Sunday, April 11, 2010


After a period of long silence it is not only Government of India, but Pan Indian industrialists are having a re-look at the state of Assam. It is a courtship after a long spell. Last time industrialist came to the state, from out side Assam, and did set up industries was during 1960 ,during the regime of Kamakhya Prasad Tripathy, then Industries Minister of Assam. Slowly some of the industrial enterprises like Assam Hardboard, Associated industries, spinning Mills near Tezpur and some plywood plants closed down its shutters .A few survived like Steel Worth , India Carbon and Assam carbon who made the state their head quarters. Why industrialists stopped coming to Assam despite its great natural, mineral and weaving potential? Is it due to transport bottleneck or lack of indigenous entrepreneurial skills, financial shyness or lack of Political will? Perhaps all of those contributed to keep the state of Assam Industrially backward.
In 1947, just before the Indian independence, Assam was one of the most industrially developed states of the country. It contributed handsomely to the economic growth of the country. There was no debate on this fact. But as the time passed by Assam became one of the most laggard state in the country .Even Agriculture sector have become so bad that its negative growth have pulled down the total economic growth figure of the state. Successive Government tried to develop the state industrially but failed. Why? Is this connectivity from the mainland? Or Weak political thrust, Non availability of rich indigenous businessmen, Lack of business culture must have contributed to the poor growth. The state also suffered in earlier years, despite returning maximum number of MPS, from the state belonging to party in power in the center, for poor vocabulary of the representatives in Hindi and English and lack of dashing political personalities.Even during the regime of MoniulHoque Chaowdhury, (as Union Industries Minister), D.K. Barooah(as Union Petroleum Minister) and F. A. Ahmed ( as union Minister) could not really provide big boost for industrial development, of the state.

The picture is changing now with new breed of political personality who are suave, intelligent, and capable of calling spade and spade and having excellent communication skill. The recent meeting of the investment advisory board is the pointer to such a change. For the first time in the industrial history of Assam so May Industrial leaders of the country not only assembled in the state but signed MOUs and set up foundation stone. The top industrialist Ratan Tata felt the changes in the Assam’s horizon. He not only saw the potential but sniffed the fresh air of changing industrial climate. The state government, especially the Ministry of State industry must have done a very hard home work to organize such a meet. It deserve accolades from the people of Assam . I am sure the setting up of Five star facility would not only provide a place of stay from business people like Naraynamurthi and his team but to tourist from abroad.. The setting up of this facility would ensure visit of tourist from Italy , France and Japan who accept TAJ ‘s hospitality . The setting of Taj”s five start facility should not be considered merely as a Hotel businessmen.. But it would perhaps be a nucleus for development of tourism. (Even TCS could come over after sometime to set up their research centre next to IIT, Guwahati. The entire north Guwahati belt could be dedicated to knowledge city and research centres.) The tourist Group, sponsored through TAJ channel, generally visit Jaipur, Agra and Delhi , known as Golden triangle of North India . Now this triangle would form an alliance with North Eastern triangle with Guwahati, Kaziranga and Tawang. as the destinations. The visit of Mazuli’s Heritage site by foreign tourists Groups are in card. With Tatas showing interest in the state other industrial houses would sure to follow the path.. It is a proven fact that one third of IT specialists of Bangalore, are from NorthEast .With 30% capital subsidy and great tax holidays for five years were attracting industrialist to have look at the state of Assam. What they wanted was a Leader. For the first time the leadership has been provided for. Now there is a hope in the air.
The industries that played a major role to earn the state’s revenue are tea processing and petroleum refineries. The industrial development in Assam is mainly repressed by the state’s physical and political isolation. Assam is a landlocked state in the eastern periphery of India . It has connected to the mainland by narrow corridor, which is prone to floods and cyclones. Moreover, poor transportation infrastructure is another reason for its curtailment. Since Assam is a major producer of crude oil and natural gas in India , several oilfields are found in its upper region. But real revenues would now come from Tourism, IT sectors and engineering if Mahendra’s could be persuaded to set up an automobile CKD assembly plant for their vehicle including Boleros and Scorpios now which have a great market in northeast and across the border in Burma, Thailand and Bangladesh. Keshub Mahadra, the grand old man of Mahindra family had a vision to setup an automobile assembly unit in Assam long back. It was pushed back due to uncertainties during yester years. With Ananda Mahindra’s dynamism now this vision of his father may get revived, as I understood from the industries Minister of the state when I visited him during last week.

It is matter great satisfaction that Bang, chairman of Hindusthan Lever, which has a cosmetics plant (HLL) at Doom Doomdooma, reassured expansion of activities here. Sadly numerous industries are confronting loss because of poor infrastructure and arrogant and indiscipline labour force in a few industrial enterprise of the state.. It is not only the government but Assam Media have also a great role to play in ushering in industrial harmony and productivity. It is a matter of concern that despite grave unemployment situation in the state there are vast pool of unemployable persons. These segment need to be trained up. The petrochemical industries would be a great success provided the indigenous manpower is trained up now immediately so that as the project get completed these human resources get trained and employable. During my recent visit to Assam one of the established industrialist told me that he had set up a plant in Margherita but found that employable workmen are in short supply. The local Mafias are trying to push Child labour who are school drop out. Unless these problems are addressed the industrial development would remain a dream.

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