It’s not for nothing that Assam calls itself the land of lahe (the Assamese word for being sluggish). But the state’s slow and steady seems to be winning the race.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who won a record third term in May, has declared that he would steer clear of big industry. This may sound old-fashioned, until the chief minister gives you the current state GDP: 8.1% and only slightly less than the national average.
“I won’t roll out the red carpet for industry. Why not a red carpet for small farmers, artisans, weavers and famed craftsmen of Assam?” he told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview.
Echoing Bengal chief minister Mamata Bannerjee, Gogoi revealed an aversion to sweeping industrialisation, major land acquisition or special economic hubs. Yet, he says his aim is to make his state the fastest growing.
Gogoi, who met Planning Commission officials over the week, unveiled a strategy rather pedestrian by national standards. It includes making Assam the highest paddy grower, funds for all artisans, entrepreneurs in every town and a strong services sector.
Economists say chief ministers like Gogoi could have created far more employment and in a faster way by avoiding industry, which is time-consuming.
“Gogoi is right in avoiding big industry, given Assam’s limitations. He will end up creating far more employment by focusing on Assam’s endowments, like silk weavers, surplus rainfall and English-speaking youth primed for the services sector,” said NR Bhanumurthy, an economist with the state-owned National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.
Shedding daylight on his magic, Gogoi gives the cue: “Keep people happy.”