Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted on Thursday he is correcting the "historical mistake" committed by governments since Independence of neglecting Assam, as he gifted a bouquet of development projects worth about Rs 10,000 crore to the state ahead of the assembly polls. Modi also said BJP's double engine governments at the Centre and in Assam reduced geographical and cultural distances between the state and rest of the country.
"Prior to Independence, Assam enjoyed a high per- capita income but since 1947 its development was neglected.Correcting the historical mistake of neglecting Assam had begun with former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, and now it has gained strength with the BJP government taking its development as a priority," he said.
The prime minister, who was in Assam for a second time in less than a fortnight, had unleashed a development offensive in the run up to the state polls on February 7 when he had launched and dedicated to the nation infrastructure projects involving Rs 9,310 crore. The prime minister virtually launched the Rs 3,231- crore 'Mahabahu Brahmaputra' project on Thursday, which includes the construction of an inland water terminal at Jogighopa and tourist jetties at Pandu, Jogighopa, Neamati and Biswanat ghat.
Modi said developing waterway connectivity as part of the project will provide an alternative route to connect the northeast with other parts of India and neighbouring countries. "The Brahmaputra is not just a river, it is the manifestation of the great saga of the north east's ethnic diversity and the region's harmonious co-existence.
"Along the banks of this mighty river, grew the culture and civilisation of Assam… over the years, many things have changed but what has not is the Brahmaputra's countless blessings in the form of diverse religious, societal and cultural influences on different ethnic communities living on both banks of this river," Modi said. This river is, in fact, the nerve-centre of the state's possibility, potentiality and prosperity, he said.
However, Modi said the irony is that instead of considering the Brahmaputra as 'Assam's Pride', since Independence, the river was treated as 'Assam's Sorrow' due to floods and erosion caused by it. "Our government since coming to power made sincere attempts to realise Brahmaputra's innumerable blessings," the PM said.
He also laid the foundation of the country's longest river bridge of 19 km from Dhubri in Assam to Phulbari in Meghalaya at an estimated cost of Rs 5,000 crore, and the 8-km Jorhat-Majuli bridge. The prime minister laid the foundation of the Rs 350- crore North East Data Centre at Guwahati, too, along with the e-portals PANI and CAR-D for ease of doing business.
Developing connectivity through roadways, railways, airways and inland waterways will help realise the aspirations of the people of Assam and make the region the growth centre of the country, he said. Efforts are underway to make the state and the northeast the hub of cultural and business relations with other East Asian countries, Modi said.
He said it is painful to note that Assam, which was among the highest revenue-paying states during the British era and the fifth most prosperous state at the time of Independence, had to depend so heavily on grants and subsidies of the central government during the subsequent years. The traditional trade routes got disrupted after Independence and this adversely affected the economy, along with poor governance and mismanagement, the prime minister said.
"Our government is committed to changing the dismal scenario and transform this neglected region of the past…," he asserted. Modi also highlighted the government's focussed attention for the development of Majuli, the country's largest river island, and said it was committed to preserving Majuli's unique culture, ecology, and to protecting it from erosion and connecting it with the mainland.
The prime minister said he was happy to say that there is a remarkable change in Majuli — be it road infrastructure, health care facilities, academic opportunities or governance, "change is visible everywhere in the island". He added that work on the India-Bangladesh protocol route across the Hooghly River to connect the Brahmaputra and the Barak River has been initiated.