The Centre is planning to improve connectivity with the eight North-East states, because the present government has set targets to bring all the eight states on the railway and air connectivity map of the country by 2022, said Union home minister Amit Shah while addressing the opening session of the 68th Plenary of the North-Eastern Council in Guwahati.
Shah began his address by paying tribute to Bharat Ratna Late Bhupen Hazarika. He said the day was important because it was the birth anniversary of the late Bhupen Hazarika, who had introduced the entire North-East to the world through his art and music. The growth of the North-East in the past five years had been much more compared with that in the 67 years since Independence. The development process that was started in 2014 was expected to be accomplished in 2022.
While targeting development in the North-East, the Centre had increased its budgetary allocation for the North-Eastern Council. The budget of the NEC had been increased 1.5 times from Rs3,376 crore (13th Finance Commission) to Rs5,053 crore (14th Finance Commission). While listing some of the development schemes, he said that, of the projected 558 ventures, 352 had been completed, construction of 997 km roads was over, 2,480 km transmission lines had been laid, the APJ Abdul Kalam Centre for Policy and Research had been set up, the Bogibeel Bridge had been completed and Rs1,400 crore under the North-East Road Sector Development scheme under DoNER had been sanctioned.
Speaking on the Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement, Shah said the landmark decision would enable the re-establishment of links between Kolkata and Dhaka ports. With the opening of trade through this route — considering the huge natural resources of the North-East — this region could once again become a leading contributor of the country’s GDP.
Calling the eight North-Eastern states ‘Astalakshmi’, Shah announced that the North-East Council would earmark 30% of its funds for focused priority areas and deprived sections of society in the North-East. He said every state would identify villages or regions that were backward on various indicators and would work to bring those regions at par with the rest of the country.
The minister said the North-Eastern Council had been the nodal agency since 1971 for planning and implementation of the economic and social development of the northeastern region and, in 2022, the NEC would be completing 50 years, while India will be completing 75 years of Independence. It was time that the NEC worked on preparing the road map to ascertain the progress that the North-East would achieve by 2022, he added. He advised that targets to ascertain the law and order situation in the North-East be set by 2022 and also the targets to enrich the culture, traditions and languages of the region.
He said the North-East, as a region, prior to Independence, had been the greatest contributor of GDP for the nation and, today, we should intensify efforts and set targets to bring back those glorious days. He also said that the NEC should focus on afforestation, development of organic farming and measures to revive lost languages and resolve inter-state disputes between northeastern states.
Shah concluded his address with an appeal to all the states to invest more in the Bamboo Mission and added that, if it was developed to its full potential, it could restrict Rs1 lakh crore in imports.
Union minister of state (independent charge), ministry of development of the North-Eastern Region, and minister of state for the Prime Minister’s Office, ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions, department of atomic energy and department of space, Dr Jitendra Singh, reiterated the government’s commitment towards the development of the North-East and said the North-Eastern Council had been given its highest budgetary allotment of Rs1,476 crore for FY 2019-’20.
Dr Singh said that one of the major achievements of the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the past five years had been that students from the North-East had been provided cost-effective facilities, such as hostels, in various parts of the country. He said a North-East Hostel for Girl Students had been set up on the Bangalore University campus. Similarly, an exclusive North-East Hostel was under construction on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus, where a large number of youths are pursuing higher studies. A similar hostel would come up at Rohini for North-East students studying in Delhi University, he added.
The NEC Plenary meeting was attended by the Governors, chief ministers and MPs, besides senior officers of the eight northeastern states and the Union ministry of DoNER.