Talks with ULFA hold good future: PM

Jorhat: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday asserted that peace talks with the ULFA held a "good future" and downplayed the threats to the Congress issued by the outfit`s Paresh Barua faction ahead of Assam Assembly polls.

"Both the government and the ULFA are committed to take the peace process forward and the process is on to bring other underground outfits of the North East to the negotiating table," Singh said in a brief interaction with journalists at the Circuit House.
 
The Prime Minister said that his meeting with the ULFA leadership, led by its Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa, in New Delhi "had a very good beginning and its future will also be good".

Asked about today`s threat to the Congress by the anti-talk Paresh Barua faction, the Prime Minister said that those who are "now issuing such threats are away from India and are not aware of the ground realities".

"If they have given threats, necessary steps and precautions will be taken by the agencies concerned but I don`t think they will carry it out," he said.

Accusing the Congress of attempting to create a division within the outfit, the Paresh Barua faction has threatened to launch an "armed struggle" and called for a boycott of meetings by party leaders.

The Prime Minister said that ULFA Chairman had assured him that there would be no such incidents or disturbances during the assembly elections due in May.

He said peace had returned to the state and Assam had developed economically due to several flagship schemes initiated by his government.

Referring to the Assam Gas Cracker Project in Upper Assam`s Dibrugarh district, Singh said that it would go a long way in solving the unemployment problem in the state.

On the issue of corruption, the Prime Minister said that it will not be tolerated and action will be definitely taken against those found guilty.

Referring to the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council Funds Diversion Scam, the Prime Minister said action has already been initiated with the National Investigation Agency filing charge sheet against 16 persons.

"There will be no compromise on the issue and the guilty will be punished," he asserted.

Asked about the demand for Scheduled Tribe status by six backward communities, the Prime Minister said that the Panchayati Raj was serving the purpose of safeguarding the traditional aspirations of these people.

"We have provided an additional package of Rs 250 crore to the Bodoland Territorial Council and we will also provide similar packages to the other autonomous councils", he said.

The Prime Minister also highlighted various measures to tackle the problem of erosion in the state. When journalists pointed out that timely survey of work progress was not conducted by the central officers, he said that he would take up the matter with the concerned departments after returning to Delhi.

The Prime Minister said his mind was always in Assam and the North-East and that he was keen to see the region developed and strong.