Assam Planned development

Assam  Planned development:-

On September 25th 2015, countries adopted a set of goals to end proverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. Assam is among the first states in the country to prepare an Outycome Budget that ties the sectoral allocations to each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. On the 16th of February, 2016, the Government of Assam released the Assam 2030 in light of SDGs – Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Assam. The document defines the ambition of the state to ensure the health, happiness, prosperity and wellbeing of each and every citizen of Assam, as also on the conservation and preservation of the State’s unique bio-diversity, which is critical for the sustainable development and economic growth of Assam. The process of developing the document has included consultations across the government departments and inputs from experts over a series of meeting in January and February 2016. The document is now located in a portal managed by the Planning and Development Department of the Government of Assam. It also includes the discussion presentations anddocuments that have guided the preparation of this document so far. The scrutiny of the portal indicates an institutional anchoring of the SD Agenda 2030 by the state Government.

Assam Vision Document towards Planned Development of Assam:-

The Assam Vision 2030 (AVD 2030) document is a commendable exercise in acknowledging and formally adopting the 17 SDGs, 169 targets and 304 indicators that represent the consensus of the global community on things to be done by different Governments in the interest of the well-being of the entire world and humanity. Assam is the first state in the Federal republic of India to have applied the framework of the Global Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 as a guide for the long term development strategy and plan for the State. This exercise is largely a target setting exercise. The document looks at each of the 17 goals and 169 targets and expected 304 indicators and proposes a broad approach that seeks to:

  1. Achieve the SDGs through adjustments of existing government programmes by:
  2. a) Re-orienting, re-aligning and re-prioritizing the existing programs;
  3. b) Integrating, synergizing and re-energizing the different components of SDGs; and
  4. c) Re-defining the structures, retooling the processes and rejuvenate the people
  5. Forging strong partnerships between State Governments and all stakeholders, ranging from Global to National to Local levels, corporates to communities, academia to civil society etc., supported by effective communications and management of change, would be important.
  6. Bringing in expertise for knowledge and capacity building from global and national institutions such as the UN organizations such as United Nations Global Compact Network India (UNGCNI), the World Economic Forum, premier academic institutions like The Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, local research organization like OKD Institute, Guwahati, Central & State Universities in Assam and corporate technology giants like Google, IBM, Microsoft, Apple etc.; while supplemental local resources and expertise may be provided by corporate partners and established institutions in India.Assam  Planned development

There are 17 goals towardsPlanned Development of Assam:-

Goal 1: End Poverty in all its Forms Everywhere:-

The narrative highlights the poverty ratio of 27.3 % against target of 29 % in 2015 of Assam and aims to completely eradicate poverty in the state. Assam aims to eradicate with policies on food, shelter; loans for farmers, MGNREGS and other safety net schemes of the government. Poverty ratio may not alone be sufficient as an indicator to measure poverty eradication action and achievements of the government. Poverty as mentioned in the Sustainable Development Goals is a multi-dimensional concept. Poverty ratio calculates proportion of people below the poverty line of India. This may not enough as an indicator to ensure eradication of multidimensional poverty which includes access to productive assets like land, finance, access to basic needs and decent standards of living. It is essential for the government to look at more suitable indicators to ensure Assam eradicates all kinds of poverty by 2030. Also poverty gap ratio is an indicator that tracks outcome while Assam Government may also need to assess the process and systems for achieving the outcome. These indicators must assess the robustness of the policies and resources, actions directly for poverty eradication.

Goal 2: End Hunger, Achieve Food Security and Improved Nutrition and Promote Sustainable Agriculture:-

Goal 2 highlights Assam Governments aim to ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all by 2030. Proportion of underweight children under age of three in Assam is at 29.5 percent, which is above the MDG target of 24.6 percent. The Vision document also points out at some promising numbers in state of agriculture in Assam. The rate of growth of agriculture in Assam has gone high from 1.9 percent to 4.5 percent from 2005-2013. Also since 2007, the state has witness 11 percent rate of growth in food production. Despite these improvements in agriculture sector, Assam has the food availability of 430 gms per person per day which is 80 gms less than what is available in the country as a whole. Increasing crop intensity and improving agriculture productivity are the two targets Government has set for its agriculture sector in order to ensure food security for all people of Assam. The government aims to address the access to food via public distribution systems and other relevant missions for food access. Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and Credit Schemes are some important agriculture schemes in Assam that it has mapped for achieving SDGs. While Assam has set itself a very ambitious target of eliminating malnutrition amongst children in Assam, some of its other food security aspects may be missing. It aims to ensure food security by increasing agriculture productivity but fails to recognize access of food as a critical concern along with availability of food. Increase in food grain production may not necessarily mean that everyone in Assam will become food secure. Malnutrition may also require the state government to assess the use of micro-nutrition amongst children’s diet. Further there are some critical concerns in using growth rates of agriculture, agriculture productivity and availability of farm power as indicators to assess agriculture systems. Firstly, it uses rate of growth in agriculture and yield. Growth rate tells the speed of development but does not indicate the condition pre and post intervention in absolute terms. Second, growth rates may not necessarily mean healthy state of development. According to the neo-classical Solow model of economic growth, growth rates are usually higher at lower stages of development and slow down with high stage of development. In addition to that, growth rate of agriculture can be a misleading target to track as growth may be caused by various possible reasons like change in choice of crops from food to cash crops, increase in agriculture production of large farmers, etc. There are also no specific indicators on farmers’ income. This is an important indicator as SDG aims to double farmer incomes by 2030 and small farmers in India face livelihood threat due to depleting natural resources, climate change and fluctuating markets.

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages:-

The Goal narrative highlights the poor state of child mortality and maternal mortality rates of the State of Assam. The child mortality under age of 5 years is 73 deaths per 1000 children (national average – 49). Maternal mortality rate is also double the national average of 167 per 1 lakh women at 300. The document says increase in Primary health centres and Medical Colleges, it also recognizes the shortfall and sets target of improving health facilities to improve health conditions in the state. The state has set the target of reducing child and maternal mortality to a minimum by 2030. The means of achieving these targets seems to be the National health Missions and improving reach of health facilities to everyone in the state. The document aims to reduce mortality to a minimum which is not defined. Such a target is not easily measured. Some of the vital concerns that arise in this goal are also related to the quality of health care services. There is a need to assess the service quality of these centres as the health outcomes are not satisfactory despite a number of such centres in place. Hygiene conditions and proper knowledge of diet and maternal and child care are also important factors that impact health outcomes which needs to be recognized and addressed.

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all:

The Goal 4 throws light on Assam’s literacy rate at 75 percent, similar to India’s average, grown by 10 per cent point since  2001. Gross enrollment ratio and drop out share shows positive improvements at the primary and upper primary level, according to the sources of the Vision document. The goal also highlights low number (50 percent of the total) students who continue schooling after elementary education. Need to promote tertiary education and to achieve complete literacy in the state are two targets set by State of Assam. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and other programmes that ensured easy access to school, separate toilets for girls and boys, scholarships for meritorious students have resulted in positive outcomes for the state.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls:-

The Goal 5 elaborates on the promising gender parity in the education systems in Assam. The ratio of girls to boys enrollment in school is favourable towards girls at all levels of education. Chief Minister in his vision for Women, 2012 identified 16 Goals to be achieved by 2016 including reduction in IMR, MMR, total fertility rate, reduction in anemia, establishment of women cells in police stations, promotion of SHGs for women empowerment. The document aims to bring gender equality in employment similar to line of what the state has achieved in education through various skill development  programmes. The government has a large programme targeted on women for their health and basic needs and also certain skill based targets. The targets lack quantification. Most of the targets of CM’s vision for women are about reduction or improvement of certain condition without actual targets. Also, sexual violence and other forms of violence against women are missing a mention and should be included. Representation of women’s voice at the family, community, panchayat and legislative level is also an important indicator of translating access and opportunity into empowerment of women. This seems to be missing in current framework.

Goal 6: Ensure Availability and Sustainable Management of Water and Sanitation for All :

The Government of Assam under Goal 6 aims to ensure universal and safe drinking water and proper sanitation facilities for all. It tracks indicators of access to safe water and sanitation of the population at a sad state of 62 % and 39 % of the total population respectively. The Government recent scheme- MANASA aims for sustainable, green clean and open defecation-free state. While these are important indicators at serving the needs and demands of water, the document misses the supply side indicators of management and rejuvenation of water bodies as mentioned under SDG 6.

Goal 7: Ensure Access to Affordable, Reliable, Sustainable and Modern Energy for All:-

This Goal in the outcome document rightly tracks the total population with access to electricity as well as the source of electricity (renewable and  nonrenewable). The state has put forth a massive target of providing access to electricity to all its population when less than half of the population (~37%) has access to electricity currently. This has only increase 12% points from 25 % in the last 15 years (2001). This would approximately mean to have five times the rate of growth in access to electricity than in the last 15 years. On the supply side of the electricity, much has been emphasized on the renewable sources of energy specifically hydro power projects and biogas plants. Various hydro-electric projects are planned or are in process like Karbi Langi Hydroelectric project, Bongwaigaon thermal power plant. Looking at hydro-power as source of electricity must be seen with a caveat of various environmental and social displacement concerns that are usually connected with this source. The state has identified that it only utilizes 6 percent of its total potential of renewable energy, but has not announced any targets for exploring this potential in their Vision Document.

Goal 8: Promote Sustained, Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Growth, Full and Productive Employment and Decent Work for All:-

The Goal 8 highlights the higher growth rate of Assam compared to India in the period 2004-2014. The agriculture growth rate increased from 1.9 per cent to 4.5 per cent. Industrial growth rate increased from 3.53 per cent to 4.28 per cent in the same period. The highlighting concern identified by the state is their low per capita GSDP, 40 per cent lesser than the national average. Also, unemployment is identified as another concern for the state with 7 percent of the working population unemployed. The document identifies the need to have higher per capita growth and efforts are also planned to improve skills of youth population. Skill development mission, Farm entrepreneurs, Smart villages, promotion of ease of doing business are some key strategies for enhancing employment as identified by the state. Growth rates as an indicator for health of the economy will not show complete story. It needs to include factors of GDP contribution along with employment as well as environmental factors of the production systems. Informal employment market and greener and sustainable modes of production is an important target in Goal 8 which misses its mention in the Vision document.

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation:-

Goal 9 in the document emphasizes the need for transport connectivityroad, railways, waterway and air. A systemic linkage of all these modes can support the state in free mobility of goods and inputs, link production units to markets, provide access to basic facilities to the population of Assam. While there is a fourfold increase in the road length in Assam since 2001, there is 23 percent of the habitation that still needs to be covered with all-weather roads, according to the document. The document highlights the tremendous potential of the rural economy in Assam particularly small and medium scale agro processing units, sericulture, horticulture, floriculture, handlooms and textiles. The Government aims to fully utilize the potential of small, tiny, micro and medium enterprises for fostering industrialisation. The transport system and focus on small enterprises in Goal 9 is rightly guided by the targets of the Goals. While current state of transport with respect to roads is defined, the document has missed to scope the current status of small enterprises in the state of Assam. The document has also not come up with any targets or quantifiable indicators to measure the progress of MSMEs and transport systems in Assam.

Goal 10: Reduce inequalities within and amongst countries :-

The SDG 10 in the document identifies land as one of productive assets that is critical for enhancing equality. It also identified the need for special considerations for marginalised and vulnerable population and mentions that government has implemented various programmes specially for Scheduled caste, scheduled tribes, tea garden population, religious minorities and will continue to do so in order to address inequalities in the state. This Goal misses some relevant targets. While land is one of the productive assets that is essential for fostering equality, there is a need to broaden the understanding of inequalities in terms of access to basic needs, opportunity of economic activity (including productive assets like land, financial capital), outcome (income, lifestyle) and voice (political representations).

Goal 11: Make Cities and Human Settlements Inclusive, Safe, Resilient and Sustainable :

The Goal 11 in the outcome document highlights concerns of urban sectorrisks from natural disaster, lack of proper housing (5.7 per cent of the population) and drinking water (24.5 per cent), open defecation (5 per cent), lack of electrification (16 per cent) and urban slum population (2 lakh people). Urban transportation and waste management are other two sectors identified as important area of work under this goal. Basic needs access in urban cities are addressed in different goals from Goal 6 for water and sanitation, Goal 7 for electricity for all. The intent of this goal is focusing on urban slums. While this is one concern highlighted in this goal, there is no base line of the urban slums. Additionally, there is no specific target that the document highlights in case of urban slums as well as in transportation, waste management. Other missing concerns include land consumption rate to population growth rate; sustainable town planning and access to green public spaces in cities.

Goal 12: Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns:-

Goal 12 in the outcome document identifies minimum resource use and increase efficiency of resource use as two guiding principles for ensuring least ecological footprints. It mentions use of renewable energy, organic farming, bio-fertilizer use in agriculture, and increase in energy and water use efficiency as actions in other Goals that will lead to Sustainable Consumption and Production. While this Goal is always seen as cross-cutting and dependent on strategies and actions of other goals to achieve these indicators, there are important movements to be tracked under this goal. This Goal demands the State governments to assess their policies on four features:

Reaching critical thresholds, impacts decoupling, resource decoupling and social benefits.

The regulatory, fiscal and planning instruments of the state in various sectors like environment management, waste, renewable energy, purchase procurement, clean technology and climate change needs to be vetted against the four features that define SCP in a policy as designed by UNEP. There are also implications on business on how they understand sustainability and their action towards sustainable production systems.

Goal 13: Take Urgent Action to Combat Climate Change and its Impacts:-

The Vision document states the vulnerabilities that Assam is expected to face due to climate change. It also states that the state has developed its state action plan for climate change (SAPCC). The SAPCC identifies vulnerabilities and plans for action with respect to adaptation, mitigation and resilience building. The Plan proposes to set up a separate State Climate change management society to combat the consequences of climate change in the state. The document rightly designates plans and action to the SAPCC Assam. However, climate change is going to impact the achievement of all other SDGs. The 17 goals of the Agenda 2030 comprises of concerns on agriculture and food security, water and energy for all, sustainable habitats, healthy terrestrial and water eco-systems. Most of the Goals therefore have a strong connect with climate change concerns in the country. Some SDGs which have targets of agriculture productivity, access to water and sanitation, forest will be vulnerable to climate change due to changing weather patterns and water availability. There will also be SDGs achieving which will have impact on the climate mitigation targets of the country. The means to achieve electricity for all, carbon emissions from the country will depend on the plans for industrialization (SDG 9) and economic growth (SDG 8) targets. There is a need for Assam to envision sectoral inter-linkages and identify climate integrated development plans.

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development:

The Goal 14 identifies Brahmaputra and Barak rivers as important water systems of the state. It has also identified 3500 fresh water natural wetlands covering 1800 square kilometer as important water system resources. The document mentions that conservation and sustainable use of river systems have always been a priority of the government. Guwahati Water Bodies Act 2008 aims at preservation, conservation and protection of four wetlands. While the need is established, the document has not identified indicators that measure the quality of these water systems. This may include their acidity levels, proportion of fish stocks compared to optimum levels. These may be useful for assessing the health of river systems.

Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of territorial eco-system, sustainably manage forest, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss:

Goal 15 of the Vision document focuses on healthy forest cover (approx. 33 per cent of the total geographical area), owing to an increase of 16.8 per cent between 2000 and 2015, because of conscious efforts by the Government of Assam. The document also highlights Assam as a biodiversity hotspot with 2 biosphere reserves and elaborate network of protected areas. Flood and  erosion are two important concerns of the state identified under this goal. According to the document, approximately 0.8 million hectares of land is annually affected by flood and 800 hectares of land is lost every year due to erosion. Goal 15 in the document does not have quantifiable targets to be achieved by 2030. It aims to promote use of territorial eco-systems but have not set itself any target to achieve with respect to increase in forest cover, or reduction in land affected due to floods/erosion.

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable  development, provide access to justice for all and build accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels:

The Vision Document recognizes geographical, social and cultural diversity in the state of Assam. It states to have worked on inclusive societies by ensuring regular panchayat elections, and reservation of seats for women at all tiers of the governance. For assessing Assam’s state with respect to rule of law, it states that Assam has moved a long way to peaceful conditions than the troubled years of 1990s. Further, it sets its target to decrease crime rate particularly against women through legislative and administrative procedures. The section on Goal 16 in the Vision Document lacks evidence of peaceful Assam and rule of law, and also its current situation of crime rate. Without these numbers, and the target outcome to reach in both, there is vagueness in the Vision for this Goal.

Goal 17: Strengthen the Means of Implementation and Revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development:

The Goal 17 in the outcome document has put forth the need for increasing efficiency in management of public finance and use of information and technology for raising accountability of the government. Review and monitoring frameworks, regulation and incentives structures of the government will require revisions in accordance to principles of Sustainable Development Goals. The state government recognizes the importance and critical value in building partnership with neighboring states. It also states that administrative boundaries may be different than ecological boundaries, stating the need to have meaningful collaborations with south east countries having similar concerns. The Government of Assam is committed to realize high end technology platforms in pursuing the SDGs. Suggestive Indicators of UN-IAEG: The vision document does not set targets but states principles of work in this Goal. It may be useful to measure Total tax revenue/ GDP, net ODA as a proportion of total GNI, total capital inflow, access to patent systems in order to track the progress in finance and technology partnerships that fructified for State of Assam in the coming years.

The Government of Assam has done a commendable exercise of developing the Vision document, and become the leader in adopting and planning in accordance to the Sustainable Development Goals.

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