BJP Spokesperson Rupam Goswami spoke exclusively to The Sentinel Assam

Rupam, Goswami, Spokesperson of Assam BJP and Chairman, Assam Chamber of Commerce spoke exclusively to The
BJP Spokesperson Rupam Goswami spoke exclusively to The Sentinel Assam

Rupam, Goswami, Spokesperson of Assam BJP and Chairman, Assam Chamber of Commerce spoke exclusively to The on BJP's plans for the small traders and businesses, the agriculture sector and the upcoming State Assembly elections. Here are the excerpts.

SA: After 41 days of lockdown lockdown restrictions have been some eased. But on the streets of Guwahati it feels like life is back to normal -- too much traffic and too many people out on the streets. Are people getting complacent.

Rupam Goswami: Naturally after the people of Assam accepted the lockdown and very honestly followed the lockdown and cooperated with the government. Almost you can say, 95 per cent of the people cooperated with the government, the business community totally cooperated with the government. Of course, after 40 days when there was some lifting with certain measures in place, it is natural (for people to step out) and private vehicles have been allowed. But at the same time the citizen of India, Assam or Guwahati should realise that there is no harm in going out for some work, but they have to maintain social distance, that is number one and is very important. In Japan there was no lockdown but their normal behaviour is such that they always wear masks, wash their hands, wear gloves, they always maintain social distance. So that is much more important. To beat Coronavirus, we have to do it together. We have to fight for our economy as well as fight Coronavirus. It has to go hand in hand. It cannot be that we leave the economy and fight Corona. It has to happen parallelly and that is the challenge number one. And for that reason all the business community and also the buyers, the public, they should understand what is the importance of keeping distance. As of now we are in a very lucky state that we do not have a red zone yet and number two almost 29 districts are in green zone, only four districts are in orange zone but be careful my honourable citizen of Assam, it may break at anytime. This is the time we should be more careful because now inter-state movement has started. It is a big challenge in front of us.

SA: A large number of migrant workers are coming in. What is the plan.

Rupam Goswami: Honourable Health Minister Mr Himanta Biswa Sarma has informed that MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) has given directions that people those who are stuck in other states, they should be brought in first, students, patients, naturally they have to be brought back. But those who are working outside their work will start there now and definitely they will not lose their jobs. I think it is more risky to come to Assam through a long process, it is more dangerous because you might get infected by Corona on the way. Students, patients or someone who had gone out as tourists, these are special cases, they have to come back. But those who are established outside, it is our advice and I think everybody will agree to this, it is better for them to stay where they are.

SA: Already there has been a lot of job losses. Many of the small and medium scale enterprises, small traders have been badly hit. What is the thinking within the BJP or what is the plan for these people.

Rupam Goswami: BJP is thinking in a big way about how to help the needy people during this lockdown period. 'Feed the Needy' programme was launched by BJP national president honourable J P Nadda ji, and it is very successful. Many people have come out voluntarily and helped the needy people in many ways. Helping the needy people is our (read BJP's) basic character. BJP is always there in times of crisis and BJP people always comes out to help the needy.

SA: The agriculture sector is going through a lot of stress. Farmers' distress continues. Of the BJP government at the Centre too did announce a lot of schemes for the farm sector which has now gone haywire because of the virus. But going forward what is the plan for the farm sector.

Rupam Goswami: India is lucky that we are mostly dependent in agriculture. No doubt we have lost 40 days. Now agriculture is opening. I think every problem is an opportunity. So, it is an opportunity for India to grow more agriculture products, bi-products and take on the world market. It is a great opportunity, I think in that way in a very positive manner that our farmers will get more money and obviously we will need a plan and the government will have to come out with some policy. Already, Government of India has pumped lot of money into the farmers' accounts, many farmers have already got the money in their accounts. To revive the economy, you have to pump money in the hands of the people at the bottom and that is what the government is doing. We need not worry about the agriculture sector. Some services sector might suffer, specially the hotel, restaurant and tourism sectors. These sectors have received a big blow. It is not just in India, even in Europe, America, these sectors have been hit.

India is a very big country and many of us have not seen many parts of India or Assam. Many people from Assam might not have seen Kamakhya, Poa Mecca in Hajo, people from lower Assam might not have seen Majuli. We should now look at developing tourism within the region, within the state.

SA: Many of the traders of Guwahati do not seem comfortable with the 'only one-third shops to open' norm and they have a lot of other concerns too. Any steps being taken by the Assam Chamber of Commerce to address their concerns.

Rupam Goswami: Obviously, initially everybody got confused. These are new concepts. And until and unless a vaccine or some medicine is found we will have to think of alternatives. As I said earlier, we will have to fight Corona and economy together, simultaneously. We have just begun opening up businesses. Let us look at it in a positive way. Things are opening now and people will get habituated. Opening all shops is not a problem, problem is maintaining social distance, sanitising hands, wearing masks, ensuring these are the challenges. People take time to accept all these. This is just the beginning of opening up all shops, industry and businesses. Health Minister Himata Biswa Sarma has very clearly said in his press conferences that if one shop is open then the next two shops has to be closed. But if the shop next to your shop is selling essential commodities and next is a pharmacy then both these won't be counted. This is something that many have not understood. About the shopping complexes, these are not allowed to open. But there are certain shopping complexes which has offices and marketing activities do not take place. For such offices, such cases, Deputy Commissioner, Kamrup Metro has categorically said that come and apply to the DC office and permission for opening could be given on case to case basis.

SA: Assam is known for its floods and every year vast destruction, devastation takes place because of floods and people suffer. This time people have already suffered a lot due to corona pandemic, I am sure the BJP would not want its people to suffer one more time because of floods. So is the plan ready.

Rupam Goswami: Well, of course there are challenges. Our Water Resources Minister Mr Keshab Mahanta has already spoken about the state government's preparedness. Of course, challenges are there and Assam faces floods every year. But we will definitely overcome it.

SA: Assam Assembly elections are not far away. Health infrastructure, we have seen a lot of shortcomings though state health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has done a commendable job. Agriculture, tourism are some of the sectors which have been hit. Would these be the focus areas in the upcoming elections.

Rupam Goswami: BJP has been doing a lot and I do not think people has or will have any issue with BJP's performance. I don't think Corona will be an issue in the upcoming elections. Yes how we fight Corona can be an issue. But our basic focus has been on development and people of Assam knows that. I am sure people will support us. But right now we are not thinking about elections. Right now our focus is to ensure that most of the districts continue to be in green zone. We have received a lot of support from the people of Assam and from parties across the political space. We are in this fight against corona together and I am sure the people would continue to support us. 

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