations the people have from the new dispensation that will come to run Assam in about a week's time. If the rest of India can do it, Assam sure can. Of course, ministers must be able to put their ego, that would soon develop, and potential arrogance into little bottles and throw them into the Brahmaputra for things to move for the State's welfare!