Assam eyes former militants as job creators

Assam eyes former militants as job creators

Militant scheme

Eight years ago, Jadumoni Neog, a member of the militant group Ulfa, wielded sophisticated weapons in the jungles of Myanmar, ready to carry out attacks in his home state Assam.

Neog, however, is a changed man now. After giving up arms to start afresh, he completed a course to become a mobile phone technician and has even taken a loan of Rs. one lakh in order to start a business venture in his home town Darrang.

Like Neog, 506 former militants who gave up arms, were on Thursday provided loans by the state government to start small businesses.

The loans were provided under Swavalamban, a self-employment scheme to rehabilitate former militants and turn them into entrepreneurs. So far, a total of 1,800 former militants have been provided training in poultry farming, fishery, incense stick making, mobile phone repairing, pharmacy and many other sectors.

“There was a time when business groups were scared to come to Assam due to militancy and agitation. Things have changed and... you can be part of that journey,” Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said while giving away the loans.

Those who have been provided the training belonged to militant groups such as Ulfa, National Democratic Front of Bodoland, Kamtapur Liberation Organisation, Karbi Longri National Liberation Front, Adivasi Cobra Military of Assam and others. Ulfa general secretary Anup Chetia and vice-president Pradip Gogoi also attended the programme. Both were arrested in neighbouring Bangladesh and handed over to India in 2010. Under an existing rehabilitation scheme of the Union Home Ministry, a “hardcore militant” who lays down arms is provided Rs 6,000 a month for three years and Rs 4 lakh as one-time assistance.

“The panchayat and rural development department will constantly mentor and assist them, be it in getting loans, better training or market linkage,” said a state government official.