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Assembly focus on border dispute

Itanagar, July 28: The budget session of the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly resumed today with MLAs across party lines voicing concerns about boundary disputes with neighbouring Assam.

Chief minister Nabam Tuki had tabled the budget on Saturday.

The People’s Party of Arunachal working president, Nikh Kamin, said discussions about the international boundary with China are important but that the inter-state border needs more focus.

“There are greater security risks to the people along the inter-state boundary than to those along the international boundary,” Kamin said.

Territorial disputes between the two states flare up regularly with the last major incident occurring on January 29 when 10 people were shot dead in Assam, allegedly by criminals from Arunachal Pradesh.

The backlash of the incident resulted in an economic blockade in Assam by various communities and students’ groups against Arunachal that left large parts of the state paralysed.

BJP MLA Japu Deru from West Kameng district had earlier asked what steps had been taken to address the issue.

Home minister Tanga Byaling said talks with the Assam government are under way but that a sustainable solution has not been formulated. He said the Supreme Court-appointed commission to study the dispute had conducted field verification in six places along the boundary last year.

Although 19 hearings have taken place since 2006, a verdict has still not been reached. The next hearing on the issue is scheduled for September 12.

Hydropower discussions also figured in the session.

The Leader of the Opposition, BJP’s Tamiyo Taga, slammed Tuki’s budget for not giving enough focus on the state’s hydropower potential.

Taga said the “budget mentions the state’s power potential but has no details about the budgetary allocations to develop the sector”.

BJP legislator Tage Taki said the state is spending Rs 9 crore to buy power every month and slammed the hydropower department saying “micro hydels in the state are not being utilised to their full potential”.

An engineer by education, Taki explained how smaller hydel projects could generate sufficient power for the state.

PPA’s Passang Sona also heavily criticised the budget, questioning the reason why the state has not been able to harness its 50,000-MW hydropower potential.

“If hydropower is developed, we won’t have to go to Delhi with a begging bowl to seek funds from the Centre,” Sona said.

It was, however, the Congress’s Jomde Kena who raised the issue of the Lower Subansiri Power Project planned for construction in the border area of Gerukamukh. Kena appeared visibly upset over the suspension of construction of the dam, “Since the project is being implemented in Arunachal, protests in Assam should not be the reason to halt work.”

He also claimed that the project apparently does not threaten the environment.

Answering a question about the illicit drugs trade in the state, home minister Tanga Byaling today said five Myanmarese nationals have been arrested since 2012 in the insurgency-hit districts of Tirap and Changlang.

Byaling admitted that Myanmar nationals are involved in the illicit trade in the districts where militants are active.

However, the growing drugs menace is not confined to the two districts alone. This year, over 9kg of ganja has been seized in Itanagar so far. Opium cultivation and usage that was once thought to be endemic in few pockets has now spread throughout the state.

Over 2,000 acres of poppy fields in six districts of the state have been destroyed since 2009.

BJP’s Wanglam Sawin who raised the question, criticised the government for not doing enough to check the menace.

The MLA from Tirap said that poppy cultivators need to be rehabilitated after their fields are destroyed because “they are not equipped with skills to do anything else”.

The home minister said awareness on the issue needs to be created and said the police have been directed to keep vigil along the Indo-Myanmar border.


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