DIBRUGARH, April 1 - One of the major proposals of former Union Minister and the Indian National Congress (INC) candidate for Dibrugarh Lok Sabha constituency Paban Singh Ghatowar is declaring all tea plantations areas in the State a dry area in an effort to check liquor-related evils in those areas.
�Rampant sale of illicit liquor and intake of the same by gullible members from the tea garden working community has ruined the society a lot. All forms of liquor; whether foreign made or local brews like chulai, hariah (rice beer) or any other home-made fermented drinks, have harmed the community to an alarming extent. This social evil has not only pushed the families to penury, malnourishment and eventually death but has also been a major cause for illiteracy, discord within families and a major barrier for development and healthy thinking,� said Ghatowar in an exclusive interview to The Assam Tribune.
The former Minister who had won from Dibrugarh Lok Sabha constituency for five times earlier and had the privilege to be Union Minister during his two terms, is also the president of the State�s major tea trade union � Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS). He said that since past several years, ACMS had been pressing for checking illicit liquor trade in the tea gardens and simultaneously creating awareness on the harmful effects of the liquor consumption. However, the present BJP-led government has only amplified the danger within the precincts of the plantations by relaxing norms for running liquor shops and being lenient towards the illegal traders,� said Ghatowar.
On the pending wage hike of the plantation workers, the ACMS president said that the BJP party had promised to pay Rs 350 as daily wage to the workers but is mum on the issue now. They could not even call a meeting to finalise the hike in the required Minimum Wage. So how can you expect them to pay even Rs 350? But the Congress is contemplating on having a national minimum wage. The wage will be uniform for all workers in the plantations across the nation and this will be only the cash wage, benefits and perks not included,� he said.
About his prospects in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls, the Congress veteran who also once served as the president of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) said that there will be swing of votes in favour of the Congress this time. �Last time the �Tsunami� or so called the �Modi Wave� was obvious in the entire nation particularly in North India and Assam due to the polarisation, big hollow promises and giving false hope to the people by the BJP party. But today the voters have realised that they were taken for ride, and feel betrayed. The Modi-led BJP party really made fool of the voters. This is something which had never happened in the history of the country. Moreover, the saffron party has also gone ahead against the wish of the people by bringing the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha. The massive anti-BJP movements organised in the State in protest against the Bill will surely reflect in the results of the elections,� said the Congress candidate.
Speaking about the strategy of the Congress, Ghatowar said that his party would restrict themselves to smaller meetings and door to door campaigns. The main agenda throughout the campaigns will be highlighting the false promises of the BJP like generating two crores of jobs annually, bringing back the stashed several lakhs crore black money, depositing Rs 15 lakh in each Indian�s bank account, disbursing Rs 350 as daily wage to TE workers, expelling foreigners from State, bringing down the prices of commodities, provincialising tea garden schools and establishing high schools and several others. If voted to power Congress would restore the �special status category� of Assam and entire northeast. The BJP which often describes northeast as �Asta Lakhi� has stripped the region of its �special status category� and deprived northeast of several benefits and aids. They even quashed the North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy and even withdrawn the Industrial Policy of Assam to push the region to backwardness further. These issues will be communicated to the voters, he said.
It needs to be mention here that Ghatowar had earlier contested elections eight times altogether including assembly elections. He represented Dibrugarh consecutively four times in 1991, 1996, 1998 and 1999. In 2004 he lost to the then AGP candidate Sarbananda Sonowal (present Chief Minister) but again snatched the seat in 2009. Again in 2014 he lost to Rameswar Teli. He had also contested as MLA candidate of the INC from Moran LAC in 2016 but lost to BJP candidate Chakradhar Gogoi.