Chief Minister Himanta Bishwa Sarma

How much can a government do in a year? Not much really. But it can surely do one thing. It can change its approach to governance. It can adopt a people-centric approach. It can come out of its election mood. If it does that and attend to the routine things, things will change for the better. And its effects will be visible. But the sad thing is these days from day one the government starts doing everything in an election mood. This hurts.

The political motives spoil things. They don’t think in terms of people. They think in terms of voters. Accordingly, they set targets to influence the voters. Now that the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led Assam government has completed one year in office and that the first anniversary of the government was jubilantly celebrated the other day, we should have a look at the report card of the government. Let us see if they have done what they had promised.

On the occasion of the anniversary celebration of the Assam government, it published a front page advertisement in many dailies to show the achievements of the government. Let us see what they have said in the advertisement. The promise was to offer one lakh jobs to the youths in a year. What are they saying now? They are saying that two recruitment commissions have been constituted already to look into the matter. Does constituting recruitment commissions tantamount to offering job?

Again the promise was to offer one lakh jobs and the reality is the distribution of only around 23800 appointment letters across departments. Then the promise was of 24×7 uninterrupted quality power supplies. The reality is still there are areas in Assam where there is 24-hour load shedding.

Further promises of improving the power supply in Assam in hedging language don’t lead us anywhere. It has been said that there had been an increase of 13.89% in GSDP which is of course good. Then it was said that “Adoption of prudent fiscal management practices, meticulous planning of expenditure including large scale procurement reforms: overall budgetary expenditure has seen marked improvement.” This is a very positive assertion. But just an assertion. It says nothing about fulfilling any targets.

The “Healing Touch” mentioned data and figures of achieving targets in the health sector. We appreciate this. But wait a moment. Does the vaccination of people in this time of COVID pandemic a great achievement? Then the advertisement boldly declared the “End of Insurgency” in Assam and cited corresponding data to support its claim. It is all good and fine. But then why there is daily news of more and more youths joining the ULFA?  Why three youths were sentenced to death by the outlawed organisation? What does this mean? Is the insurgency by the ULFA ebbing or rising?

There are many more positive assertions and promises of hope in the advertisement. But the advertisement is more of a piece of good literature than a sheet of statistics of achievements. Let us look at something else now. How has the price rise affected the common man in the last one year?  Do we know that retail inflation has reached an eight-year high at 7.8 % now? Has the government done anything to control it? Nothing.

Have we noticed another thing? When Mr. Amit Shah, the home minister of India visited Assam recently to attend the one-year anniversary celebration of the state government, roads and places were decorated with huge pictures of leaders. Everywhere there were banners and posters. But these were not done by the government.

This entire publicity bonanza was organised by the Assam State Committee of the BJP. It was the celebration of the anniversary of the government. Then why did the BJP pitch in here? Is there a design to show the party as the government? Is it that the party is everything and the government is nothing? The BJP overpowering the government is a matter of concern.

One more puzzle – did you see how Chief Minister Himanta Bishwa Sarma addressed the gathering? He confused the names of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of the country.  I believe it was a genuine error. But this hilarity should have been a slice of meat for the journalists. But strangely the mainstream print and electronic media blacked out this news. They didn’t hear or see anything. May be the grammar of journalism has silently undergone a change! May be the golden rule of journalism is no longer in practice!

Paresh Malakar

Paresh Malakar is a commentator based in Guwahati. He can be reached at: malakarparesh@gmail.com