April 8, 2007
Guwahati, Assam

PM lays Foundation Stone for 2nd Bridge over Brahmaputra

"It gives me immense happiness to be here on this auspicious day. We are in the presence of a mighty and sacred river, the River Brahmaputra. This river is the lifeline of the people of Assam. This new bridge over Brahmaputra will serve the people of Assam as well as the States of Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. It will provide a new path towards progress and prosperity.

The people of Assam and the North Eastern region have a special place in our hearts and minds. The UPA Government is committed to the rapid development of this region. The government of Shri Tarun Gogoi has been working tirelessly for the last six years to push this state forward in its race to catch up with the rest of the country.

The second bridge over the Brahmaputra river is part of the East-West corridor, which would connect the North East Region with the rest of the country. At the same time, a high speed highway from Silchar to Srirampur is being constructed in Assam at an investment of Rs 6000 crores.

I want this project completed as scheduled by December 2008. It will reduce the overall travel time and distance between the North East region and rest of India.

Our Government is also committed to improving the road connectivity between the North Eastern states as well. The Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for the North East will construct new roads and help improve existing roads. It will connect state capitals, district headquarters and remote areas. In the first phase, we will be covering 1310 km of roads by investing Rs 4618 crore.

As I have said so often, our country needs world class roads and bridges. Roads are the arteries of an economy. If we can ensure easy connectivity between different regions, between villages and towns, between farms and markets, we can spread prosperity. We have set for ourselves a growth target of 9% to 10% over the next decade. We have achieved a growth rate of about 9% in the last two years and I am confident that in the near future, our economy has the potential of achieving a growth rate in excess of 10%. The other task we need to address is to ensure that the fruits of this extremely rapid development is evenly spread among all regions and among all sections of society. For this, we need to work very hard and improve the condition of our agriculture. We need to work hard to increase the employment in industry. We need to work hard to ensure that our youth get more jobs and our farmers get higher incomes.

This is especially true for the North-Eastern region. The agriculture in the state has to improve a great deal. It needs to have more irrigation. It needs to achieve greater productivity. The North East, and particularly Assam, also needs more industries. The people of Assam are hardworking and skilful. However, lack of industries has affected growth of employment opportunities. And poor connectivity has in itself been a cause of poor industrialization. Bridges and highways are the best way to bridge the connectivity gap and enable rapid industrialization of Assam.

What is true for Assam is true for the rest of India as well. We need greater investment in roads, ports, telecommunication, airports, railways and power. India has one of the largest road networks in the world and our Government has given highest priority to the development of better quality National Highways and construction of rural roads. We have launched Bharat Nirman under which we are investing in rural roads, telephones, safe drinking water and electricity in every village. Improved road connectivity will help in taking your agricultural produce to markets and create new possibilities of employment, and reduce poverty. With this objective in view, UPA Government is investing thousands of crores of Rupees in road construction.

We are planning to implement an ambitious programme of Rs 2,20,000 crores till 2012 for improving the National Highway network. Several stretches will be improved to 4-lane or 6-lane width across the country. Most of these works will be taken up on a Public Private Partnership basis. I am happy to learn that the National Highways Authority of India has awarded contracts for four laning of 600 kms of National Highways in Assam. This is the highest rate of road development in this region since the start of National Highways Development Programme.

I am indeed happy that Assam has now become a major beneficiary of our road programme. When these road projects are completed they will give a big boost to the industrial and agricultural sectors, to tourism and other service sectors in this region.

The development of Assam and the North-east is a matter of special and personal interest to me. As I have said many times before, the people of Assam, the people of the North-East, have been loyal and longstanding supporters of the Congress Party. From the days of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Smt. Indira Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi, the people of this region have been generous in their affection for our party. That is why our roots here are strong. That is why you have confidence in our commitment to your welfare and progress.

I cherish deeply and sincerely your love and affection for for the Congress party. At a personal level, I have been blessed by your generous hospitality and the assurance of your affection and support. It is because of this that I have been able to contribute in my own little way to the welfare and well-being of our people. I thank you once again for the confidence you have consistently reposed in me. I do hope I have been able to come up to your expectations.

Projects like this bridge across the mighty Brahmaputra are tokens of our gratitude to the people of Assam and the North-east. I am sure these development projects will transform your lives and the economy of the region.

I offer my best wishes to the people of Assam for the coming Bihu Festival. May the year ahead be one of peace, happiness and prosperity. My best wishes are with you all.

Jai Hind."