A New Road Ahead for Assam: The Recent Policy Announcements and Their Impact

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A New Road Ahead for Assam: The Recent Policy Announcements and Their Impact

Prakreetish Sarma | September 19, 2020 13:41 hrs

Recently, a lot of announcements have been made and at the very outset, they seem to bolster Assam on a lot of fronts. Under the provision of the Assam State Capital Region Development Authority Act which was passed in 2017, the authorities have decided to flag off the metro project which comes under the ambit of regional plans of the particular act, and has aimed at constructing metro lines across 4 (four) districts in Assam; this project is to be externally funded by World Bank.  


The stakeholders have already made appointments namely PWD and Delhi based Lea Associates to carry out survey and planning work. This project will undoubtedly be a major boost because it will not only lessen traffic and hasten commutation but will also be the beginning of a new cycle in itself as can be seen from the Delhi-NCR metro models which have allowed people living in Delhi to work in places such as Gurugram and Noida. This will further allow the satellite towns in Assam (Nalbari, Morigaon, Darrang) to grow further and a lot of employment opportunities, especially for the locals, shall also develop with new establishments coming up; it will lead to overall growth. 


Now a person living in such places can work till late evening and would not have to worry about missing the last mode of transportation back home. Vice versa for a Guwahatian.  
 

But will it affect the environment? Hopefully not, as the provisions under the Assam State Capital Region Development Authority Act has explicitly talked about demarcating land and has talked about using the land of the state apart from green belts, urban forests, and recreational areas. And if any land is required for the public purpose the authority shall do so only through prescribed means and the owner of the land shall be duly compensated. Even a Capital Region Land Development Bank shall be set up to cater to such transactions. 


A major announcement was made by Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma related to an investment worth Rs 11,000 crores on various projects like introducing road corridors in Assam connecting the Nagaon- Dhing- Batadrava and also reviving the historic Dhodar Ali (built during the Ahom rule) etc. This will further improve the transport connectivity and automatically lead to improved productivity levels in the region by decreasing transportation costs and travel time. The health sector is also set to get a major boost as Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital (MMCH) is to be merged with Kalapahar TB Hospital and is all set to be the biggest medical college in the eastern part of India. 


The educational sector has also been given a due share of importance with nine women’s colleges and ten law colleges. Apart from these, various other medical colleges shall be set up across Assam. The message is out and loud that we need to build an environment wherein we don’t have to depend on other states to go for medical treatment as seen with places like Chennai where patients with cardiovascular diseases such as heart problems are mostly compelled to go at times for treatment or operation. With the coming up of such hospitals and also an AIIMS hopefully, we can do away with such problems.


Now when we talk about the education sector we have often lost out the brightest of students who often migrate after their class 12 boards to metro cities because although in our colleges and universities we might have a subject there is a paucity related to opportunities such as internship, traineeship or employment. In Delhi, there are embassies where students can get an internship. 


Although Gauhati University has a department of foreign language and also offers MA in European studies since 2017, the problem lies in the fact that there is a lack of think tanks or research wing which can offer internship or placement opportunities to the students. If the government can think along those lines then it will be beneficial for the students and they would prefer staying in Assam rather than opting to migrate for better opportunities.


Barak valley is also all set to get a boost as a Mega Food Park is on the cards; it is to come up in Sepenjuri in Patahrkandi constituency of Karimganj district. Now there is one school of thought that these proposals are all a part and parcel of agenda or propaganda for the 2021 polls. But the thing to be realized is that even if these announcements are a part of poll agenda, we do require these changes as in spite of being the gateway to the northeast Assam is among the backward states. 


For example, the need of hospitals and medical colleges, what we have seen that in spite of setting up of makeshift quarantine centers at a rapid speed, the administration is finding it difficult to accommodate Covid patients and this has been a persistent nightmare after a few months of the outbreak of corona and who knows a similar pandemic like the situation might pop up in the future.


Now when it comes to colleges it should be kept in mind by the authorities that laying the foundation stone is not enough but the institutes should be such that it should produce quality students and aim at building character. Colleges should be set up in such a way that they become a precedent for others and most importantly the educational institutes should be set up in locations that do not create a commutation problem and has room for expansion physically as well which shall help it keep abreast with the changing times. The scenario has changed in the state. 


In the recent past, the state has seen a lot of development with initiatives such as the Assam summit, setting up of the IT park, etc, and passing of acts such as the Zoning Regulation 2025 for Guwahati. We can expect Assam to progress towards development in a sustainable manner as the act has chalked out land zones (what can be used and what cannot), eco-friendly zone (conducive for construction, etc), and eco-sensitive zone (not conducive). 


Even for places near green belt such as Pamohi, ‘special scheme area’ has been designated to mitigate pollution, traffic, etc. Hence, a lot of ground has to be covered but as of now, the proposal seems to be the beginning of a new dawn.


(The author is currently practicing as an advocate in Gauhati High Court. The views expressed in the article are his own.)

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