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Assam: On the expressway to prosperity

Assam: On the expressway to prosperity

Assam, the largest economy in North-Eastern India, is rapidly making strides towards economic development by emphasising on employment generation and inclusive growth. As a result of its strategic location (the StateÂ’s proximity to the growing ASEAN or Association of Southeast Asian Nations economies), Assam provides easy access to a market of 800 million consumers.

“Growing economy and increase in purchasing power parity of the population in the state present huge market for companies. Being close to Asean region, Assam offers a host of opportunities to tap the neighbouring countries,” informed Ravi Capoor, Additional Chief Secretary to the Government of Assam, Industries & Commerce Department. Assam is ranked 3rd in the Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) assessment conducted by the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce & Industry, in partnership with the World Bank Group. This is huge improvement considering the fact that the state had ranked 24th last year.

To bolster economic growth, the state government in the recent times has announced seven sectorial policies and procurement policy in areas of IT and electronics, start-ups, bio-technology, sugar, tourism, and handloom and textiles. In Assam service industries cater to eight major sectors – river transport, civil aviation, tourism, hospitality, film tourism, medical tourism, skill development and IT & ITES.

IT & ITES: The E-way to development
Proximity to BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) & ASEAN markets can be a growth driver for the IT & ITES industry in Assam. A 10 GBPS international internet gateway in the neighbouring state of Tripura is infact IndiaÂ’s third IIG after Mumbai and Chennai. The state also has 20 engineering institutes including IIT, IIIT, NIT which ensures availability of highly skilled and trained human capital for the industry. The state has educated, English-speaking manpower, which is one of the prerequisites of IT sector.

“According to some reports, 20 per cent of workforce in IT & ITES sector in India comes from North East. Hence, Assam is an ideal location to become an IT hub for not just for the region, but also for the country. To promote IT & ITES sector, the government has announced IT policy, which is one of the most attractive policies in the country,” said Nitin Khade, IT Secretary, Government of Assam.

The state government announced its IT & Electronics Policy, 2017 last year to give impetus to digital governance and to attract investment in the various sectors of IT industries to generate employment opportu-nities. The policy aims to enhance the capacity and skill sets of the new generation for employment in IT/ITeS/ESDM sector, promoting innovation and start-ups.

Khade explained, “Assam is developing ecosystem for the growth of IT & ITES industry in the country. We are focusing on creating and improving civil infrastructure, connectivity among IT hubs and ancillary facilities. The state is also encouraging development of IT parks, high-tech cities, research and innovation hubs for start-ups, ESDM (Electronic System Design and Manufacturing) clusters, data centres, etc.”

IT & Electronics Policy, 2017 will enable the state to be a leading contributor in IndiaÂ’s ESDM sector and make the State a preferred destination for investments in ESDM – the fastest growing segment of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector. “As a result of this policy (which will be effective from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2022) and other initiatives taken by the state government, Assam will soon become the digital destination of the country,” said Khade.

Leading the waterway development
Brahmaputra, the mighty river with a well-knit network of tributaries drains an area of 56,480 sq. km of the state, accounting for 72 per cent of its geographical area. Hence, Assam offers huge opportunity for services in river transport.

“With 15 National Waterways (NW), Assam has nearly 10 per cent of cumulative navigable length of all 111 NWs in India. IWT caters to about 4 per cent of the total freight tonnage movement to and from the state,” said Capoor. Work is currently underway on Brahmaputra National waterway-II, which will provide direct access to Chittagong port of Bangladesh and Haldia port of West Bengal. According to Capoor, the project will change the entire economic corridor of Assam and consequently will boost up trade with the South East Asian nations.

The state government is also developing port townships. It is already working on four such townships.

Sky is the limit
Assam also provides huge opportunities for aviation companies as the Guwahati airport is one of the busiest airports in the region. Assam can provide seamless connectivity between airports in the Northeast and other destinations in India, and neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and ASEAN countries.

“For expansion of air connectivity in the state, the Assam government has proposed to provide Rs 100 crore as viability gap funding (VGF) towards extension of regional air connectivity scheme UDAN for international air connectivity from Guwahati. At present, Assam has 6 operational airports (in Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Lilabari, Silchar and Tezpur) and about 21 other airfields which can be developed to make Assam the next connectivity hub,” stated Capoor.

Skilling people
Understanding the importance of skilled manpower for building strong economic foundation of the state, Assam government is setting up skill development training centres in line with the PM Narendra ModiÂ’s ‘Skill IndiaÂ’ vision. “The state government will train 6 lakh youths in various skills by 2020 to enhance skill delivery and capability of the state. Some of the sectors identified for skill development programme are IT, hospitality, power, food processing, chemicals and petrochemicals, etc.,” stated N Dhiraj Singha, Skill Project Manager – Social Mobilization & Capacity Building, Assam Skill Development Mission.

The government aims to set up more than 350 training centres, which have capacity to train 84,000 people annually.

In his concluding remarks, Ashutosh Agnihotri, Commissioner & Secretary, Department of Industry & Commerce, Government of Assam, said, “The session was engaging and useful. We are conscious of the opportunities that exist in services sector and we in Assam have aligned our focus sectors to tap these opportunities. All of us have to get together and work together to reap rich dividend that services sector offers.”

– Rakesh Rao

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