GUWAHATI, Jan 26 (IANS): Amid a boycott and shut-down called by northeastern militant outfits, the 67th Republic Day was celebrated peacefully across Assam with official functions well attended by people from different walks of life.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi hoisted the tricolor at a function here and said the government would set up a memorial in the state to honour the people who laid down their lives for the freedom of the country from the colonial rule.
"To show our deepest respect and gratitude to all freedom fighters for their selfless service to the nation, my government has decided to set up a Freedom Fighter Memorial," Gogoi announced.
Steps have also been taken for raising freedom fighter's pension to Rs.20,000 in the current year, he said, noting that the pension in 2001 (the first of his 14 consecutive years of chief ministership) was only Rs.1500.
Gogoi said his government would deal with all kinds of terrorism strongly and has brought 13 militant outfits of the state to the negotiating table so far.
He hoped that the peace talks with the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) faction that supports negotiations would get momentum now after the extradition of the outfit's general secretary Anup Chetia from Bangladesh.
The chief minister appealed to the anti-negotiations faction of ULFA led by Paresh Baruah to shun the path of violence and join the national mainstream.
Highlighting the developmental works of his government, Gogoi announced that all the colleges in Assam were to be connected with Wi-Fi network for the betterment of the students community.
"Assam has also become the first state in the country to adopt sustainable development goal mission," he said.
Gogoi took the opportunity to criticise the central government, saying Assam has been suffering because its 'special category' status has been curtailed.
"There have been fund cuts under some of the flagship programmes and other important central funds in the past one year. The development programmes have been stagnant due to the fund cut," said Gogoi.
He said he has given several memorandums to the Prime Minister, appealing to him to continue the 'special category' status for the state and the centre-state funding pattern of 90:10 for all centrally sponsored schemes.
Gogoi slammed the central government for suspending the North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP) without which, he said, "no one will come to invest in the state".
Gogoi also touched upon the issue of six communities demanding the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, saying his government had all along been recommending to the central government that Ahom, Koch-Rajbongshis, Chutia, Moran, Motok, Tea tribes and ex-tea tribes communities be given that status.
"Without affecting the interests of the existing ST population of the state, I appeal to the government of India to resolve the issue at the earliest," he said
Gogoi added that he has already submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister on the issue of granting ST status to the six communities.