New Delhi, Feb 05, 2024, Himanta Biswa Sharma
New Delhi, Feb 5 (IANS) "It is the foremost duty of a ruler to keep his subjects happy and gain their confidence. In the same manner, it is also his duty to always uphold the truth and maintain honesty and sincerity in his behaviour."
In the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, Bhishma Pitamah gives the aforementioned treatise on Rajdharma -- or the principles of governance -- to Dharmaraj Yudhishthira. This ancient wisdom of Rajdharma serves as an inspiration to public servants like me.
When I became the Chief Minister of Assam on 10 May 2021, I sought to emulate these ideals. In front of me was the inspirational story of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a man who has lived up to the ideals of Rajdharma and served as an embodiment of righteousness. In 2014, he undertook a series of mammoth confidence-building initiatives to gain the trust of the people of the Northeast and win over their hearts with sincere love and devotion.
As a result, when I took office, my mission was clear -- I had to take forward the vision of PM Modi and implement his policies on the ground. We have envisioned an Assam where we eliminate the problems faced by the people and script a new destiny for their future.
Upon assuming office, we undertook various administrative reforms to improve governance. For example, we took the decision to hold weekly Cabinet meetings so as to make sure we are regularly communicating and updating ourselves to best govern the people of Assam. We have also held Cabinet meetings outside the capital, decentralising governance quite literally and taking it to different districts and towns.
Through such measures, we have been able to take decisions and implement policies that have laid the foundation of a new Assam. Our double-engine government has been working in the relentless pursuit of Rajdharma through various avenues.
The first major challenge we faced after assuming office was to improve the economic growth of a state that has historically been plagued by insurgency and militancy. Assam was lagging behind in key aspects of health, education and infrastructure. The state had minimal business activity, despite its tremendous potential.
The first step towards regenerating economic growth was the construction of infrastructure and then the clearing up of legal and administrative bottlenecks. This was a process that had speedily begun since 2014.
Assam in particular has witnessed unprecedented development in recent times, with the addition of several newly constructed bridges, the expansion of roads and highways, and the ongoing construction of a tunnel under the Brahmaputra. This infrastructure boost offers massive headroom for connectivity via road, air and sea, fostering economic growth.
These measures by the Union government are being complemented in Assam by our state government policies that promote ease of doing business. With the decriminalisation of labour laws we have eliminated the risk of imprisonment for economic offences that do not involve mala fide acts. We have also repealed 364 old Acts to reduce the compliance burden on citizens and businesses. With a cheap land bank made available for industrial use, Assam paved the way for investors to establish manufacturing and other industries in the state.
The state currently boasts of more than 50 industrial parks with sector-specific infrastructure, an industrial zone of 99.4 miles along the National Highways near Guwahati and the only industrial growth centre in India with access to four countries within 750 km at Matia.
The latter is the most crucial, as India’s total exports to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal stand at $17 billion, making Assam India's gateway to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific.
If we purely look at numbers, Assam’s gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita income have grown at unprecedented rates since 2014. The steep rise is a proof of the central government’s constant push for the development of Assam and the Northeast.
The result of these measures has been that the gross state domestic product (GSDP) of Assam for 2023-24 (at current prices) is projected to be Rs 5.67 lakh crore, amounting to a growth of 15 per cent over 2022-23.
In 2022-23, Assam's per capita income (at current prices) was estimated to be Rs 118,504, an increase of 15 per cent over 2021-22. In 2022-23, India's per capita income was estimated to increase by 14 per cent to Rs 170,620. According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey, in 2021–22, Assam’s unemployment rate was 4.9 per cent (as per current weekly status), lower than the national unemployment rate of 6.6 per cent.
Currently, we are also working to calculate the GDP at the district level so as to understand the economic conditions of each district and work towards achieving equitable economic progress throughout the state.
These steps taken by the state government, coupled with the Centre's push for strengthening geographical connectivity through building robust road and railway infrastructure along with building new airports, gave Assam the title of 'most improved big state' by India Today.
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