Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday outlined the NDA government’s focus areas and vision for the development of North-East states. “The government has been focusing on the development of the North East region through its pro-active 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,” Modi said.
Addressing the Plenary Session of the North-Eastern Council, PM Modi said, “The North East is the gateway to South East Asia and we need to take advantage of this. We are opening up both road and rail routes to our neighbouring countries. This should give a boost to the economic development of the region.”
We take a look at 10 key areas that PM Modi outlined for the development of North-East:
1) Highways: We have created a specialised highways construction agency for the North East – the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation – that was incorporated on 18th July 2014. Since then it has set up its branch offices, one each in every North Eastern State. As of today, it is implementing 34 projects in the North Eastern States covering a length of 1001 kilometres at a total cost of over Rs 10,000 crore.
2) Railways: Railways have undertaken a major expansion in the region at a cost of around Rs 10,000 crore. In November 2014, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya were put up on the rail map. Agartala in Tripura has also been connected with broad gauge line. We are on the way to ensure that all the North East states come on the rail map soon.
In the North East, the Indian Railways has commissioned about 900 kilometres of Broad Gauge in the last two years, leaving only about 50 kilometres Meter Gauge lines to be converted in 2016-17. In addition, a 132 kilometre part of third alternative connectivity route to North East (that is New Maynaguri – Jogighopa) has also been commissioned.
3) Power: The government is also making a heavy investment in power transmission projects covering all the eight North Eastern states at a cost of around Rs 10,000 crore. This would ensure power to more areas. The recent commissioning of Bishwanath-Chariyali-Agra transmission line has also brought 500 MegaWatt additional capacity to the region.
4) Internet: We have recently implemented an improved internet connectivity project for the North East region in collaboration with Bangladesh. This will make available 10 GB of seamless alternate bandwidth for the region. This integration will benefit the North East region tremendously.
5) BPOs: The majority of youth of the North East region is English speaking. With improved connectivity and language skills, you may look into setting up of the BPO industry in the region.
The Government has approved North East BPO promotion scheme in the Digital India programme for creation of employment opportunities. The North East States must avail facilities and get these BPOs operationalized in their respective States. This will promote growth and provide jobs to our youth.
6) Organic food: The North East is home to exotic fruits, flowers, vegetables, aromatic plants, and herbs. Most of them are organic in origin. If we focus our development strategy on organic farming, it would help the region greatly. The North East can become the organic food basket for this country.
7) Assistance: In the current Budget, more than Rs 30,000 crore have been earmarked for the North East region. It should be our endeavour to ensure that this money is spent well for the development of the region.
States that are not so strong, need to be given needful assistance. It is in this regard that based on the report of the Committee of Chief Ministers, we have decided to continue to provide assistance in the ratio of 90:10 for core Central schemes and 80:20 for non-core schemes to the North Eastern States.
8) Timely implementation of projects for job creation: In the recent past, we have established two important projects in Assam – Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited and Numaligarh Refinery Limited’s wax unit. These are big projects that would create huge employment opportunities in the North East region. However, it has taken us many years to complete these projects.
We have to ensure that we are able to complete our projects in time and without cost over-runs. Only then can we realise the true benefits of these projects.
9) Tourism: The Ministry of Tourism has identified a thematic circuit for the North East region. I hope that the North Eastern states will make the best use of the scheme to develop tourist circuits and attract tourists from all over the world. The region can also look into combining a few popular destinations of the neighbouring countries with their tourism circuits. This will be an added attraction for tourists.
10) Developing rural areas: There is a large rural population in the North East region. If we talk of Assam alone, 86% of the population lives in rural areas. We have initiated the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Mission to bring in economic, social and basic development of the rural areas in a cluster model. It should be the endeavour of the region’s states to make use of this mission for the development of the rural areas.