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Project without a pause

Lepetkata (Dibrugarh), April 9: Over two decades of procrastination, a redundant foundation stone-laying ceremony and many hurdles later, Manmohan Singh today gave the Assam gas cracker project a second life with a trite “Der aaye, durust aaye (better late than never)”.

Pressing a button to mark the start of the project at a new location, Lepetkata, the Prime Minister said the past must be put behind and the future of the project secured.

“I suggest that all those associated with the implementation of this project must adopt this as their watchword. Having taken so much time to start work on the project, we must place it on a superfast track. It must be implemented in the shortest possible time so that the people of Assam and the Northeast are able to secure the benefits of this project sooner rather than later.”

Unlike the chaos that marred his first engagement after arriving in Guwahati, today’s function was a smooth affair.

A near-stampede occurred when Singh was addressing a gathering after laying the foundation stone of a second bridge over the Brahmaputra in Guwahati yesterday, leading to a media boycott. There was also a blast within 10 km of the venue.

Lepetkata presented a stark contrast.

The turnout was huge despite a persistent drizzle and slush on the ground. Singh described it as a “historic” day for Assam and the crowd roared in approval when he said that Delhi wanted the project to be completed in a maximum of five years.

“I suggest that a calendar be drawn up with a specific timetable of activity. Every stage of the construction process should be identified and the timetable should be adhered to strictly. It will boost the morale of all our people if we can actually show them that we too in Assam can deliver on time-bound schedules. In fact, our objective should be to complete the project in less than five years,” Singh said.

The remark may have reminded Union minister for heavy industries Sontosh Mohan Dev of a similar function he attended on November 25, 1995. He was there when the late P.V. Narasimha Rao laid the first foundation stone of the project at Tengakhat, also in Dibrugarh district.

Sounding almost apologetic, he said: “It is unfortunate that it has taken more than 15 years to get this project to start. It was conceived in 1991 and successive governments at the Centre and in the state tried to fulfil the promise but failed.”

Governor Ajai Singh, chief minister Tarun Gogoi, Union ministers Ram Vilas Paswan, Murli Deora and B.K. Handique, state Congress president Bhubaneswar Kalita and industry minister Pradyut Bordoloi were also on the dais.

Gogoi thanked Singh, the Gandhi family and the UPA government for their commitment to Assam.

“This is a Bihu gift from the Centre. The UPA government has promised more development projects and I hope more such plants will come up in the near future,” Gogoi said in Assamese.

Apart from the gas cracker project, the Prime Minister spoke on the new “investment-friendly industrial policy” for the region, erosion caused by the Brahmaputra in Rohmoria and the steps taken by Delhi to revive sick tea estates. He skirted the problem of militancy, only wishing Assam “an era of peace”.

 

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