At the helm for three successive terms as Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi is fit and raring to lead the Congress for a fourth time in what is shaping up as a rousing electoral battle. The stakes are high, with political observers maintaining that the ensuing vote will prove crucial to the future of the State. Unfazed by the anti-incumbency factor, Tarun Gogoi spoke of the achievements of his government in the last 15 years and his party’s upcoming agenda in an interview given to The Sentinel.
What is your party’s stand on the issue of illegal migrants and how do you propose to address it?
Gogoi: In order to solve this problem once and for all, we are updating the tiol Register of Citizens (NRC). Once the NRC is updated, Indians can be easily separated from illegal immigrants. We can monitor the movements of those whose mes don’t figure in the NRC. As long as they are not deported, we can make them report to their respective police stations before leaving for any place.
The onus of deportation lies with the Central government. The Centre has to make it possible by holding talks with the Bangladesh government. We have been doing all to seal the intertiol border with Bangladesh. The Centre has a greater role to play on this matter as well.
What steps will the Congress take to protect and preserve xatras?
Gogoi: For the preservation and promotion of xatras in the State, we have a separate authority and fund in mind. We have been extending fincial assistance to xatras. However, freeing xatra lands under encroachment has some technical problems. The xatra lands have not been demarcated from long back. The xatras themselves gave land to some people for cultivation. Many such land plots were later abandoned and then encroached upon. We are ready to extend all forms of support from the government’s side to make xatra lands free from encroachment, but the xatras should also make efforts on their own to use abandoned lands for cultivation so that such lands are not encroached upon.
What steps will your party take to protect and preserve Kaziranga and other green sanctuaries in the State?
Gogoi: We don’t compromise on forest lands and act in accordance with the relevant Act. We have already asked forest and district authorities to keep close watch on any encroachment of forest lands in their respective areas. However, there are a number of revenue villages in many reserved forest areas in the State, a reality that has made eviction of such people a Herculean task. Freeing forest land from encroachers and stopping fresh encroachment is one of our thrust areas. If need be, we will strengthen the State Forest force.
Unemployment is a key problem in Assam. How does your party propose to address it?
Gogoi: We do lay more emphasis on creating employment avenues in the State. We have done much in this field in the past 15 years. We need to change the existing system of education right from school level by linking the curricula with vocatiol courses. Skill development centers have to be set up in the State in large numbers. It’s a reality that the problem of unemployment cannot be solved by providing jobs in government sector alone. We need to motivate the youths towards vocatiol and technical education that have wider scope in the job market.
What will be your party’s policy in developing agro-based industries in the State?
Gogoi: Assam is primarily an agro-based State. We have already done much in the past 15 years towards modernizing this sector. We have vast scope for the setting up of agro-based industries like horticultural industries and green groceries. Much has already been done in the past 15 years. Markets and cold storage facilities should be given equal importance as a number of agro-products are perishable. In the past 15 years, we have brought lakhs of farmers in the State under crop insurance and Kisan Credit Card (KCC).
Why will the people of the State vote for your party? What will be the basis of your party’s appeal to them?
Gogoi: They should vote for us going by our performance card in the past 15 years during which we have brought about stability on economic, fincial and law-and-order fronts. There have been significant changes in road communication. Yes, we have not been able to achieve 100 per cent success in all sectors. However, I can claim to have achieved 60-70 per cent success in all sectors. In order to achieve the remaining 30-40 per cent, we need more time.
I think the voters of Assam can judge the difference between the Congress and other parties. They know well which party can provide stability to government in the State. It is not capturing power but providing a stable government that matters.