Ex-militants to cultivate rubber in Assam

"If the ultras can be engaged in fighting poaching in wildlife sanctuaries and policing, they can be involved in agricultural activity as well," Assam's Irrigation Minister Ardhendu Dey said.

Assam is not the first state in the country to experiment with the plan to engage former militants in fruitful activity.

Its tiny neighbour Tripura has already shown the way by becoming the largest producer of rubber in the country after Kerala by successfully implementing a plan to involve former militants in rubber cultivation.

"We want to take a leaf out of Tripura's book," Dey said.

With the current annual production of rubber being a mere 1,080 kg per hectare, as many as 50,000 acres would be brought under fresh cultivation over the next five years, the minister said.

The irrigation department for the purpose has identified land mostly in Lower Assam where the climate is more suitable for rubber production.

"Demand for rubber is growing day by day and it is expected that in the next 20 to 25 years there will be international and domestic shortage of rubber," Dey noted.

The department has also urged the Centre to enhance subsidy in the 12th plan so that more funds could be generated.

The minister said September 22 would be observed as 'Rubber Day' in the state and to mark the occasion more than one lakh rubber saplings would be planted covering an area of 200 hectares.

"This can very well draw the attention of Guinness Book of World Records," Dey said.

The districts to be covered under the scheme are Kamrup (rural and metro), Goalpara, Dhubri, Morigaon, Nagaon and Golaghat.

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