GUWAHATI: Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, whose BJP-led government is going all guns blazing at the corrupt, categorically said on Wednesday that nobody, including lawmakers, would be spared if found involved in corruption.
“We’ve miles to go as the dirt in many departments is yet to be cleaned. But let me assert that nobody, including ministers and MLAs, will be spared if found involved in corruption,” Sonowal told reporters at a press conference on the completion of his government’s one year in office.
“When we came to power, people desired that we weed out corruption at all levels. That’s the reason why in the first cabinet meeting of the government, we decided to uproot the illegal check gates on national highways,” he said.
In the past one year, over a dozen senior government officials, including the chairman of statutory Assam Public Service Commission (APSC), were arrested on corruption charges.
Sonowal highlighted the drive against corruption in APSC and the state’s social welfare department.
“Our government brought to light how money was siphoned off in bogus names of nine lakh children in the social welfare department…Some people suddenly become very rich by indulging in corruption. This creates a class system in the society. So, I believe if corruption can be checked, it can ensure peace, brotherhood and amity among people,” he asserted.
Quoting from a recent report of the Centre for Media Studies, he said the rate of corruption in Assam had gone down from 34 per cent in 2005 to 18 per cent in 2017. He said because of the drive against corruption, the state’s revenue collection had witnessed a growth of 21.6 per cent.
“We don’t want to keep anything in darkness. We want to be transparent. There should be transparency and accountability in all aspects,” he asserted.
After taking oath last year, Sonowal had promised to give a corruption-free, pollution-free and illegal Bangladeshi immigrants-free Assam.
On the issue of the immigrants, he said the Kaziranga National Park had been ridden of the encroachers. He said similar steps would be taken to evict encroachers from the Satras (Vaishnavite monasteries).
“The government is determined to update the NRC (National Register of Citizens). It will publish the NRC draft roll by December 31 this year,” Sonowal said.
He also said that the India-Bangladesh border would be sealed at the earliest.
“Some MLAs had visited areas of the border and took stock of the situation there. I myself went to two sectors of the border. Not just the men in uniform, we also need the support of locals to check infiltration. It is owing to people’s awareness that cattle smuggling and infiltration have dropped,” he said.
He said to make Assam green and pollution-free, the government had planted 1.42 crore trees.
According to Sonowal, the biggest achievement of his government was the construction of 85 Brahmaputra embankments.
“Our plan was to build 98 embankments ahead of the rainy season. Work in 85 of them has been completed. This is our biggest success. We achieved this as we could ensure work culture among employees,” he asserted.
He disclosed that Rs.5,000 each would be given to 7.86 lakh workers in tea estates who had opened bank accounts.
Asked if Assam will part away with its land if prodded by the Centre to fulfill the Naga insurgents’ demand for the creation of a greater Naga homeland, Sonowal said, “The territorial integrity of Assam will be protected. There is no question of compromise”.
The Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) demands the creation of “Greater Nagaland” by carving out the Naga-inhabited areas of Assam besides Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
The NSCN-IM has been in peace mode since 1997 following the signing of its ceasefire agreement with the Centre.