DIBRUGARH, July 12 � For fifth term, Dibrugarh MP Paban Singh Ghatowar, 61, his ascent to being the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) has been a result of perseverance and a lot of lobbying by MLAs and a minister from Assam and a few of his acolytes in his Lok Sabha constituency. He replaces B K Handique in the ministry, who bowed out due to health reasons and old age, causing much heartburn among his followers. But Handique was a Cabinet minister.
A true tea labour leader, Ghatowar was born on December 6, 1950 at Doomurdullung tea estate in the Sivasagar district to Kanai and Kaushalya Ghatowar. His father who died a few years ago, was a labour sardar in the estate, and was an active trade unionist. He worked with trade union stalwarts like Durgeswar Saikia. His mother, Kaushalya is now in her nineties and lives with her VIP son at their home in Moran town. She was a tea plucker at the Doomurdullung estate and refused to quit her job till the early nineties, even when her son became Union Deputy Minister for Labour (1991-93).
Paban Singh Ghatowar did his early schooling at the Doomurdullung Baruaholla LP School, and passed his matriculation in 1964 from the Ram Chandra Agarwalla High School at Khotkhoti, near Moran. He completed his pre university from the Joysagar College, Sivasagar and did his graduation in Arts from St Anthony�s College, Shillong in 1968. After a brief stint at the Assam Tea Plantations Provident Fund, he joined the Moran Branch of the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS), after which he has never looked back.
Ghatowar knows only too well that DoNER is basically a �post office ministry� where his job would include liaisoning with other ministries if he wants to show some results. As a veteran of the Union Cabinet, he has earlier served as Union Deputy Minister for Labour and then in the Health and Family Welfare Ministry. His third ministerial term at New Delhi was as Minister of State in the Health and Family Welfare Ministry from 1995 to 1996. With this experience behind him, Ghatowar knows that all the eight northeastern states would be having great expectations from him. Would he be able to deliver? That�s the thousand crore rupee question.
With more than 500 projects awaiting various stages of approval at DoNER, Ghatowar will be having his table full of files at his Vigyan Bhavan Annexe office in New Delhi. Most of these are infrastructure related, like roads, sports stadia, drinking water schemes, cultural projects, street lighting schemes, etc. With limited budgetary resources, it is but natural that many of the projects would have to be either axed or curtailed or implemented in phases. This is in stark contradiction to the lectures by politicians that there is no dearth of funds for development. In fact, there is a severe resource crunch, and hence, the misleading lip service to peoples� aspirations by the political class. It is with these obstacles that Ghatowar would have to prove his mantle, even as the next Lok Sabha polls comes to sighting distance.