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#NamamiBarak: Kickstarting Assam's growth engine

#NamamiBarak: Kickstarting Assam’s growth engine

After organizing Namami Brahmaputra festival earlier this year, Assam Government left no stone unturned in the celebration of Namami Barak festival with similar grandeur. The festival held from November 18-20, was graced by President Ramnath Kovind.

River Barak is one of major rivers of South Assam. The 564 kilometres long river is part of Surma-Meghna River System. It rises in the hill country of Manipur where it is biggest and most important of hill country rivers. After Manipur, it flows through Mizoram and Assam. It later enters Bangladesh where it forks into Surma and Kushiyara rivers. The sixth national waterway stretch is on this river.

The event was organised at 3 locations in Barak Valley also known as “Southern Assam”. Silchar was the main event area while other two locations were Hailakandi and Karimganj district.

The 3-day river festival aimed to pay tribute to River Barak and showcase Barak’s potential & possibilities to emerge as a hub of trade and commerce. The festival showcased cultural heritage of the valley together with its cuisine, fauna and flora, socio-economic and civic splendor before a global audience. The Namami Barak festival was celebrated as a kickstart to progress and development of the Barak Valley. These river festivals, are attempts by the state government to highlight the potential of the state as an investment destination.

Thousands of people, especially youth, turned up in massive numbers to celebrate this much-awaited occasion. Aarti was performed at Annapurnaghat here in the evening. Five hundred earthen lamps were floated in Silchar and about 11,111 lamps were floated across the valley on the first day of the festival. Food stalls offered tribal delicacies, including Mizo, Tai-Ahom, Gorkha, Manipuri and Khasi. They also served multifarious traditional cuisine, much to the delight of food enthusiasts. Also, rush of people was witnessed at the fish festival, which featured local produce. Selfies and groupfies were the orders of the festival as youngsters were seen capturing the candid moments.

Many of us dont know that the first polo club in the world was established in Silchar by Joseph Sherer, a lieutenant in the Indian army who was posted in Assam’s Cachar in the 19th century, but the sport is no more played in this part of Assam now. As if to commemorate this history, the second day of the Namami Barak festival on Sunday afternoon saw a polo match at the Gandhi Mela ground between teams from Barak and Sangai. Barak, the home team, defeated Sangai 6-4. The four-a-side 30-minute match, which was organized by the All Manipur Polo Association, drew huge crowds and generated considerable excitement. We invited players from Manipur, which is known as the home of polo and where the sport is popular among the locals even now, said a festival official.

The extravagant celebration has striven to narrow the psychological distance between the people of Barak and the Brahmaputra valley.

One of the major attractions of the festival was a seminar on rivers which was attended by river experts from Singapore, Vietnam and England.

Assam has around 10 per cent of the country’s water resources. But the previous governments never took any initiative to utilise this.

This festival shows that the state government has a prudent vision to develop inland water transport, as part of which it has come up with the initiative of river festivals. Namami Brahmaputra and Namami Barak are not just festivals, but an endeavour to promote/highlight the true potential of the state by the government and thereby attract investors from all across the world.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal inaugurated the Namami Barak festival and announced the construction of three new bridges over the river barak and a helipad in the region to boost connectivity. “Namami Barak would boost our commitment to develop the economy of the state and motivate us to engage with renewed vigour to take Assam into high growth trajectory,” said the Chief Minister, while adding that Barak Valley had been neglected for long and people have lots of anguish and disappointments. Claiming that Namami Barak is an effort to ensure that the people of Barak Valley can move forward in equal footing with the rest of the state, Sonowal stated that just like Namami Brahmaputra was inaugurated by then President Pranab Mukherjee, Namami Barak is also fortunate to have President Ram Nath Kovind’s participation.

He also said that those forces inimical to state’s peace and development must be defeated by the people living across the plains and hills, Barak and Brahmaputra Valley of the state, by staying united.
He also urged the people to strive for building a society based on equality and harmony as envisioned by Swami Vivekananda. He said that Panchgram Paper Mill, which has a key role in the region’s economy, would also be revived be within the next six months.

The Central Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is giving lot of importance to develop Barak valley along with the whole of northeast. The Railway ministry has introduced many new trains from Barak Valley and a new train connecting Silchar-Dibrugarh-Trivandrum has been flagged off. Moreover, direct air connectivity between Dibrugarh and Silchar has also started.

The director of Inland Water Transport of India, Guwahati, A.K. Bansal, said that inland water transport had been neglected after road and railway transport came into effect.
These festivals show that the scenario is changing now and water transport is getting importance because of its eco-friendly/non-polluting aspects.

Namami Barak is not only a festival but it is a new journey to explore these parts of Assam. The festival is being organised to revive humanistic values, to discover resources and possibilities of the land.


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