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Sonowal clears air on dams

- Experts’ opinion would be considered, says minister

Guwahati, July 25: Union minister Sarbananda Sonowal today assured leaders of 27 organisations representing different communities of Assam that the Centre would not construct big dams in the Northeast unless it receives green signal from expert committees and the people.

“The BJP’s Assam pradesh committee has written to power minister Piyush Goyal about the people’s opposition to construction of big dams in the Northeast. He assured us that construction work in the region will not start unless the Centre receives green signal from expert committees and the people,” Sonowal said.

He met leaders of 27 organisations, listened to their demands and sought suggestions on resolution of their problems. Construction of big dams in the region was a major issue raised by the leaders. The meeting was organised by the Jonogosthiyo Xomonnoy Kokh of the party.

Sonowal tried to win the hearts of the ethnic leaders, saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was keen to develop the Northeast on a par with other states of the country.

“Reflecting this keenness, the Union budget this year allotted a whopping amount of Rs 63,000 crore for the Northeast. Of this, around Rs 20,000 crore will be received by Assam. The state government must spend the amount within eight months,” Sonowal said.

“Besides utilising the entire allotment within the stipulated time, other states of the country seek further funds. Unfortunately, the northeastern states fail to utilise the allotted money,” he said.

The meet is seen as an exercise of the party to prepare for the 2016 Assembly election at a time the Congress is plagued by internal crisis.

Sonowal refrained from giving any assurance on community specific demands like according ST status to six communities and protecting tribal belts and blocks but said the party fully understood the necessity of solving their problems.

The community leaders sought ST status for Moran, Muttock, tea tribes, Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshi and Chutiya communities.

Sonowal told the leaders that he would apprise the Prime Minister of their demands, which would help the Centre to take steps in solving their problems.