Assam Govt Likely to Launch Major River Livelihood Scheme | Assam News

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Assam Govt Likely to Launch Major River Livelihood Scheme Under ‘Jibondinga’ Ahead of Assembly Polls

Trishna Das | February 23, 2021 11:13 hrs

Assam is blessed with the ever-flowing mighty Brahmaputra River, which is a source of income to many. The possibilities around the only male river in India seems to be limitless for sustaining livelihood by growing employability and opening new opportunities for generation of income. For several years, people have been doing without the basic water transportation facilities in Brahmaputra and Barak Valleys. 

While there are many operational ferries for people choosing to travel over the waterways, there are no passenger ferry terminals or sanitisation on the banks of the river where boats are docked. The government of Assam, through its Inland Water Transport Department (IWTD), is all set to launch a project and some major schemes to develop transportation services and infrastructure in the Brahmaputra and Barak Valleys.


It has been learnt that the government of Assam is working on launching its new livelihood project called ‘Jibondinga’ which is set to be beneficial for the country boat owners and women entrepreneurs. This scheme will be implemented by the Director, IWT, Assam, in coordination with Assam IWDT Society, which has been set up by the World Bank, the funding partner of Assam government. The ‘Jibondinga’ scheme under ‘Inland WaterProject’ for bettering the livelihood of people living near the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers is said tocost Rs. 110 crores, which is going to be funded by the World Bank in instalments.


‘Jibondinga’ is likely to provide safe, secure and sustainable river transport system in the state and encourage the country boat owners to register their boats and avail the benefits for improvement of their livelihoods.


Who is eligible for the scheme?


All country boats registered with the Directorate of Inland Water Transport under the Government of Assam. Newly registered boats within a year of launching of the Jibondinga scheme, existing mechanised country boats of not less than 10 metres of minimum length, boats less than 10 years old and in good fettle.


What are the Benefits under ‘Jibondinga’?


Primarily, country boat owners will get 70% subsidy from the government of Assam against cost of retrofitting/replacement of previous engines by new Marine Engines. 5% and 10% additional subsidy for women entrepreneurs and women self-help groups will be given under this scheme. Capacity building of boat operators and boat builders will be enhanced by experts. Marine engines will be installed in place of existing water pumps/automobile engines. Improved safety standards by providing safety equipment (viz life jackets, life boats, life buoys) free of cost will be commissioned under Jibondinga. Also, firefighting equipment and GPS instrument, free of cost, will be provided to all eligible boat owners.


Other benefits under the scheme will cover insurance for the boats and passengers for a period of 3 years, extended warranty on marine engines for 2 years, purchase and fitting of marine engines at an affordable price for the boats, distributors/suppliers of marine engines for after-sales service and spares, as and when required will also be made available locally under the scheme, according to reports. Training will be provided to boat owners/operators on operation and maintenance of marine engines and other equipment.


Inland Water Project 


Assam has more than 1950 km of navigable waterways of which the most important for transport purposes are Brahmaputra and Barak rivers. Directorate of Inland and Water Transport Assam (DIWTA) is responsible for developing, maintaining, and regulating IWT services in the state of Assam which also, includes passenger transport services, ferry terminals, landside activities and navigational aids.This development framework for transportation has been strategized with an aim to transform the quality of IWT services and integrate high quality passenger and vehicle ferry services and inland freight into Assam's wider transport network system.


World Bank has set up a monitoring wing, Assam Inland Water Transport Development Society (AIWTDS) to support and help the government of Assam in the preparation and implementation of the Assam Inland water transport project including the government scheme ‘Jibondinga’. Assam government had proposed a funding of Rs. 1000 crores to the World Bank, which finally approved Rs 700 crores in 80/20 ratio for the whole project.


Directorate of Inland Water Transport, Assam has designated 106 ferry routes on the Brahmaputra River and these ferry services are considered to be the lifelines for lakhs of people in the state mainly for the rural population inhabiting the banks of the river. Under this project, the three major ghats on the banks of Brahmaputra River being North Guwahati, South Guwahati and ‘Aphalamukh ghat’ are said to have state-of-the-art passenger ferry terminals, which have been proposed to be set up at other major transportation ghats. “The government is likely to construct bathrooms, toilets, food stalls, and develop infrastructure for women entrepreneurs and self-help groups for displaying their products at the terminals. As of now, there is no cargo facility, but the government may provide in future,” said an employee at the Directorate of Inland Water Transport, Assam.


Project Highlights 


1. State-of-the-art terminal development
2. New vessels procurement
3. Vessel retro-fitting
4. Navigational aids
5. Incentive schemes for country boats under Jibondinga
6. Capacity development of AIWTDS


Moreover, the government is planning to launch the ‘Jibondinga’ scheme ahead of the Assam Assembly polls due in April-May this year. The Inland Water Project may be the masterstroke of the government in the upcoming elections. Not only this, the government of Assam is also planning on implementing more projects. Speaking of the mighty Brahmaputra River and the scope for its development, CM Sarbananda Sonowal recently said, “Brahmaputra is our civilization, our culture, our economy and it is our identity. With these thoughts in mind, we need to go forward with our vision for the Brahmaputra.” The Brahmaputra Aamantran Abhiyan is another sustainable and livelihood initiative, which is a mixture of science and adventure sports, to propagate sustainable living practices within the Brahmaputra region. At present, there is only one government-run water cruise on Brahmaputra.

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