PM’s Assam visit begins Monday amid high hopes

August 24th, 2008 - 5:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Aug 24 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives in Assam on a two-day visit Monday amid expectations that he will announce a financial package besides making concrete offers to solve the state’s burning issues - insurgency and influx of Bangladeshi migrants.”We are positive and hopeful that the prime minister will address the various problems facing the state,” Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi Sunday said here.

The prime minister arrives Monday morning in the eastern tea growing town of Jorhat, about 310 km from Assam’s main city Guwahati where he is scheduled to lay the foundation stone of a medical college.

“He will also inaugurate a hospital on wheels (mobile medical units) for 17 districts and address a public rally in Jorhat,” Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told IANS.

Manmohan Singh is scheduled to meet a group of Satradhikars or Vaishnavite monastic heads of Majuli, South Asia’s largest river island, in Jorhat.

“We shall apprise the prime minister about the need to protect and preserve the rich cultural heritage of Majuli and take the initiative to include the island as a World Heritage Site,” said Pitambar Deva Goswami, a monastic head.

Located in midstream Brahmaputra, about 320 km from Guwahati, Majuli is a fluvial landform. But it is facing extinction as large swathes are being eroded by the annual floods in the river.

Populated by 150,000 people, Majuli used to once cover 1,500 sq km. But it has now been reduced to 421 sq km due to severe erosion and flooding.

The prime minister will later leave for the central Assam town of Nagaon where he is scheduled to address another public rally Monday afternoon. He will spend Monday night in Guwahati.

“The prime minister is expected to address a meeting of the Assam council of ministers Monday night at the Raj Bhawan,” the health minister said.

On Tuesday, Manmohan Singh will address students and faculty members of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Guwahati, before leaving for the western town of Kokrakhar, about 250 km away.

“The prime minister will lay the foundation stone of the Bodoland University, a planetarium, and a science museum-cum children park in Kokrajhar,” said Hagrama Mahilary, chief of the Bodoland Territorial Council, said.

The prime minister leaves for New Delhi Tuesday evening.

“We hope the prime minister announces some concrete steps to solve the insurgency problem by offering unconditional talks with the ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom), besides measures at tackling infiltration,” said Atul Bora, leader of the opposition Asom Gana Parishad. “We want the prime minister to announce a financial package to the state.”

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