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Editorial Articles


Volume-31, 3-9 November 2018

 

Transforming North-East Through Development Initiatives

Deepak Dewan

The 67th Plenary Session of North Eastern Council (NEC) in Shillong in  July this year gave further boost to the ongoing development activities in the region. This was the first meeting of the North Eastern Council under the Chairmanship of The Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh.  It may be mentioned here that in June, 2018 the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi had approved the proposal for nomination of the Union Home Minister as ex-officio Chairman of the North Eastern Council and also repositioned the Development of North East Region (DoNER) Minister, Dr Jitender Singh, as its Vice-Chairman.

While speaking at the Plenary Session which was attended by the DoNER Minister, Governors, Chief Ministers and senior officers of the eight North Eastern States, Home Minister   Shri Raj Nath Singh said that that the road to "New India "will go through a developed and peaceful "New North East".  He further said that the  " New North East' will emerge with better road connectivity and Information  Technology which will generate employment opportunities for the youth closer to their homes.  Employment and income generation will counter the problems like insurgency in the region. He further stressed on the need to create a safe environment in order to attract investors.

Mizoram, being one of the peaceful States in the region has bagged first foreign collaboration in the field of food processing. A Centre for Agriculture, with collaboration of Israeli expertise was inaugurated in March, 2018 in Mizoram. This is first such Centre in the entire North East Region established with the Israeli collaboration. This Centre is exclusively meant for the processing of citrus fruits. Though located in Mizoram, this Centre is going to cater to the entire region. This Centre will benefit and encourage the farmers in the entire North East region engaged in horticulture.

Centre's quest to develop the North East  Region at par with the rest of India also made Government of India to  constitute   a separate NITI Forum for North East in February 2018 with the aim to ensure sustainable economic growth of the region. The Secretariat for the Forum has been established in the DoNER Ministry and representatives from all North Eastern States, their Chief Secretaries and Secretaries of concerned Central Ministries besides Directors of institutions like IIT and IIM and experts as members. The first meeting of NITI Forum took place in Agartala on April 10, 2018. It was co-chaired by the DoNER Minister and Vice -Chairman, NITI Ayog, Shri Rajeev Kumar. In his address, Shri Rajeev Kumar outlined the focus of development projects based in the concept of " HIRA" ( Highways, Inland Waterways, Railways and Airways) as spelled out by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. He further outlined the areas of emphasis as Education, Health and Skill development, Horticulture, Tourism, Food Processing and use of Bamboo in North East.  All these are to be developed in a time bound manner.

The agenda for the NITI forum also included  strategies for improving Road, Rail and Air Connectivity,  Realizing the Hydle Dream- way forward for utilizing existing potential for hydro-power in the region, Agriculture and allied sectors like Organic farming, cultivation of vegetables, fruits, spices, medicinal plants, soil health cards for farmers, minimizing post harvest losses, increased coverage under crop insurance, boosting milk production, early completion of on-going irrigation projects, promotion of eco-tourism , rural tourism, adventure tourism, strengthening of North East Tourism Development Council (NETDC).

Another major decision taken by the Centre to boost the economy in the region is the amendment of the 90 year old Indian Forest Act of 1927 enacted by the British which defined Bamboo as a

"Tree". The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi  changed the Act thereby doing away the obtaining of permit system to cut bamboo from non forest land for economic activities.  This move has been welcomed by the scores of north easterners who feel that this would open new avenues of jobs and entrepreneurship for non- farmers also. Modi Government yet took another major decision to provide 100% funding by Central Government for projects in the North East Region

which were earlier being taken on the basis of Centre-State sharing in the ratio of 90:10. Most of the North Eastern States depend on the grant from

Centre and were not able to generate their own 10% share.

In another major initiative a Memorandum of Under-standing was signed last year between  the North Eastern Council and Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Ministry of Textiles to harness the hidden potential of Cane and Bamboo of North East region. The MoU provided a push for the integrated and inclusive development of Cane and Bamboo Sector of North East Region by way of skilled manpower, technology dissemination, marketing support and institutional  support required for the holistic development of which can coordinate a mission to mobilize masses and promote Bamboo sector as a whole throughout the country.

The North Eastern Council and the Development Commissioner  (Handicrafts) have taken up the task of promoting Cane and

Bamboo Technology Centre, Assam and the bamboo and Cane Development  Institute, Tripura as the centres of excellence not only in the region or in the country but also in South East Asia.

Some of the major multi-lateral projects which will link North East with the neighbouring countries including South East area are Kaladan Multi-Model Transit Transport Project, the India - Myanmar -Thailand Trilateral Highway Project, Rhi-Tiddim Road project and Tamu - Mandalay Road Project. Similarly the 15.06 kilometer rail line project  between Agartala - Akhaura (Bangladesh) which is part of the Trans-Asian Railway Net-work is under construction. Once completed, the travel time between Kolkata and Agartala will reduce considerably besides providing  economic avenues to the people of Tripura and also to the rest of North East.

As part of the upgradation approximately 4,800 KMs of roads have been sanctioned in the region and almost 30% of the NEC'S budget is dedicated towards improving the transport and communication infrastruc-ture in the North East region.

Under the Bharatmala Pariyojana, 5,301 Kilometers of roads have been approved for improvement, out of which 3,246 kilometers  of roads come under the Economic Corridor in North East project. Nine of the eleven Inter-State Bus Terminus  (ISBT) have been completed.  Three Inter State Truck Terminus, two in Assam and One in Nagaland have been completed and one in Tripura is under construction.

Another major initiative in the region is Shipping and Inland Waterways. Develop-ment of Barak river is taken up in two phases for shipping and navigational purposes. In Phase 1, development of 71 kilometer stretch between Bhanga and Silchar with up gradation of terminals at Karimganj and Badarpur, is taken up. Dredging  work of Barak river began in November 2017 and is still on. In Phase -11, develop-ment of 50 kilometers stretch between Silchar and Lakhipur will be taken up.

Work for construction of three hangers and apron at Guwahati Airport and extension of apron at Jorhat Airport have been completed and work on three other Airports is near completion.  Work on Tezu Airport in Arunachal  Pradesh is almost completed. Foundation stone for the new Integrated Terminal Building at Guwahati was also laid and the work has started.  The Ministry of Civil Aviation has approved 92 new air routes in the North East Region which will be introduced in the second round of Udan scheme. Construction work of the new Greenfield Airport at Pakyong, Sikkim, is completed.

The age old Meter Gauge rail tracks have been replaced by modern day Broad Guage.  970 kilometers of tracks were converted in the last 4 years. Railways have also connected Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram to its network and is further expanding the tracks to reach some of the State capitals. In fact now prestigious Rajdhani Express operates twice a week from Delhi to Naharlagun, Arunachal Pradesh.

Another success story of North Eastern Council's various projects is North Eastern Community Resource Manage-ment Project (NERCORMP) which has transformed over 1,19,000 women living in the rural areas. NERCORMP is a sustainable Livelihood Project with support from International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).  Under this project 6 most inaccessible remote hill districts in Assam, Meghalaya  and Manipur  were covered to reach 1,326 villages. Later 5 more backward districts, Tirap, Changlang and Longding in Arunachal Pradesh and Chandel and Churachandpur in Manipur  were tapped to reach out to 1,177 villages.

A 60 MW Tuirial Hydro Electric Power with the cost of 913.63 crore was completed in Mizoram and is operational now. North Eastern Council also supported the installation of 694.5 MW power plants and laying of 2,540.41 Km of transmission and distribution lines in the region.

The Dhola-Sadiya bridge which was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on May 26 last year has become a symbol of Centre's commitment to bridge the gap and bring the   New North East in the forefront of  New India.

(The author is a Sr. Journalist E-mail deepakdewan56yahoo. co.in) Views expressed are personal