Spiralling prices are a challenge for the central government but it is trying its best to avoid burdening the masses, United Progress Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi said in Guwahati on Friday.
"Inflation and growing price rise are a matter of concern for the government. We had to increase prices of petrol and diesel due to surging global oil prices although we are trying to keep the prices low by asking our Congress-ruled states to give subsidies," Gandhi told a massive farmers' rally in Guwahati.
Gandhi, who landed in Guwahati in the morning for the first leg of her two-day northeast visit, focussed on local issues and said the UPA government was committed to implementing the Assam Accord signed in 1985 between the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) and late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
"It was Rajiv Gandhi who initiated a dialogue with the AASU and signed the historic Assam Accord for bringing peace to Assam. The UPA government is going to implement the accord in its totality and take all possible measures to fulfil commitments like setting up of the Gas Cracker project, emphasis on higher education, and looking after the Numaligarh Refinery," she said.
The statement assumes significance in view of repeated protests by AASU that accuse the centre of failing to implement vital clauses of the Assam Accord. Gandhi, who is also president of the Congress, said the central government was committed to improving the condition of the country's beleaguered tea industry.
The government, she said, had sanctioned Rs.6 billion for the development of the tea industry and this would go a long way in reviving the tea sector which was now under strain.
With minorities in Assam accounting for about 30 percent of the state's 26 million people, the UPA chief said adequate emphasis was laid on the overall welfare of the minorities in the state.
"For the first time in history, the UPA government has set up a separate ministry for the welfare of the minorities and this would go a long way in taking care of their needs," Gandhi said.
She said farmers were the backbone of the country with agriculture the key to India's economic growth.
"The UPA government has all along paid special interest to the welfare of the farmers and hence our government's decision to waive bank loans for farmers to the tune of Rs.700 billion," Gandhi said.
"What did the BJP do for the welfare of the farmers. They did nothing."
Gandhi is scheduled to present the prestigious Srimanta Sankardeva National Award to noted journalist B.G. Verghese and Kesabananda Deva Goswami, an exponent of Assamese Satriya culture, at a function in Guwahati on last Friday.
She is expected to address a closed door meeting of party workers on Friday night. On Saturday, she leaves for Mizoram.