OUR BUREAU & IANS
Shillong, May 27: Prime Minister rendra Modi on Friday asserted that the Central government is making sincere efforts to ensure the development of the Northeastern region.
“India will grow when all its regions grow together. I see no reason why the Northeast can’t be developed,” Modi said, speaking at the iuguration of the 65th Plery Session of the North East Council (NEC) in Shillong, attended by Governors and Chief Ministers and Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Minister Jitendra Singh.
The first Prime Minister in the last two decades to attend the NEC plery meeting, Modi said: “Northeast is our gateway to Southeast Asia. We want to particularly improve connectivity, infrastructure and tourism.” In this context, he spoke of his government’s focus on the Northeast keeping in mind its strategic importance, as manifested in its ‘Act East’ policy.
“As part of this policy, we are focusing on reducing the isolation of the region by improving all round connectivity through road, rail, telecom, power and waterways sectors,” he said.
“Aruchal Pradesh and galand have been connected with rail link,” Modi said, counting the development measures taken by his government for development of the region. He said these measures have enhanced tourism in the Northeast, and upgraded the opportunities for mountaineering and adventure tourism.
The North Eastern Council (NEC) is the nodal agency for channelizing the funds for economic and social development of the eight states in the region.
Calling on the NEC to re-orient itself for the region’s overall development, the PM said: “To meet the growing aspirations of the people, it is important that the NEC introspects and assesses the extent to which it has been able to achieve its objectives. There is a need to re-orient and upgrade the NEC. You may like to consider developing the NEC as a state-of-the-art resource centre for the Northeastern states with the necessary resources, knowledge and skills.”
Such a centre may eble the states to properly plan and execute projects, promote research and innovations and provide strategic policy vision for the region, he added.
He further asked the NEC to look into developing specialized domain expertise either by itself or through an agency model to assist in development planning as well as to focus on issues in areas of livelihood, entrepreneurship, venture funds, start-ups and skill development which will help in job generation.
The Central government earmarked more than Rs.30,000 crore for the region and it should be ensured that this is “spent well”, he said, adding that his government has decided to continue to provide 90 percent funding for core central schemes and 80 percent for non-core schemes in the region.
Citing a “number of strengths” which must “be harnessed for healthy growth”, Modi said all these states “are blessed with tural scenic beauty, distinct historical, cultural and ethnic heritage” which offers tremendous scope for tourism, including mountaineering, trekking and adventure tourism.
“If developed and promoted well, this can emerge as the biggest employer in the region. It can also add to the growth and income of the region,” he said, adding the region can also look into combining a few popular destitions of neighboring countries with their own tourism circuits as added attraction for tourists.
The PM said a specialized highways construction agency - the tiol Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation - has been set up for the Northeast and was implementing 34 projects covering a length of 1,001 Km at a total cost of over Rs.10,000 crore.
He also said that the Indian Railways has commissioned about 900 km of broad gauge in the last two years, leaving only about 50 km meter gauge lines to be converted in 2016-17, while a a 132 km part of third altertive connectivity route - New Mayguri-Jogighopa - has also been commissioned.
“The railways have undertaken a major expansion in the region at a cost of around Rs.10,000 crore. In November 2014, Aruchal Pradesh and Meghalaya were put up on the rail map. Agartala has also been connected with broad gauge line. We are on the way to ensure that all the northeast states come on the rail map soon,” he said.
Modi said the government has implemented an improved internet connectivity project for the region in collaboration with Bangladesh which will make available 10 GB of seamless alterte bandwidth for the region.
The government was also making a heavy investment in power transmission projects covering all the eight states at a cost of around Rs.10,000 crore to ensure power to more areas, he added.
Informing that a Northeast BPO promotion scheme has been approved in the Digital India programme, Modi urged the states to avail the facility.
“The majority of youth of the Northeast region is English-speaking. With improved connectivity and language skills, you may look into setting up of the BPO industry in the region,” he said.
Modi also asserted the importance of skill development to boost employment opportunities in the region. “The government is committed to the development in the Northeast region, the Self Help Groups (SHG), particularly the women SHGs. Keeping this in mind, the government has also approved a special package for the Northeast,” he said.
He said he wanted to see the Northeast shine in the organic farming sector, as the region is home to exotic fruits, flowers, vegetables, aromatic plants, and herbs. “I am particularly keen to see the northeast shine in the organic farming sector. Northeast can become the organic food basket of India,” said Modi, asking NE chief ministers to take a lead from Sikkim.
The PM said Agartala, the capital of Tripura, has become the third intertiol location to be connected to Cox Bazar of Bangladesh, which would further aid the social and ecomomic empowerment of the Northeastern region.
Modi laid the foundation stone of a football stadium which is being constructed in Shillong at a cost of Rs.38 crore. “Foundation stone of a football stadium has been laid. This region has a great talent in sports, particularly football. Football is a passion here and it is played in each and every nook and corner of the state and the region,” said Modi.