He will discuss with Myanmar leaders expansion of trade, and connectivity to ASEAN

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said he would discuss with the Myanmar leadership, during his Yangon visit next month, how the two nations could increase opportunities for expansion of trade, economic cooperation and connectivity to the larger ASEAN region.

Assam and the other northeastern States could and should play leading roles in India's Look East efforts. In the recent years, India had taken initiatives to strengthen its relations with Bangladesh and Myanmar, Dr. Singh said speaking at the inaugural function of the platinum jubilee celebrations of the Assam Legislative Assembly here.

The key to development in the northeast was infrastructure. The region needed better educational and services infrastructure, better transport connectivity.

The Prime Minister said he would like to see Assam emerge as a new engine of growth for the northeast and the country as a whole in the 12th Plan period.

“The new wave of development in Assam has been made possible by a period of social peace and political stability. There is a general realisation today that violence provides no answers and that diverse groups can fulfil their aspirations only through engagement in the democratic process. This feeling has in no small measure resulted from the fact that the government of Assam is working for the people and for their all-round betterment.”

Call to insurgents

Dr. Singh expressed the hope that the few insurgent groups which continued to remain outside the democratic process would understand the sentiments of the people of Assam and come forward to create an atmosphere conducive to accelerating its social and economic development.

Meanwhile, normal life in the State was disrupted with the Paresh Barua-led faction of the insurgent United Liberation Front of Asom calling a 12-hour Assam bandh to oppose the Prime Minister's visit.

Dr. Singh said Assam was a beneficiary of over a decade of sustained progress, economic and social development. He complimented the Tarun Gogoi-led government on taking the State to new heights of development. From just 1.5 per cent during the 9th Five-Year Plan period, the growth of Assam's economy increased to about 5.7 per cent during the 10th Plan period. Thanks to the special emphasis given to development by the governments in the State and at the Centre, Assam achieved an annual average growth rate of 6.8 per cent during the first four years of the 11th plan.

“I am delighted to learn that in the last year of the 11th Plan, Assam is expected to record a growth rate of 7.18 per cent. Assam is catching up with the national average. This is good news but more needs to be done,” Dr. Singh said.

He assured the people that the Centre would do whatever was possible to help Assam record a growth rate of over nine per cent in the 12th Plan.

Dr. Singh said the annual plan outlay for Assam had increased from Rs. 3,000 crore in 2005-06 to Rs. 9,000 crore in 2011-2012. The total transfers for the period 2010-2015, as per the 13th Finance Commission recommendations, would be about Rs. 58,000 crore as against Rs. 24,000 crore estimated for 2005-2010.

Striking a personal note, Dr. Singh described Assam as his “adopted home State” and recalled his childhood days. “I remain deeply indebted to the people of Assam. I was born in a distant and dusty village in a part of this subcontinent that is no longer in India. At a tender age, I became homeless and a migrant. It is in Assam that I have finally found a home that has given me a sense of belonging.”

The other speakers included Governor Janaki Ballav Patnaik, Mr. Tarun Gogoi, Speaker Pranab Gogoi and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Nilamoni Sen Deka. Meghalaya Governor Ranjit Sekhar Mooshahary, Bihar Governor Devananda Konwar and Union Development of North Eastern Region Minister Paban Singh Ghatowar were the other dignitaries on the dais.

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