Armed with a PhD in Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1962, economist Jayanta Madhab retired as the Director of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). After retirement, when the Govt. of India opened up the banking sector to the private sector, applied and got a license to set up a new bank, which was set up in the name of Global Trust Bank with the partnership of World Bank Group, Asian Development Bank, and other international financial Institutions. One year after that Manmohan Singh, who was the finance minister at that time (around 1994-95) wanted to start up a financial organization for the Northeast India. So, in the year 1995 NEDFi (North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd) was set up and he was appointed the Chairman.
Till now it has grown into a huge organization. He was associated with the RGVN (Rashtriya Gramin Vikas Nidhi) as the Chairperson from 2006-2012. He had been member of many national and international Finance commissions. He spends half of the time in Delhi looking after the Central Government Projects_ as the Chairman of the Advisory Commission of NMBA (National Mission on Bamboo Application), where they help transforming bamboo into different materials, as the Chairman of Asha Bharti, an association which is trying to bridge the understanding gap between India and South-East Asia and Central Asia. He spent twenty three years outside India and since 1958 he had been outside Assam. He wanted to know Assam and North-East and work for the development of the region. He wrote a number of economic articles in “Economic Times”. Now he wants to devote time in writing as he is planning to work on his autobiography.
Anindita Das interviewed him on the potential of Guwahati city as a business capital
You have seen Guwahati grow. As an economist how do you see it as a gateway to Northeast India?
Guwahati is undoubtedly the gateway to the Northeast for the obvious reasons such as its geographical situations and also being the fastest growing city of the region. It has grown many times since what it was 20-25 years back transforming into a metropolitan city.
How different is Guwahati from other big cities?
Guwahati is losing its beauty due to its waning greenery. It’s a pity that the people of Guwahati are not keen on keeping the city clean and green. Being a gateway, it will always remain the important city. Its beauty with the rivers and hills should be maintained. But it is unfortunate that the hills are being destructed and inhabited. It is our duty also to see that it functions properly keeping its beauty intact.
What can be done to improve things?
Economically, Guwahati has the highest industrial and commercial activities, it will always remain so for its transport and other facilities. But at the same time both the people and the Metropolitan Government and the State Government have not been able to pay much attention to it. It has the potential to look the most beautiful city. Tourists should have the impression that it is a truly beautiful place. Government has to take measures and penalties have to be imposed upon those who ignore the rules and regulations. It must also stop the haphazard growth of the city. People are cutting the hills everywhere to make their dwelling places. The way Delhi has maintained its growth since the days of the British and keeping its greenery unspoiled, should be taken as the model.
What is the soul of Guwahati according to you?
Though it is difficult but I would say it is the mighty river Brahmaputra.
Is the Look-East policy only on paper?
Recently in Cambodia in the ASEAN Summit ministers’ meet, it was announced that Guwahati will be the gateway to South-East Asia. It thus becomes necessary to have a proper infrastructure and financial bearing along with the need of setting up of more industries. Northeast India and Assam have nothing much to export and probably China would be more benefited immediately. But that Assam’s economy would improve with the communication flowing. The trucks moving through Assam would enhance the requirement of petrol pumps, hotels and other shops. The trucks instead of going back empty would take some raw materials from here. They will themselves decide which would be the suitable raw material to take back. That is how it will start and it will improve in that manner gradually.
What do you have to say about the five year plans?
There is no dearth of money in the region. Huge amount of money has come under different plans, but there have never been proper utilization. Money has to spend appropriately, making sure that the desired result comes out.
Can we revive the old trade ties?
Yes, it can be only possible with the South-East Asia, Myanmar and Burma. Myanmar is responding now, as it is changing. As Burma has been the sanctuary of the insurgency groups, it will now take steps not to give the groups any such scopes. Burma has great resources, yet it is underdeveloped, isolated and lagging behind monetarily. So, there is tremendous positive prospect in reviving the old trade ties.