(Eds: With details) Guwahati, Feb 18 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted on Thursday that his government is correcting the 'historical mistake' of neglecting Assam, and the state's development is its priority.
Modi also said BJP's double engine governments at the Centre and in Assam reduced geographical and cultural distances between the state and rest of the country.
'Prior to Independence, Assam enjoyed a high per- capita income but since 1947, its development was neglected.
Correcting the historical mistake of neglecting Assam had begun with former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, and now it has gained strength with the BJP government taking its development as a priority,' he said.
The PM virtually launched the Rs 3,231-crore 'Mahabahu Brahmaputra' project on Thursday, which includes the construction of inland water terminal at Jogighopa and tourist jetties at Pandu, Jogighopa, Neamati and Biswanat ghat.
Modi said developing waterway connectivity as part of the project will provide an alternative route to connect the northeast with other parts of India and neighbouring countries.
'The Brahmaputra is not just a river, it is the manifestation of the great saga of the north east's ethnic diversity and the region's harmonious co-existence.
'Along the banks of this mighty river, grew the culture and civilisation of Assam... over the years, many things have changed but what has not changed is the Brahmaputra's countless blessings in the form of diverse religious, societal and cultural influences on different ethnic communities living on both banks of this river,' Modi said.
This river is, in fact, the nerve-centre of the state's possibility, potentiality and prosperity, he said.
However, Modi said the irony is that instead of considering the Brahmaputra as 'Assam's Pride', since Independence, the river was treated as 'Assam's Sorrow' due to floods and erosion caused by it.
'Our government since coming to power made sincere attempts to realise Brahmaputras innumerable blessings,' the PM said.
He also laid the foundation of the country's longest river bridge of 19 km from Dhubri in Assam to Phulbari in Meghalaya at an estimated cost of Rs 5,00 crore, and the 8-km Jorhat-Majuli bridge.
The prime minister laid the foundation of the Rs 350- crore North East Data Centre at Guwahati, too, along with the e-portals PANI and CAR-D for ease of doing business.
Developing connectivity through roadways, railways, airways and inland waterways will help realise the aspirations of the people of Assam and make the region the growth centre of the country, he said.
Efforts are underway to make the state and the northeast the hub of cultural and business relations with other East Asian countries, Modi said.
He said it is painful to note that Assam, which was among the highest revenue-paying states during the British era and the fifth most prosperous state at the time of Independence, had to depend so heavily on grants and subsidies of the central government during the subsequent years.
The traditional trade routes got disrupted after Independence and this adversely affected the economy, along with poor governance and mismanagement, the prime minister said.
'Our government is committed to change the dismal scenario and transform this neglected region of the past...,' he asserted.
Modi also highlighted the government's focussed attention for the development of Majuli, the country's largest river island, and said the government was committed to preserve Majuli's unique culture, iecology and protect it from erosion and connect it with the mainland.
The PM said he was happy to say that there is a remarkable change in Majuli -- be it road infrastructure, healthcare facilities, academic opportunities or governance, 'change is visible everywhere in the island'.
He added that work on the India-Bangladesh protocol route across the Hooghly River to connect the Brahmaputra and the Barak River has been initiated. PTI DG RBT RBT