SIVASAGAR, Oct 21 - Former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta while talking to this correspondent here yesterday spoke on wide-ranging issues confronting the people of the state.
On the issue of BJP’s policies, the seasoned politician said that the BJP’s policies will damage regional political culture and the spirit of federalism.
The AGP leader said that the Centre, though not abrogating the 90:10 ratio in economic grant, has been squeezing the state on various pretexts and curtailing grants on many counts.
On retrenchments and slump in the industrial sector, Mahanta said that it will need extra effort to veer the economy towards good health.
Already, 6 crore workers have lost employment due to the economic slump, and probably more are in the line, if the devastating trend is not reversed.
As for privatisation, there is no reason at all why the profit-making NRL should be privatised at the moment, he added.
Known for his individual opposition on a number of issues in regard to his party and the BJP’s stand, Mahanta said that a strong lobby is at work behind Hindi expansionism that wants to capture the employment opportunities in the state for candidates from Bihar, UP and Bengal to the detriment of interests of local youths.
He added that there is no dearth of talent or skill, but our youths have been deprived conspiratorially. During the period when AGP was in power, Dr Bhabendranath Saikia as chairmen of the Board of Recruitment for NF Railway made special effort in giving more opportunities to local youths. But the present government does not appear to be interested in such matters at all.
On the issue of violence in the tea estates, Mahanta said that there are forces that work overtime in fomenting trouble in tea gardens, like some Marxists elements. Those forces persistently spread fabricated messages that the labourers and workers have been deprived of their dues despite big profits earned by the tea lobby.
Regarding slump in the tea sector, Mahanta said that the Tea Board is responsible for that as it has consistently failed in maintaining a standard for Indian tea.
The gardens, now owned mostly by the business community in Assam, stresses on volume of production for more profit, with old leaves. Buyers often refuse the same as taste, flavour and aroma matter most among the consumers. The government has not done enough to safeguard the small tea growers in the state, he added.
On alleged Christian aggression in Brahmaputra river island Majuli, the former Chief Minister said as a citizen of a secular country he believed in peaceful coexistence of different faiths.
Asked whether an AGP-led alternative forum against the BJP is in the offing, the former Chief Minister said that talk of an anti-BJP alliance led by the AGP with support of the Congress, BPF and AIUDF is baseless and not viable at the moment.