NEW DELHI, Jan 7 - Hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi�s digitalisation initiative, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said that the decision has added to the BJP government�s drive against corruption in Assam.
Addressing the national executive of the BJP that concluded here this afternoon, Sonowal, who confined himself mostly to the digitalisation and cashless initiatives of the NDA Government, said they are committed to make this vision of Digital India and less-cash economy of the Prime Minister a reality in shortest possible time.
Referring to his government�s experience of handling payments to tea garden labourers, Sonowal said digital payment is a means of economic empowerment of poor people. The demonetisation decision has been welcomed by a vast majority of people of Assam, although like other parts of the country, it was surprise news for them, the Chief Minister said.
�Assam has around eight lakh organised labourers in more than 800 tea gardens, who get weekly or fortnightly wages in cash on a particular day. There were restrictions on withdrawal of cash from bank accounts of individuals and companies. Therefore, we asked the tea garden managements to transfer fund to government accounts maintained by deputy commissioners of districts and cash was withdrawn from these accounts for payment to workers,� he said.
�In fact, priority was given for cash supply to tea workers. This cash came in circulation for rest of the population in a day or two. As a result, we did not have any social unrest in the State,� he added.
�Simultaneously, we started a campaign to open bank accounts for all tea labourers. I held meetings with banks, tea garden managements, labour union leaders and MPs and MLAs belonging to the tea tribe community to garner support for this campaign. Till date, bank accounts have been opened for 6.40 lakh tea workers and many gardens have started paying wages through bank accounts,� he appraised the national executive members.
�The wages in gardens are being distributed through customer service providers (CSPs). The banks have started installing ATMs in tea gardens and appointing more CSPs. There are issues of internet connectivity and distance from bank branches but we are confident that we will be able to cover almost all workers under digital payment of wages,� he asserted.
The situation arising out of demonetisation has been utilised to open bank accounts and digital transfer of wages to tea workers, who have been paid wages in cash for almost last 200 years. The tea garden workers have welcomed this initiative because it gives control over the money to the worker. Many illiterate workers now feel that their savings are safe in the bank account and nobody else can touch this money because it can only be withdrawn by the worker through his or her thumb impression, Sonowal explained.
Although, Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangh (ACMS), the main labour union of tea gardens affiliated to the Congress party tried to oppose opening of bank accounts, they could not do much in view of overwhelming support of the tea garden labourers, the Chief Minister said.
�We have created awareness about digital payments through panchayat and municipal ward members. We have engaged 20,000 NSS volunteers and government employees for popularising digital payments. I have held frequent video conferences with the deputy commissioners to push digital payments,� he said, giving full account of his government�s initiative.
�We have motivated people to pay taxes and other government dues through digital mode. Our government has offered 0.75 per cent discount on the price of diesel and petrol if payment is made electronically in addition to 0.75 per cent discount offered by the Central Government. We have given 10 per cent discount on user charges in government hospitals and payment of taxes to urban local bodies. Similar incentives have been announced for fair price shops and cinema halls. We have announced awards for rural bank branches which promote digital transactions.
�Similarly, we have announced awards for digital villages and farmers who purchase fertilisers and seeds through cashless mechanism. Similar incentives have been announced for payment of fees in government colleges and land revenue collection,� he said.
Meanwhile, the political resolution adopted at the National Executive welcoming the new BJP Chief Minister Pema Khandu into the party said Arunachal Pradesh became the 10th state ruled by the BJP and the 14th ruled by BJP alliance.
The BJP has registered convincing victories in the by-elections held to the Lok Sabha and different Vidhan Sabhas in states like Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh. Its performance in the Left-dominated Tripura, where it is slowly but surely emerging as the credible alternative to the Left Front pushing back parties like the Congress and TMC, can�t be overlooked, the resolution said.
Earlier, party president Amit Shah in his address listed the benefits of the demonetisation move and said that it would help the country get rid of corruption. The national executive meet also recounted BJP�s successes in 2016, including the party�s win in Assam and formation of government in Arunachal Pradesh.