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View from India: Bridging the Gap

Last week our Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi completed three years in office. The socio-economic progress of his government has been extensively discussed in the media, taking into account governance in areas of finance, education, defence and the digital world, among others.

I decided to take a different stance and dwell on last week’s developments in Assam located in north-east India.

Our PM inaugurated what can be described as India’s longest bridge located in Assam. The bridge is under aegis of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in public private partnership (PPP) with Navayuga Engineering Company Ltd. Its construction began in 2011 and it was completed earlier this year.

The much-awaited 9.15km bridge connects Dhola and Sadiya across the Brahmaputra at Dhola. The Dhola-Sadiya bridge is a relief for people in the region as it is expected to enhance connectivity and reduce the commuting time between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The bridge is named after Bhupen Hazarika, the late musician and filmmaker from Assam.

The three-lane bridge is strategically positioned near Anini, which is around 100km from the China border. From the military point of view, the structure can withstand the weight of a 60-tonne battle tank.  

Seen from a broader perspective, the Dhola-Sadiya Bridge is projected to become a means of initiating economic development and inclusion of people living in remote parts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. That’s because till now most transportation was carried out through the Kaliabor Bridge in Central Assam.

In a manner of speaking, the economic impact of the bridge is huge, with an anticipated high return on investment in GDP growth. It is estimated to boost income levels of people in north-east India.

Investing in bridge infrastructure is perceived to stimulate demand. Connectivity would result in the availability of goods and commodities in the north-east region. The process of catering to the demand-supply of the people would create jobs at various levels of the logistics chain. The inter-connected bridge kick-started by the Union Government will facilitate the transport of goods and make it available to its people. Income levels of households will improve as both short term and long term jobs will be created. Domestic brands are likely to spring up; shops and kiosks will begin to cater to the functional as well as aspirational needs of the people. It is hoped to give rise to local businesses and start-ups. The quality of life is expected to improve.

Then there’s the multiplier effect: if connectivity is backed by sound infrastructure it becomes an investment in people, seen here as workforce. In the long run, it will lower unemployment levels and help build a skilled workforce.

Besides that, connectivity can be a stimulus for scaling up tourism, as north-east India is relatively unexplored. The bridge will bring people closer to otherwise inaccessible scenic locales of the region. Less known destinations can be packaged as tourist spots.

Of course one can see the complete fruition of the north-east only when inland waterways are developed across the Brahmaputra River as indicated by the PM. The infrastructure picture is complete when other projects like power, optical fibre network structure, road and rail networks are up and running.

Let’s not forget connectivity will also open up channels to market for hill produce and cash crops. Call it perfect timing; our PM also laid the foundation stone of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) at Gogamukh in Assam. IARI has been visualised as a centre that will throw light on the technological interventions in agriculture. The aim is to fulfil the vision of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022, which marks the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence.

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