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In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP made several towering promises to the people of Assam and the Northeast. Many of these promises have vanished into thin air or have found expression with complete U-turn.

One of the important promises made by the saffron party during the polls was generation of employment. The BJP-led Government at the Centre also made the towering promise of generating an astronomical figure of two crore employment opportunities.

Interestingly, the huge promise evaporated into the blue like a crude political joke.

Statistics, even as per figures projected by the Government, clearly reflect an utterly dismal picture of no ‘parivartan’ whatsoever in the employment sector in the last five years and that the usual trend of mounting unemployment continued unabated.

Despite all skyrocketing promises, bombastic rhetoric, high-profile seminars and workshops and multi-crore events like Advantage Assam held with all pomp and gaiety accompanied by 5-star extravaganza, it is now becoming crystal clear that all along a worse situation on the economic front was beginning to brew up in Assam despite all cosmetic applications as in the rest of the country. One wonders if there was a ‘comedy of errors’ in the use of ‘awesome’ instead of ‘awful’ by Dispur.

While initially it was indeed confusing as to what might have been going wrong, with the passage of time it has been becoming apparent that the unemployment scenario was further aggravated by growing trend of loss of jobs.

Whereas job loss first began to surface in the private sector, in due course even the public sector came under its grip, though in lesser numbers. With the promise of employment generation fast vanishing, the loss of jobs only multiplied the misery of families in tens of thousands.

Whereas boisterous rhetoric, skyrocketing promises and fabulous announcements continue to roar from the seats of power in Dispur and Delhi, the commoner finds himself more and more entrapped in the ever growing maze of burgeoning darkness of unemployment, blackened even more by loss of jobs.

As a silver lining of sort in the pitch black cloud enveloping Assam, a few thousand youths from the State have succeeded in finding passage to the greener pastures in some southern states like Kerala to eke a living.

While migration of massive labour force to oil-rich Middle East has caused a labour crunch in the southern state, Dispur cannot sit back basked in glory borrowed from Kerala.

As of now it appears that virtually the entire nation in varying degree, depending on the location, is caught in the clueless and growing quagmire of stagnation, stagflation, skyrocketing of prices of even kitchen commodities accompanied by a milieu sans ‘roti, kapda aur maakan’ for millions.

It all came to notice with random observance of the slump in the economic landscape of the State. Now it is clear that a massive economic slowdown has hit Assam along with the rest of the country while as usual announcements of mind-boggling ambitious projects laced with thundering rhetoric from the corridors of power continue to hit the headlines.

What is still more frightening is the fact that some experts have opined that the economic slowdown is assuming a widening and deepening trend with no sign of any respite for a long time to come.

Significantly, the economic slowdown has become apparent in both the private and the public sectors across the country, including Assam. Loss of jobs is beginning to assume an alarming proportion while a nose-diving trend in the overall business and service sectors has become clearly visible even to the casual observer.

Further, ordinary common sense drives home the point that roaring corruption, which is the order of the day in the government sector, in collusion with economic slowdown can only guarantee growth of misery for the multitude in geometric progression.

History bears witness to the fact that an economic slowdown is quite often followed by economic depression. While from its chain of announcements bedecked in rosy hue, the Central government seems to be adopting several options, including making use of the Reserve Bank of India route to add muscles to the depleting economy, there appears to be no way of applying the brakes to the galloping slowdown.

In its latest move, the Central Government announced an almost 10 percent slash in corporate tax. There is nothing surprising about it. The BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre has time and again proved that its primary concern is the well being of the corporate sector.

While an ordinary individual may land up behind bars if he fails to repay even a tiny amount of bank loan, some so called frontline industrialists were given loan waiver to the tune of tens of thousands of crores of rupees by the Government.

It is no wonder that while the common man, slumped in misery, penury  and poverty, is unable to make both ends meet on account of the economic slowdown, the Government made its first move to ‘counter’ the same with relief to the corporate sector.

The tax cut is a huge blessing to the corporate sector to go from strength to strength despite the slowdown on the economic front; the commoner may only slip down the economic lather with accelerating momentum only to live a sub-human life amidst misery, poverty, starvation and possibly impending death.

Meanwhile, the almighty Czars of Dispur have made a boisterous welcome to the tax cut granted to the corporate sector by New Delhi. It could not have been otherwise. It is a case of saluting Delhi and the corporates 24×7 by the Dispur heavyweights.

In a polity of extreme rightists, almost as a rule, the corporate sector commands the greatest of appeasement and priority from the powers that be, while the common man is forced to toil and sweat even to the point of rotting by the wayside if need be.  As the saying goes, ‘one man’s  bread may be another man’s poison’, so also the super fast economic highway provided to the corporate sector by the Government may result in a barren waste land of misery and poverty for the teeming millions.

In the backdrop of the huge welcome accorded by Dispur to the tax cut to the corporate sector, one may ask if the first priority of the BJP-led Government is to create an atmosphere of bonanza for the corporate sector at the cost of the general public.

As the economic slowdown continues to gather momentum with the economy of Assam virtually in a shambles already, one is afraid if multiplication of suffering, poverty, hunger, starvation and even death may become the lifestyle of the teeming millions with the passage of time.

The recent paens sung by Dispur in glorification of the tax cut granted to the corporate sector makes one feel that heavy bombardment of absurd reasoning and high rhetoric from the corridors of power could very much be on the anvil. Or, to borrow the language of Shakespeare, are we in to listen to some stale or absurd tales “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”, amidst boisterous extravaganza in front of media cameras?

In the light of the tax cut bonanza bestowed on the corporate sector, one may ask the Sultans of Dispur as to how the tax-cut may address even by an iota the burning issues plaguing the people of Assam like unemployment, loss of jobs, drying kitchens on account of non-stop price-rise, rising cost of health care – the list runs into volumes.

As of now, the servile commoner of Assam can only hope, wish and pray that this economic slowdown does not degenerate into a depression. If history is any source of information and knowledge, a collapse of the economy could be the outcome if an economic slowdown continues for a relatively long period in a backward state or country. On the other hand, a depression may amount to a death knell for many.

One may be afraid that from all angles, economically speaking, Assam seems to be at the extreme point on the wrong end. Leave alone Assam, even at the national level, the country’s fiscal policy is reported by experts in New York to be squeezed between the devil and the deep sea because of high debt.

While a blackening darkness begins to descend over the economic landscape of Assam, the mighty know-alls of Dispur continue to go hammer and tongs that the economy is in perfect health and that it is all rosy and blossoming. The Dispur Mughals may be told that galloping corruption and economic boom are poles apart and cannot go hand in hand. It turns more hell-bound in the backdrop of a roving economic slowdown.

Meanwhile, financial, business and economic experts have to some extent zeroed in on a framework that could be responsible for the birth of the slowdown around a time when the overall economy by Indian standard was fairly stable though delicately balanced. The first such factor according to many of them could be the process of demonetisation.

Although both Dispur and Delhi continue to sing thunderous paens over demonetisation, it was the common man and the market that immediately bore and continues to bear its brunt. The bitter truth cannot be over-ruled that demonetisation caused the economy to go virtually topsy and turvy for too long and the negative effects of the ‘nakabandi’ have not totally disappeared.

By way of example, one such pinch that the common people continue to suffer from is the non-stop prise rise. As of now, the price of onion has crossed the half century mark.

The second factor being that the business and service sectors have virtually plummeted to the nadir under the severe blow of GST. Unable to bear the financial burden, many a business unit were compelled to shrink their business while several others went for downsizing of their staff. The obvious outcome being fall of income and loss of jobs. There is no end to the process and the same continues without brakes.

Again, bank loan waiver running into tens of thousands of crores of rupees granted to some so called giants of the corporate sector has very seriously hit the national economy. One should not forget that it is money of the people and the defaulters have been rewarded by the Government by way of waiver for defaulting in bank loan repayment.

Meanwhile, while thousands of crores of rupees are being pumped in under the Skill Development head, in the backdrop of mounting unemployment one may question if the exercise may turn out to be a waste of money, time and labour. Meanwhile, the funeral pyre of the ‘two crore employment’ political joke has not only been burnt to the full, but the resulting ashes have also seemingly been blown away.

Talmizur Rahman

Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at rahmantmz5@gmail.com

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