Sonowal pitches for resumption of Ashok Paper Mill, HPCs paper mills and continuation of NEIIPP

New Delhi

Pleading for revival of Ashok Paper Mill, HPC’s Nagaon Paper Mill and Cachar Paper Mill, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the resumption of these units will provide boost to rural economy of Assam.

Taking part for the first time at the 3rd Governing Council meeting of NITI Aayog at Rashtrapati Bhawan Cultural Centre here today after becoming the Chief Minister, Sonowal requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to assist the State Government in revival of the Ashok Paper Mill and restart functioning of two units of HPC.

Sonowal requested the Prime Minister to allow continuation of the existing North East Industrial Investment Promotion Policy 2007 (NEIIPP) till a new policy is put in place. “NEIIPP 2007 has led to significant industrial investment in Assam to the tune of around Rs 5,000 crore before its expiry on March 31 this year.  Till a new industrial policy is put in place, NEIIP may be allowed to continue,” he said.

The Chief Minister pleaded with the Prime Minister for instructing the Ministry of Finance and NITI Aayog to evolve a mechanism for scheme-wise allocation of Central share well in advance to enable the States to prepare a realistic resource based action plan as ‘non-availability of scheme-wise allocation of Central share before the presentation of a State budget creates difficulties in reflecting the correct allocation of funds against each scheme’.

On the 15-year Vision, 7-year Strategy and 3-year Action Plan, Sonowal requested the apex planning institution for inclusion of State specific concerns to achieve faster and more holistic growth. In the same breathe, the Chief Minister complimented the Prime Minister and NITI Aayog for adopting a slew of initiatives to make paradigm shift in development planning into reality. “I believe that for a country like ours, we need a long horizon vision supported by appropriate strategy and practical action plans for realizing the avowed vision,” he added.

As the country is on the cusp of introducing GST from July 1 this year, Chief Minister Sonowal said it will give a big fillip to PM’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. In this context, Sonowal pointed out that Assam has had the enviable distinction of being the first State in the country to ratify the GST Constitution Amendment Bill. The Chief Minister further pointed out that a special session of the Assam Legislative Assembly will be held from May 8 next for consideration and enactment of the Assam Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017.

Lauding the Central Government for considering the amount of revenue forgone due to industrial concession as a part of revenue for the purpose of calculating GST compensation, Sonowal said this will protect the interests of North Eastern States and J&K and help in bringing them at par with other States of the country in terms of industrialization.

Reiterating his Government’s commitment to PM’s vision of Digital India, Sonowal urged the Ministry of Telecom to put special emphasis on providing internet access in rural areas of the State. “For making digital payments a reality in rural areas we need better banking infrastructure and good internet connectivity,” he quipped.

Giving a detailed account of the innovative measures taken for payment of wages to around 8 lakh tea garden workers by opening their bank accounts in the wake of demonetization, Sonowal said his Government has taken a number of steps like making online 46 services under e-district project, launching of citizen centric Assam. MyGoV.in, making it mandatory for e-procurement of goods and services worth Rs.20 lakh and above, massive digital literacy program with the aim to ensure one person from each household become digitally literate by 2022 and promoting digital payments post demonetization.

Underlining the State’s priority to doubling farmers’ income, Sonowal said the State inspired by PM’s vision has set a target to achieve 15 per cent growth rate in agriculture by 2021. “To achieve the target we propose to leverage various ongoing Central and State schemes,” he said, adding that steps are also being initiated to augment post-harvest management including setting up of modern markets for agricultural produce with funding from World Bank. In the same vein, Sonowal said the launching of ambitious CM’s Samagra Gramya Unnayan Yojana has been aimed at doubling farm income with investment of around Rs.1.2 crore each in 25,000 villages of Assam.  It may be mentioned here that of the total Rs.2,500 crore under the mega mission, Rs.1,500 crore has been already released by the State Government.

With the motto of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas, Sonowal said his Government has replaced the erstwhile State Planning Board with the State Innovation and Transformation Aayog (SITA) on the lines of NITI Aayog to bring about faster and inclusive development for its people.

On skill development, the Chief Minister said a new Skill Development Department and a Skill Development Mission have been set up to provide employment opportunities to 1.5 lakh youth every year. Sonowal also said that his Government has accorded priority to the implementation of Swachh Bharat Mission with the construction of 10.47 lakh household toilets in 2016-17 far exceeding the target of 8.5 lakh household toilets. However, the Chief Minister pointed out that around 15.42 lakh households together with approximately 10 lakh left out, defunct and newly added households need to be covered under the mission. He exuded the optimism that Government of India’s approval of the State Government’s proposal to bring the uncovered households under Swachh Bharat Kosh and convergence of MGNREGS, 14th Finance Commission Grant, MP/MLA Local Area Funds etc. will make it happen.

Sonowal said his Government has been able to increase tax revenue by 20.5 per cent, non-tax revenue by 28 per cent and a quantum leap in expenditure excluding salary and pension from Rs.12,833 crore in 2015-16 to Rs.24,731 crore in 2016-17 despite the first regular budget being passed only in August 2016 due to transparent and honest governance coupled with the yearning to accelerate the pace of development.

The Chief Minister was accompanied by his Commissioner and Secretary Sanjay Lohiya.