Exploring key areas that require deeper understanding and assessment for supporting changes within Assamese society.
With a massive trend toward urbanisation, there is a cultural shift being realised in Assam. More and more people from village communities are dreaming of embracing modern life with a city centric approach. As a result, the lives of villagers are transforming rapidly. While rapid transformation takes place in any society, some of the grassroots level considerations essential for general community wellbeing can be lost in the transition. In order to create a smart community, comprehensive understanding of the target community is crucial. This is the key for devising appropriate policies that empower a society holistically.
As evident in the current urbanisation trend in Assam, the tradition of independence through family centric cultivation is being replaced by a market-based economy. For instance, people are happy buying daily commodities from the marketplace, which could otherwise be produced locally with some effort. A growing economy usually results in a community embracing opportunities impulsively rather than objectively. While government systems and facilities attempt to spread such opportunities amongst the community, often it is not equally shared across the entire cross-section of the society. The old saying that “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” is still true to some extent. No doubt, there will be winners and losers in any community but the principle of social equity can’t be ignored when it comes to improving the societal bottom line through policy intervention and governance.
Despite effort by the Government of Assam to support the community across all key areas and improve the societal bottom line, location specific planning focusing on a target community is not quite standard practice in devising intervention schemes. While State and National efforts are crucial for supporting the community at large, location specific planning with a target audience is highly effective and efficient. Efficiency in policymaking and implementation planning can be achieved only by ensuring realistically optimised utilisation of the scarce resources. However, planning with such a localised focus requires authentic empirical data and collecting this data can be highly tedious and cumbersome.
In the collaborative Capacity Building research project between the University of Melbourne and the Government of Assam, an attempt has been made to capture community specific data for supporting localised planning processes focusing on the housing and infrastructure sectors. Appropriate policy framework and governance models informed by the relevant scientific principles and best practice knowledge will be devised so that the best steps can be put forward and so that mistakes elsewhere are adequately reflected and rectified. The research effort is expected to support conceptualising the “Smart Villages” in Assam by empowering the rural community with localised planning and policy support.