[Assam] Is the tide turning in Assam?

Dilip/Dil Deka dilipdeka at yahoo.com
Mon May 14 08:02:19 PDT 2007

Wow! Is the tide turning in Assam? 
  With all this money coming in and so many projects in the works, it's a matter of five to ten years before Guwahati and Assam become the envy of the rest of India. 

                 [input] Past WeekPast MonthPast 3 MonthsPast 6 MonthsPast YearSince 2005 [input]    [input]   Guwahati, Monday, May 14, 2007       HomeClassifieds Backissues Weather Contact Us                 News    • City    • State    • North East    • Sports    • Obituary          Opinion    • Editorial    • Letters    • Jocoserious    • Photos          Features    • Panorama    • Mosaic    • Horizon    • Sunday
  Tarun Gogoi – one year of office
— Pabitra Chaudhuri“During his term for the last six years, nothing is better illustrated than the liberal doses of aid and grants we have received from the Central government. Whenever he has gone on a road-show to attract investment, be it in Mumbai, Delhi or Kolkata, he has received tremendous ovation and positive response.”

Never in recent times a Chief Minister has secured a second term for sincerity, transparency and able leadership as Tarun Gogoi did. The incumbency factor never affected him as much as his work during the last 5 years was termed as one of the best and he set the foundation for the take off stage of the State in spite of multifarious problems like security, mostly created by militancy, abetted from across the border, natural calamities like flood and drought and sudden uncalled for and unjustified bandhs. In a situation like this it goes a long way for Chief Minister Gogoi to lay the foundation for a future growth path and dividends of such efforts are being seen and felt now. The greatest achievement that Chief Minister Gogoi made was the broadening of the mindset, particularly that of the power that be which has percolated down the line. The way Guwahati has developed into one of the most fastest growing cities in India is due to this broad outlook and the mindset of
 thinking big. Over the years, Assam was in the shackles of self-wallowing and blaming the Central government for no growth. But now the situation has changed. If a proper proposal is made with facts and figures the Central government does not hesitate to open its purse-strings and it is creditable that the mind-blowing figure of Rs 20,000 crore has been sanctioned as part of its vision for development of Guwahati and its infrastructure. In the immediate context Rs 3,200 crore for infrastructure development of Guwahati has been approved by the Government of India. With Sri Gogoi’s leadership the days self-wallowing about deprivation from the Centre are over and in its place the slogan is “here is a challenge we have to meet, however difficult it could be”. This attitudinal change has brought about the vigour and vibrancy of the Government and the people of Assam. His long experience as MP and Union Minister has been of advantage to Sri Gogoi in as much he can feel the right
 pulse of the working of the Central government and set the appropriate tune to secure the legitimate interest of Assam. Indeed he has proved that we have the capability and the strength to meet the challenges. He is totally addicted to quality work with a sense of tunnel-vision for achievement and concentrated effort to focus on the growth and development of the State. He has developed a kind of participative management which he has made into an art of good governance. His periodical meetings with the Deputy Commissioners are one of the corner-stones of his style of governance. He is a hard task-master laced with old-world manners, sympathy and understanding.

During his term for the last six years, nothing is better illustrated than the liberal doses of aid and grants we have received from the Central government. Whenever he has gone on a road-show to attract investment, be it in Mumbai, Delhi or Kolkata, he has received tremendous ovation and positive response. The big houses like Tatas have already committed to set up a 5 star hotel at Guwahati and their budget hotel’s work has already started. Reliance is coming in a big way, so also Williamson Magor on bio-diesel and other alternative fuel projects. Oil India is on its leap forward march in exploration activities in Assam, so much so that in the recent round of biddings it has been able to bag a few NELP blocks in the North East and in one block it is working with the OIL-Govt tie up company. Again the vision of the Chief Minister has been to make the new company some what in the line of Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation which today has become an international player. But
 to make the new company a viable one, right from the start it has to be managed in such a manner as to be free from the straitjacket of bureaucratic management and needs to be professionalised. In totality, there is a great prospect for this company to progress in the entire gamut of oil business. In the immediate context the State government increase its stake in NRL to at least 20% if not more which apart from being an exploration production company will bring in the refining and marketing sector in order to make it a fully integrated company. The Chief Minister needs to give a hard look at this – similarly he should go on harping the necessity of a gas pipeline from Myanmar through Assam to the rest of India. In the present oil-gas scenario, one can visualise a network of pipeline connecting natural gas from Rakhine (Arakan), upper Assam, Tripura, Cachar, Nagaland, Mizoram to West Bengal. When a gas-line traverses across the north eastern States, the region will grow
 and develop and in the field of energy resources, as natural gas has surfaced to the top of the energy pile. The gas-cracker project which was in the back-burner for the last 15 years has been revived and with the Chief Minister’s persistent efforts, the Prime Minister has laid its foundation stone on April 9 last. Similarly the foundation of the alternative Saraighat road bridge has been laid by the Prime Minister recently. All these go to speak of the positive growth and development of Assam and a signal to the investors to come to the region in a big way.

Construction spree is at its best in Guwahati and its vicinity. More than 350 ,municipal roads of Guwahati have neem completed through the Government of India agency NBCC. As Guwahati is in the throes of water-storage, mercifully a reputed Israeli firm is appointed to submit a project (costing Rs 1700 crore) on water-supply and drainage. Similarly the municipal garbage is being proposed to be utilised for fertiliser and energy cake product. Construction of world class stadiums, flyovers, heritage park, car parking plaza etc., give a pleasant surprise to the visitors who have not come to Guwahati during the last 5 years.

It is acknowledged that the health sector during the year has made tremendous progress, particularly in the rural areas. It is a matter of pride that Assam has been regarded as the most pioneer State in India in National Rural Health Mission. The rules for admission into MBBS course have been amended to provide for reservation of 15 seats for students from rural areas. Along with it a package of incentives has been introduced to encourage doctors to serve in rural areas. Procurement of drugs has been raised to Rs 50 crore from Rs 18 crore apparently with a more transparent system. Medical College Hospitals, particularly GMC has a new facelift with better hygiene, equipments like MRI machines and a more humane look-after and treatment. Hopefully, medical colleges at Jorhat, Tezpur and Barpeta will come into being soon enough. The scourge of AIDS is spreading fast in the North East, including Assam. The Health Department needs to take all the necessary measures of
 counselling, introduction of anti-retro viral therapy etc.

During the last six years, particularly last year, there has been a thrust in the tourism sector to make it a sunrise industry and towards that end there has been a good deal of success. It is noteworthy that during the year 2006, the number of tourists to Assam, has increased considerably and if various tourism packages as envisaged are organised there will be a further spurt. Along with heritage and adventure tourism the biggest thrust area is the pilgrimage sector, particularly Kamakhya which has been spruced up and road from the foothills to the temple has been improved. Linking this sector with Hajo is a good idea. Work on the development of historic Sivasagar town at a cost of Rs 5 crore has already been started. So also development of Orang, Tezpur-Bhalukpung-Biswanath Chariali-Gohpur circuit at a cost of Rs 8 crore. What is needed now is to create various packages of tourism and market them widely in India and abroad. Even Stilwell Road and various war zones in the
 area of the last world war can be an attraction, particularly for tourists from USA and UK Tourism department which apparently has secured a quantum jump of budget allocation should earnestly make all the efforts to make it a “Sun-rise industry” in Assam.

Another field that the government has made a thrust is the IT Sector and the boost in the high speed connectively up to 100 Mbps within Guwahati region was successfully completed and extensively used as main communication backbone during the National Games. It is remarkable to see the surge in the drive for computer literacy in the State by introducing computer training and distributing Desk Top PCs to deserving students. The Statewide Area net-work (SWAN) project is reportedly at the tender floating stage and this needs to be expedited so that the idea of e-governance can take off effectively.

Today Assam is self-sufficient, if not surplus, in foodgrains with high production of agricultural products like vegetables, mustard, pulses etc. As a result with the spurt in production of vegetables most of these perish for lack of proper ware housing/cooling facilities, easy and economic transportation to the points of wholesale and retail sales. Chief Minister Gogoi with his profound knowledge of food processing (he was Union Minister of Food Processing) is taking personal interest to ensure growth of food processing industry in Assam and also has succeeded in persuading people to grow organic fruits and vegetables. In response to this already an IIT Professor of Delhi has submitted a proposal to set up the growing and processing organic fruits and vegetables centre. Along with it he has laid great emphasis on making Assam self-reliant in fish. The Fishery Department is making all out efforts to meet the CM’s expectation and adopting many workable plans to make the
 “Blue revolution” successful and make Assam self-reliant in fish in the next two years. The young team of the Fishery Department has taken up the challenge and effort is being made to conserve and market ornamental fish.

In spite of the completion of Karbi-Lumpi project, the power sector has not yet looked up as it should be. It is felt that the portfolio of Power solely should be vested in a Minister as it is in the Union government so that he can pay undivided attention and give quality time to put the power sector in the right track, the importance of which cannot be over-emphasised with the spurt led by the CM for rapid industrialisation of the State. The year 2007 has been declared as education year and to make it a success various schemes like improvement of the two universities with job oriented courses, setting up of a judicial and medical university are on the anvil according to the announcement made by the Chief Minister.

All in all, Gogoi Government within the one year has shown its mettle and has really laid an important landmark in the progress of the State. Kudos must go to the Chief Minister and his team in the forward march of the State. Assam has come of its own with unbounded self-confidence and ready to move forward – no longer it is seen as a land of people contented of whatever they have – indeed it is a dynamic society – “giant strides not baby steps” is the slogan now. Much of this confidence has been infused by Chief Minister Gogoi’s leadership.
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