Industrialise or Perish

By Swapnanil Barua

Assam and the other northeastern states are in total unhappiness. Sixty five percent of the population, who form the bulk of the electorate, is unemployed or underemployed. Governments in the states have failed to provide the jobs and hence have been shown the door, be it the CPM in Tripura or the Congress in Meghalaya or the regional party in Nagaland. The youth of today want jobs. For them, given a job, roads, health, education, electricity, drinking water, price rise and other social issues can wait. The CPM government in Tripura thought that taking up social development will give them perpetual governance, while Congress in Meghalaya thought that doles would keep the voters happy; but that was not to be.

 Assam specific, the only persons happy are the trio of the one in total bliss and his two Advisers, the event managers providing the needs of the sarkari festivals, artists engaged in these festivals and the members of a social organisation who are getting importance in the affairs of the state. The rest are unhappy. The Bodos are yet to get their state and unlimited financial packages, the Karbis and Dimasas also in the same boat. Other tribal councils are yet to get sixth schedule status and funding. The tea labour is yet to get increased wages and better facilities, the Axomiyas are yet to get white collared jobs, with little work or petty contracts. The Muslim community feels suspect, while the Hindus feel their religious majority is under threat. The six communities are yet to get their tribal status. Industrialists are waiting for restoration of incentives under NEIPP while businessmen are grappling with GST. Akhil Gogoi is seeing the unending spectre of corruption everywhere. Contractors are unhappy with pending payments. Doctors are feeling insecure while patients are crying for proper treatment and free medicine. Roads and Highways are more adventure strips than ease of commuting. Residents of flood prone areas are unhappy as embankments have not been repaired or erosion prevented. Media is unhappy because it is no longer being heard and journalists are loosing the importance, so long enjoyed. Government officials are unhappy due to constant vigilance pressure, more reporting and reviews than time for actual work, coupled with lack of funds. MLAs are unhappy that the Cabinet expansion is not happening. Cabinet ministers are unhappy, not getting their budgeted funds.

Where is the way out? The government fast must develop agriculture, but it is not an end in itself. If agricultural development was the end, developed agricultural states like Punjab and Haryana would have no problems. These states have used their lands, beyond capacity. Income of few has gone up but poverty remains. Youth in these states are heavily into drugs and heinous crimes out of frustration at their expectations not being met. So industrialisation holds the key to more and more youth of the region being profitably engaged. This has to be the road map for Assam and the northeast. Industry has to come in, government has to train local youth in advance to be employable in these industries, social mentality has to change from job seekers becoming job givers, lessons in entrepreneurship and business management has to be made widespread. For industries to come in incentives have to be given by Government to give them a level playing field. Act East policy must create foreign markets for local industries in ASEAN, BRICS and SAARC countries. The supply chain of agricultural, horticultural, forest, mineral resources have to be kept fully functional for industries to survive and compete.

 The Government has a big job ahead. It must know its job ahead and execute it effectively and timely. Government, both at States and Centre cannot do it alone. It has to partner with the public. Let both decide what to do. Else doomsday is not far ahead.

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