GUWAHATI, April 11 - Even as the city, where election turnout is generally low, registered a healthy turnout in today�s polls, young professionals, who are considered not to be politically oriented, also came out in droves to exercise their franchise.
The Assam Tribune interacted with a number of young professionals from diverse fields, including entrepreneurs and corporate sector employees, and found that they have a strong attachment with the democratic system and a firm belief that a lot can be achieved by participating in the process.
While young professionals in Guwahati, like everybody else, are concerned about infrastructure, health, roads, water supply, electricity and jobs, they also believe that with proper policy formulation and correct decision making, Assam can be turned into showcase of economic development and a regional hub for industry and services by the next government, irrespective of which political party or formation comes to power at Dispur.
�I want the State government to do more than just focus on basics. The time has come to make Assam take its rightful place in the table of the most advanced states in India. The entire world knows about Gurgaon or Bangalore. So why not Guwahati, which can be a hub of trade, commerce and services of not only the North East but even neigbhouring countries,� said Rakesh Misra, a resident of South Sarania.
Misra, who runs his own company with diversified interests, said that it is unfortunate that even after almost 70 years of Independence, elections are still being fought on basic issues like drinking water, roads and electricity.
�Providing basic services is the duty of any government. But the State government must also think beyond that. I feel sad that even the election campaign was mainly driven by negative agenda,� he said, adding that creating an environment for attracting private sector investment is essential to generate employment and create growth.
Dr Manigreeva Krishnatreya, who works at the Dr B Barooah Cancer Institute and voted at the Nanda Mikir High School at Chachal, said the new government must act �realistically� instead of resorting to populism.
�The prime need is of clean and effective governance and curbing leakages and nepotism. Just put things in the right perspective. No need to announce new schemes or give goodies just for populist reasons,� he said.
Dr Krishnatreya also wants the new government to decentralise decision making.
�Roads, drainage and such micro things should be the realm of municipal governance. I want my legislator, whoever may get elected from my constituency, to focus on capacity building and upgradation of health sector, deal with the issue of unemployment and make the voice of the constituency heard in the floor of the Legislative Assembly,� he said.
He added that the new government should work for a sustainable and permanent solution to problems of flood and erosion and check illegal immigration and also work for betterment of Centre-State relations.
Pranjal Kalita, a public relations professional from Maligaon, said he expects his local MLA to focus on addressing the problems of bad roads, poor drainage and erratic water supply.
�As for the next government, its main priority should be employment generation. For that Assam needs more private investments. With its strategic location, Assam can be a hub for trade and services for the North East, Myanmar, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Secondly, importance must be given to agriculture growth to revive the rural economy and empower farmers. For that irrigation and crop insurance policies must be expanded,� he said.
Kalita, who voted at the Adarsh LP School, added that increasing power output is crucial if industry and trade are to be encouraged.
�Besides, in lower Assam arsenic in groundwater is wreaking havoc and needs urgent attention,� he said.
Most of the young professionals also welcomed the jump in voter turnout and said it points to both the rising aspiration of the masses to be part of the democratic process and also increasing penetration and influence of the media, both the mainstream and the social media.
�Earlier, people in Guwahati used to take the opportunity of polling day and maybe visited Shillong for a short holiday. Media has a major role in bringing this change. Now, we see voters taking �selfies� after casting their ballot or groups of friends hanging near the polling station after voting. This is a positive development,� said Anandarup Sen, a corporate sector professional, who voted at the Balika Vidyalaya, Rukminigaon.
�Even in a corporate office like ours, where employees are generally averse even to discuss politics, this time we have seen many of our colleagues go to their native places to cast their vote. This shows growing awareness among the people and is also due to the extensive campaign launched by the Election Commission and also the role of social media,� said Abhijit Bhattacharjee, a senior professional at a major telecom giant.
Bhattacharjee, who cast his vote at BT College, Lachit Nagar, said whichever party forms the new government should focus on development and not on �unnecessary� things like religion and identity.
�Many people in Assam are still deprived of basic necessities. Even a city like Guwahati, which is the hub of the region, has problems like lack of good roads and proper drainage facilities, traffic chaos and lack of hygiene. In addition, we are witnessing a rising trend of rash driving and disorderly behavior among sections of youths in the city, which leads to ugly incidents almost every other day. Law and order is not only about dealing with terrorist groups. The police must also be active against drunkards, negligent drivers and other anti-socials who create public nuisance,� he said.
Young professionals also hoped that the new government will usher in a spirit of entrepreneurship.
�Red-tape is the biggest hindrance, especially for young entrepreneurs. There are so many schemes, but when anybody goes to avail them you find layer after layer of bureaucracy standing in the way. Without encouraging entrepreneurial spirit and also encouraging private sector investments, how can one expect to solve the growth deficit and lack of employment avenues which grip our State?� wondered Hatigaon resident Kundan Raj Borgohain, who is a businessman with stake in the logistics industry.
He added, �There is so much potential in sectors like tourism and yet lack of infrastructure put hurdles in the path of creating a vibrant tourism industry. The government will have to focus on these matters.�
Borbari resident Dipankar Deka, who was at the Hengerabari ME School polling station at 6.20 am to cast his vote, rued the fact that legislators generally lack a personal contact with their electorate.
�In our area, water scarcity is a big problem. Condition of roads is also not very good. Similar is the case with other areas of Guwahati. People from across the region come to the city for education or jobs. Delivery mechanism should be streamlined. We hope whoever gets elected looks into these issues,� he said.
�The high turnout that I saw today at the polling station, with long queues even as early as 6.30 am, shows the resolve of the voters to exercise their democratic right and fulfill their constitutional responsibilities. Hopefully, our new government and its leader will now fulfil their job,� Deka added.