Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has urged upon the 15th Finance Commission to propose an inter-State border development programme in the Northeast which would greatly benefit all States of the Northeast.
Drawing an attention to the Chairman and other members of the visiting 15th Finance Commission to Guwahati at a meeting held at Assam Administrative Staff College here on Thursday, Chief Minister Sonowal said that Assam has long international borders with Bhutan and Bangladesh.
The State shares inter-State border with all Northeast States. In view of this, Sonowal said, “It is necessary to improve border infrastructure including roads along international borders in the interest of internal security”. He, therefore, requested the commission to initiate steps for international border development and inter State border development programmes to intensify vigil and other developmental activities along the borders.
Chief Minister Sonowal also stated that although the law and order situation in Assam has improved considerably over the last two years, the State still faces challenges from insurgency groups and radical religious elements.
He also sought the intervention of the Finance Commission in terms of resource allocation for strengthening and modernization of police infrastructure. He also reiterated that the area has suffered due to absence of any grant in the last Finance Commission recommendations for the state.
Sonowal also requested the Finance Commission’s recommendations to strengthen the prosecution machinery and related infrastructure like forensic laboratories etc. to ensure speedy justice from the Fast Track Courts in cases related to crime against women. He informed the visiting Commission that of late the country has witnessed spurt in crime against women.
In view of this, the State government has taken up the matter with the High Court to set up Fast Track Courts. The High Court has agreed to set up one Fast Track Court in each district and the Chief Minister has called for Finance Commission’s recommendations for the capacity building of the courts and expedite their justice delivery system.
The Chief Minister also submitted before the Commission that Assam faces huge flood and erosion problem every year. However, the funds under SDRF are not sufficient to tackle the situation. He also maintained that Majuli Island has seen severe erosion in last so many decades and now been reduced to one fourth of its original size of around 1500 square kilometre.
This pride of Assam both culturally and ecologically will vanish if steps are not taken to preserve it. He therefore, proposed embankment cum circular road to protect Majuli and requested the Commission to consider this proposal as top most priority for the State of Assam and give specific recommendations in this regard.
Chief Minister Sonowal also sought the help of the 15th Finance Commission for adequate resource devolution for the Sixth Schedule areas of Assam and empower them socially and financially.
Sonowal also reiterated that ever since the new dispensation in the state has come to power, the government has been steadfast in its commitment to promote its four point agenda that is making Assam corruption free, pollution free, foreigners free and terrorism free.
A number of significant steps have been taken on all these four fronts in last two years, Sonowal added. He also said that the government has taken effective steps to improve implementation of centrally sponsored schemes like Swachh Bharat, rural housing, PMGSY, MNREGA, soil health card, etc. In all these schemes, the achievement of two years of our Government has been double or more compared to last two years of the previous Government.
He also stated that the budget expenditure increased from Rs 42,000 crore in 2015-2016 to around 70,000 crore in 2017-2018 with capital expenditure increasing from around Rs. 4900 crore in 2015-16 to Rs. 12,800 crore in 2017-18. The revenue collection of various taxes under the State government has shown an average increase of around 20% annual increase in last two years other than GST. He however, made a fervent appeal to the visiting Finance Commission delegation to make substantial fund allocation for the state of Assam to help the state to pursue its avowed objective of Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas.