Talks with ULFA a good beginning: PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday said the recent discussion with the ULFA leadership in New Delhi was a "good beginning" and gave him hope for the future of Assam and the northeast.

Last Updated: Feb 18, 2011, 19:21 PM IST

Guwahati: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Friday said the recent discussion with the ULFA leadership in
New Delhi was a "good beginning" and gave him hope for the
future of Assam and the northeast.

"I was happy to meet representatives of the ULFA
recently in New Delhi. The discussion was a good beginning and
has given me hope for Assam and North East," he said after
presenting the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Memorial awards for 2008
and 2009 at the Pragjyoti ITA auditorium here.

Singh said he firmly believed that dialogue was the
only method for fostering greater understanding and resolving
vexed social, political and economic problems.

The top ULFA leadership, led by chairman Arabinda
Rajkhowa had called on the prime minister on February 14 after
meeting Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and holding the
preliminary round of talks with Union Home Secretary G K
Pillai on February 10.

"Assam has witnessed turbulent times in the recent
past and it is to the credit of the people of the state that
they have been able to successfully combat fissiparous
forces," Singh said.

It goes without saying that peace and harmony are a
pre-requisite for a meaningful development, he noted saying
"I am happy that a number of initiatives have been taken by
both the central and state governments under Tarun Gogoi
towards this end."

He said establishment of territorial/hill councils has
provided a forum to address genuine needs.

"We must, however, help these councils to build
capacities to ensure that they are able to fulfil their
responsibilities in a manner which is responsive, purposeful,
transparent and accountable," Singh said.

According to him, the Indian society has a "glorious
tradition of tolerance and secularism. The country has ever
been ready to accommodate newer ways of thinking and living.

"The liberal outlook that defines our multi-religious
and multi-cultural society needs to be nurtured and
strengthened."

Unveiling the Rs 1600-crore Guwahati Water Supply
Project at the same venue, Singh hoped the project, being
executed with financial assistance from Japan International
Cooperation Agency, would benefit a large segment of the
population of Guwahati.

He stressed on strengthening urban infrastructure
expeditiously as in the next 20 years nearly half the
country`s population would live in urban areas.

Singh said under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal
Mission, the Centre had been supporting substantial
investments towards development of the urban infrastructure
and Guwahati has been selected as one of the mission cities.
A solid waste management had been sanctioned, besides
approval given for purchase of 50 buses for urban
transportation as part of JNURM.

Congratulating the winners of Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed
Memorial awards -- journalist M J Akbar (for 2008) and
Gandhian Hema Bharali (for 2009), he said the awards are given
to those who have contributed significantly towards social
harmony and national integration.

Singh lauded Akbar for his deep understanding of
contemporary events coupled with an incisive analytical
ability that has educated and informed people on several vexed
issues of the country.

Describing Bharali`s life as a selfless service to the
downtrodden, he said the eminent freedom fighter was steeped
in Gandhian philosophy and has been closely associated with
the Bhoodan movement.

The award, instituted by Assam government, comprises a
citation and an amount of Rs two lakh.

PTI