April 9, 2007
Lepetkata, Dibrugarh

PM lays the Foundation Stone of the Assam gas cracker project

"I am always happy to be here in my adopted home state of Assam! My heart fills with joy and pride each time I come to Assam and see the faces of hope. It gives me even greater pleasure when I come here to associate myself with a development project of profound importance. I came to this area of Assam over a year ago to lay the foundation stone of an important coal mining project at Ledo in Tinsukia. I am now particularly happy to be here today to lay the foundation of the Assam Gas Cracker Project.

Two decades ago, under the dynamic leadership of our beloved leader, late Shri Rajiv Gandhiji, the Assam Accord was signed. The accord brought peace to this troubled state. Rajiv Gandhiji was deeply and sincerely committed to the welfare and progress of the people of Assam. He wanted modern industry to come to Assam. He wanted Assam to be part of the mainstream of national development. Setting up projects like this was, therefore, very much a part of Rajiv Gandhi's dream for the future of Assam and for the people of Assam.

The Assam Accord conceived, among other things, important initiatives for the rapid development of Assam. The Assam Gas Cracker Project is yet another manifestation of this promise of Rajivji, of our historic accord with Assam and its people. Projects like these bring new opportunities for the development of Assam. I hope they help usher in an era of peace and prosperity.

It is unfortunate that it has taken more than 15 years to deliver on the promise of this project. It was first conceived in 1991. Successive Governments, at the Centre and in the State, tried to deliver on this promise. I am therefore doubly happy today, that at long last, our Government, is today beginning work on this project. This is a result of the hard work, effort and unshakeable commitment of my colleagues and friends Shri Murli Deoria ji, Shri Ram Vilas Paswanji, and Chief Minister Tarun Gogoiji. I am happy to see the days and years of uncertainty coming to an end. This is a truly historic day in Assam's development calendar. It demonstrates the commitment of the UPA Government and Smt. Sonia Gandhiji to the rapid development of Assam and the North East. The happiness and welfare of the people here is of topmost priority for Smt Sonia Gandhi whose love and affection for this region is boundless.

In Hindi we say, "der aaye, durust aaye" - when one begins late, one must make haste. I suggest that all those associated with the implementation of this project must adopt this as their watchword. Having taken so much time to start work on the project, we must place it on a super fast-track! It must be implemented in the shortest possible time so that the people of Assam and the North-East are able to secure the benefits of this project sooner than later.

I have been informed that the total investment on this project will be over Rs. 5,460 crores. The project is to be completed within five years. I suggest that a calendar be drawn up with a specific time-table of activity. Every stage of the construction process should be identified and the time-table should be adhered to strictly. It would boost the morale of all our people if we can actually show them that we too in Assam can deliver on time-bound schedules. In fact, our objective should be to complete the project in less than five years.

I am told that once commissioned, this project would generate over 600 jobs in the factory itself. There will be other indirect employment generation as well. There will be new downstream business opportunities in plastics, in ancillary industries and in engineering and service sector industries. All of this will have direct and indirect employment generation potential. According to estimates, over one lakh new jobs will be created as a result of the direct and indirect employment potential of this project. This will contribute to the overall economic development of Assam and the region around. This will provide productive employment opportunities to a large number of youth of Assam.

Based on the polymers produced by this plant, a large number of processing plants could be set up in Assam and in the North-East which would not only generate employment for locals but also make available a wide range of plastic products. I am told that plastic consumption in Assam is only 1 kg. per person, much below the national average of 4.5 kg. This is mainly due to the shortage of raw material and other related constraints. Hence, as the Assam Gas Cracker and the related industries come on line, we expect consumption of plastic products in the region to increase very shortly. We expect substantial investments in setting up of over 500 downstream plastic processing plants in nearby areas.

The rapid development and growth of Assam and all states of the entire North Eastern region is a matter of topmost priority for the UPA government. We are investing a lot in improving the education and health facilities in the region. In addition, we have recently approved the new North East Industrial Policy which is now in force from 2007 onwards. Under this policy, we have greatly expanded the facilities and incentives available for new investments in Assam and other States of the North east. Industries can be set up anywhere in Assam or in the North Eastern region and the capital investment subsidy has been raised to 30% with automatic approval till Rs 1.5 crores. It also covers new areas of activity such as hotels and hospitals. I am confident that this new policy will lead to an investment and industrial boom in Assam, leading to a rapid rise in employment opportunities for the youth of Assam.

I am aware of a major problem of this area which is the erosion caused by the Brahmaputra. I visited Rohmoria last year to see for myself the erosion there. Since then, Brahmaputra Board has undertaken a project at Dholla - Hatikhuli to prevent erosion. Once this is completed, Rohmoria will be taken up.

The UPA government is also working for the revival of tea estates. My colleague Shri Jairam Ramesh has been touring extensively and he has formulated a detailed package for this vital, labour intensive industry. Assam too will benefit from this.

India is today on the march. I expect industrial development to once again set the pace of national economic growth. We need industrial employment which alone can generate employment for our youth, for unskilled labour migrating from rural to urban areas.

Like the rest of India, the north-eastern region also needs new industrial development opportunities. The Assam Gas Cracker Project is one such new opportunity. It would usher in an era of economic growth, progress, peace and prosperity for people of the region and the country. On this happy occasion, I would like to congratulate all those who have contributed towards making this project see the light of the day. I would like to congratulate the state government without whose support the project would not have taken off.

My best wishes to people of Assam on this occasion and for the coming Bihu Festival for their happiness and prosperity. I wish Assam a new era of peace. I urge every patriotic son and daughter of Assam to work with dedication for the development of the people of Assam."