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Sonowal Govt must work like a bulldozer, stop getting feted

POSTED ON 27 JUNE 2016

wasbir hussain
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CDPS & VISITING FELLOW, IPCS

A massive electoral victory obviously brings in a lot of euphoria. Both the victors as well as their supporters who had toiled for the success of their party get overwhelmed by this euphoria. I won’t be surprised if the BJP in Assam has been sucked into a celebratory mode by this euphoria because this has been the party’s first electoral win in the State. I can also understand the joy in the AGP camp because after remaining in the wilderness for 15 long years, the regional party suddenly came to be a part of the ruling coalition. And the BJP’s other ally, the BPF, would have reasons to be happy because it has managed once again to be with the ruling side or the party in power in Assam!

In the one-month that the Sonowal Government has been in power, I have seen in the ministers a desire to get things moving to fulfil their promise of building a new Assam. But desire alone cannot uplift a State that lacks work culture, where corruption (bribe taking and bribe giving) is high, where accountability of bureaucrats and people’s representatives have been found wanting, and where there is a deep sense of frustration at the general state of affairs. Therefore, one would expect the BJP-led Government, which has come to rule Assam because of an aspirational vote from the people, to work like a bulldozer, push things and make the difference in the shortest possible time.

One is glad that Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, who also holds Education and several other portfolios, could come up with a ‘white paper’ on the state of finances in Assam within two weeks of taking charge. But, one would like to know the steps taken or the plans being formulated by the ministers in the field of Agriculture (there have been reports of mega-scale corruption in this department), Water Resources (to tackle floods and erosion), Food & Civil Supplies (to bring down prices and eliminate syndicates) and so on. What could be the amounts sanctioned for projects etc in each of the departments during the past month? After all, the first 30 days of the 100-day action plan by the ministers are over! Yes, we have seen teachers being appointed etc.

Tokenisms will not work, and it is not going to let us see any real ‘parivartan’ or change. We have seen several ministers going on ‘sudden visits’ duly covered by the local television channels. I for one would actually like to see the ministers, with cuffs of their shirts or kurtas pulled up, and getting down to business without any ceremony whatsoever. The following steps would infuse a sense of confidence among the expectant people of Assam: work on improving yield of crops, provide market linkage to agricultural produce, set up or make the cold storages functional, remove middle men who pocket the bulk of the money from agricultural produce at the cost of the farmers, improve the power situation by buying power from outside and setting up solar parks, work on making Assam an IT hub instead of waiting for the Ambanis or the Adanis to open shop, bring about a public-private interface to boost the healthcare services, and things like that.

Well, as I had said in my last column, corruption must end or at least reduce drastically. Ministers must stop meeting contractors individually to send out the message to the bureaucracy that any misdeeds will not be tolerated. If Mr Sarbananda Sonowal can actually set up an Accountability Commission comprising prominent members of the society to keep a watch, things could change. Such a Commission need not have constitutional powers but the very fact that it would make its observations public from time to time could actually act as a deterrent for those who indulge in corrupt practices.

The minimum that one would like to hear from each of the ministers in Assam are details of their 100-day action plans. But the new government must also make it a habit to discuss some of its plans with the public to gauge their mind. After all, some of the plans may not benefit the masses. Therefore, a regular interface with the civil society as part of some institutional mechanism is desirable. Well, we must give time to the new government because it has enough on its plate already! (courtesy: The Sentinel)