Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said that his discussions with leaders of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) had given Assam and the northeast hope for the future.

Dr. Singh said he was happy to meet ULFA representatives in Delhi recently, adding that dialogue was the only method to foster greater understanding and resolve vexed social, economic and political problems.

“Assam has witnessed turbulent times in the recent past. It is to the credit of the people of this State that they have been able to successfully combat fissiparous forces. It goes without saying that peace and harmony are a prerequisite for meaningful development. I am happy that a number of initiatives have been taken by both the Central and the State governments towards this end,” the Prime Minister said.

He was speaking during the presentation of the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Memorial Award for National Integration 2008 and 2009, and also unveiled a plaque of Rs.1,600 crore of the Guwahati Water Supply project, assisted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), at the Pragjyoti ITA Centre for Performing Arts here.

Dr. Singh presented the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed awards to eminent journalist M.J. Akbar (the recipient for 2008) and noted Gandhian and freedom fighter Hema Bharali (for 2009) in the presence of Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

The Prime Minister, who arrived on a two-day visit to the State, stressed the need for building capacities of the territorial and hill council to ensure transparency and accountability.

“The establishment of the territorial/hill councils has provided a forum to address genuine needs. However, we must help these councils to build capacities to ensure that they are able to fulfil their responsibilities in a manner which is responsive, transparent and accountable,” he said.

Dr. Singh also underlined the need for adhering to the declared timelines of the Guwahati Water Supply project.

Under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission, the government has been supporting substantial investments towards the development of urban infrastructure. Guwahati was selected as one of the mission cities, he said, adding that the Centre also sanctioned a Solid Waste Management project.

Fitting tribute

Dr. Singh said the institution of the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed award by the Assam government was a fitting tribute to the memory of the great leader.

“Shri Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed's long and distinguished career in public life, which culminated in his occupying the august position of President of India, is a shining example of commitment to ethical values and selfless service to the people. Indeed, his contribution to the building of our society and country continues inspiring all of us,” the Prime Minister said.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Akbar said that India, to become a modern nation, must be a democracy and ensure secularism, gender equality and economic equity.

Ms. Bharali underlined the need for the State to have more politically learned persons, and urged the people to work selflessly for peace, progress and harmony.

Keywords: AssamULFApeace talks