Futuristic thinking need of the hour, says Himanta

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Assam minister paints grim picture about Assam’s economy

HT Correspondent

JORHAT, June 17: A declining state economy viz agriculture and manufacturing sectors,  the possibility of reversal of revenue if Act East Policy is implemented and the need to access crude oil from Odisha to run Numaligarh Refinery Limited were some of the concerns raised by finance, health and  PWD minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, here on Monday.

Addressing the concluding function of the year-long golden jubilee celebrations of Assam Agricultural University (AAU) here, Sarma said that futuristic thinking was the need of the hour in agriculture and other sectors in this fast paced world.

“Non tax revenue from oil revenue is decreasing, the tea industry is not making any difference and contribution of agriculture is being marginalised every passing day,” he said.

Sarma said that the University had reached a plateau in terms of infrastructure and research and it was time that they gave to society a direction by which agriculture could be revived and made more vibrant as Assam was mainly an agricultural state.

Citing the example of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka, Sarma said that these three states were so developed because all three verticals agriculture, manufacturing and services were contributing equally to the economy.

Painting a grim picture, Sarma said that both the agricultural and manufacturing sectors were on a decline and only revenue was being generated in the service sector but that this too was insufficient, resulting in having to take loans from the Centre at 7 to 8 per cent rate of interest annually.

“Farmers are selling fields and are distancing themselves from farming. Ways should be found to double their incomes through integrated farming and double cropping. Youth in villages should find it viable to take to farming,” he said.

Regarding the oil sector he said that no new oil fields had been discovered,  the royalty from oil had decreased, the contribution of the tea industry to Assam’s was also negligible and tea growers were happy to give of their land to the National Highways for four lining in lieu of the compensation they would get,” he said.

“Who could one day think that we who had emotionally shouted that tez dileo tel nidiu (we will give our blood but not our oil) during the six-year Assam Agitation would one day need to bring crude oil all the way from Paradip in Odisha so that NRL, a result of the Assam Accord, could function in full steam.

The Centre is fast tracking a pipeline from Paradeep at a cost of Rs 22,000 crore so that the refining capacity of NRL’s could go up and it’s out increase from 3million metric tonnes to 6 million metric tonne,” he further said.

Referring to the Act East Policy, the minister said, “There would be no point in opening the doors to Myanmar or Thailand if we had nothing to sell and became the buyers, then there would be outflow of revenue instead of inflow as envisioned.”

“When an international flight is commissioned to Singapore or Bangkok from LGB airport in Guwahati, there are people flying to those places but only a few Assamese passengers on the return flight. It would be viable if people from those places also come to visit Kaziranga National Park or other tourist spots here, otherwise it is better that the roads to the East remained closed,” he said.

Regarding the agriculture sector, the minister further added that the world is moving at such a fast pace that even while we are crowing about developing one Ranjit variety of paddy, in another part of the globe,  four have been brought out.

He asked the scientists of the University bring a positive and meaningful change in the agriculture sector through futuristic thinking.

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