Himanta Biswa Sarma at the interactive session in Calcutta on Thursday. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
Calcutta, Dec. 6: Assam health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma today stressed the importance of government expenditure on infrastructure to facilitate business in rural areas and tap the potential at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
He was speaking here at Infocom 2012-Conference and Exhibition, a Businessworld initiative on rural empowerment.
Sarma started with a reality check. “It is true that a lot of money is earmarked for the poor in every budget but it is not to change their fortune but to pacify vote banks and win the next elections,” Sarma added.
To truly change the fate of the people at the bottom of the social pyramid, there must be a partnership between the government and the private enterprises, he added.
“In this partnership, the government only acts as a facilitator to provide good infrastructure, ensure safety and a conducive environment for business,” he said.
When a government gets too involved in a business, it inevitably ends up as a loss-making unit, the minister pointed out.
The education minister also offered an innovative idea of a rural call centre. “Cities like Bangalore are getting too expensive to open new offices for BPOs. But to run a call centre one does need proximity to a city if the resources can be provided in a village. All that is needed is connectivity and human resource of English speaking individuals,” he said.
He added that the government must also facilitate the growth of local skills giving it a larger platform using technology. He also asserted on the importance of vocational education.
The other speakers at the session were Amit Mukherjee, chief operating officer of Sahaj e-Village Ltd, Pradip Bhowmick, executive director/partner PricewaterhouseCoopers and Venugopal Ramanathan, head of sales, Trimax IT. B. Hari, founder and managing director of Ontrack Systems, chaired the session.
Later, talking to The Telegraph, the minister discussed his plan to modernise recruitment of teachers in the state. On being pointed out that every year several students leave for elite educational institutions across the country, he said he does not consider it a brain drain but an intellectual investment.
“I do not see this as a loss. The students inevitably come back and contribute to the state at some point in their life,” Sarma said.
He added that if a student has to go out as the state lacks good colleges, it is a matter of concern. But if someone moves out to get an admission to a medical or engineering college paying capitation fees, “it is their problem”.
He said to woo students studying outside to return and contribute to education in the state he has done away with the interview system. There was apprehension that the interview system is not objective, he explained.
Sarma is also introducing a new method in the recruitment of college teachers.“The marks of three shortlisted candidates will be put up on the Internet. These candidates would be asked to teach for a day and the students would select the teacher,” he said.
He added that to prevent the opinion of students from getting influenced, the process would be executed as fast as possible.
Sarma, who was touring Gujarat campaigning for his party ahead of the Assembly polls there, said he is confident of a thumping victory for the Congress in the coming Assam panchayat polls.