Bombastic rhetoric, sky-rocketing promises about a rosy future, press meets laced with mighty-mouthed statements, official communiqués on path-breaking achievements and announcement of so-called ambitious projects on the one hand and real development at the ground level on the other lie literally on opposite poles.
The way Government departments can be broadly categorized as revenue earning and revenue spending ones, by a similar yardstick a state may be a revenue in-flow state or a revenue out-flow state. In a revenue in-flow state development is not only clearly visible, but involves growth and economic progress with the commoners as major stakeholders and beneficiaries.
A state where commoners are stakeholders as well as resulting beneficiaries of a process of development, the inevitable outcome is economic growth of the commoners who become major stakeholders in sectors like agriculture, livestock, fishery – sectors where production involves efforts and skill of the Aam Admi.
With the required infrastructure and support provided by the government, much sooner than later the state becomes a surplus state in the matter of production of commodities involving commoners as stake holders. This leads to export of such surplus items, making the state a revenue or money in-flow state like Punjub, Haryana or Andhra Pradesh.
Unfortunately, for the people of Assam, adoption of a roadmap to make the state a money in-flow one seemingly never dawned upon the powers that be in the state capital. As per various data, statistics and surveys carried out by various agencies and authorities, Assam holds a dismally low position at the all India level in virtually all sectors that constitute components of development. The result being that Assam is a revenue out-flow state.
In the matter of Assam’s pathetically low status in terms of growth and development, a recent media report states that annually Assam imports eggs, meat and milk worth Rs 1650 crore. The awesome figure is not shocking in the light of the culture of tall statements, flowery rhetoric, promise of a sparkling future, would-be achievements and what have you (all in future tense) which indeed is the hallmark of the Czars of Dispur. Significantly, Dispur has attained mastery and specialization in terms of future tense talking while a conscious lot term such tense as ‘thug tense’.
The media report on annual import of milk, meat and eggs clearly points out the shamefully low production of these items in the state as against the national average, which again is by no yardstick healthy. In the case of milk production in the state, 90 percent is produced in the informal sector – a pointer to the gloomy reality in the government sector.
Still Dispur has the audacity to talk of white revolution. The media report quotes a senior Assam bureaucrat as having said that over 60 livestock farms in the state would be rejuvenate. The bureaucrat’s statement makes it clear as daylight that many of these farms have possibly turned into ghost yards while some others are possibly maintaining a skeletal existence.
While rejuvenation of these farms may be welcome step, one should not forget that it is a highly expensive exercise and may call for a budget running into hundreds of crores of rupees. While galloping corruption rules the roost across the government sector, such big or majority of the political and bureaucratic heavyweights as well a section of the technical high-ups.
One wonders if once the rejuvenation fund goes dry, another rejuvenation process could be on the anvil. By all accounts, answerability is as good as a cry in the wilderness in such scenarios or else the government would have made many answerable for 60 odd farms having gone dry.
The scenario is still worse in the fishery sector. Nature has blessed Assam with the largest area of inland water bodies in the country. This blessing is reinforced with huge number of rivers and tributaries that run across the state. The state is a natural habitat of fish and is naturally found. Assam has all the potential of becoming a fish exporting one with minimum of scientific fish production inputs. Unfortunately, that is not to be. Assam is today one of the largest importer of fish from states like Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.
In the fitness of things, Assam could and should have blossomed into the largest exporter of fish in the country. Unfortunately, the people of the state have to bear the brunt of the curse that the Dispur Mughals seemingly work on different roadmaps in determining the destiny of the state. The Dispur heavyweights may be told that from the practical standpoint and experience, future promises are almost synonymous with mirage, while the past and present scenario in terms of development is one of stagnation and despondency.
As has already been referred to above, rampant corruption with accelerating momentum is eating up the very vitals of the government system. Assam is notorious for a vibrant syndicate culture. Be it in the matter of fish or chicken or eggs, to name just a few, it is the final consumer who has to pay through the nose for every such purchase, while the syndicate kingpins and their political, bureaucratic and police mentors mint in crores.
With the syndicate raj burgeoning, it is almost totally unlikely that those calling the shots in the corridors of power would take any measure to put an end to this loot-raj culture by initiating a viable roadmap for the fishery, poultry, livestock and such sectors to make quantum leaps. At this stage one is reminded of Thomas Hardy’s watchword ‘Money matter works better’. And syndicate culture is all ‘money matter’. Further, would it not be a safe presumption that the fish or egg merchants from states like Andhra Pradesh could possibly be making a beeline to Dispur for ‘better’ working in line with the words of Hardy?
With syndicate culture having gone deep rooted and a virtually permanent feature of the system, it may be utterly foolish to even imagine that sectors like fishery, poultry or livestock would ever come out of the enveloping black eclipse. However, one thing is certain. From time to time the government would announce some so called ambitious schemes in respect of these sectors. For sure these projects would involve hundreds or may be thousands of crores of rupees. While at the end of the day the ground reality may remain the same, one may be left wondering as to where the money has gone.
With the corrupt being virtually blessed with a protective umbrella and the syndicate masters openly have a field day, real development, which is a blessing for the ‘Aam Admi’, may continue to be cry in the wilderness. Irrespective of the high rhetoric of the powers that be, Dispur cannot deny that development and corruption cannot go hand in hand. In such a backdrop, it is just natural that the present out flow of money from the state on milk, meat and eggs, which is presently tagged at Rs 1650 crore, would only mount by leaps and bounds in the months and years to come.
As of now, by way of projecting achievements, Dispur is taking to full page advertisement of government projects in newspapers, distribution of goods or money among selected beneficiaries with pomp and fanfare and the like. While development may find red ink focus in government files, advertisements and press meets, the continuing sky-rocketing of prices of all commodities, even food items, has compelled the ‘Aam Admi’ to even change his food habits to make both ends meet. Meanwhile the Sultans of Dispur and Delhi may be asked as to where ‘Aacche Din’ is to be found.
Zaheer Akram Bora is a Guwahati based journalist. He can be reached at: [email protected]