The NDA government at the Centre is keen on reducing isolation of the northeastern states through its ambitious Act East Policy for all-round connectivity of the region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Shillong on Friday.
Speaking at the 65th plenary session of the North Eastern Council (NEC) in the Meghalaya capital, his second visit to the Northeast in four days, Modi said: “The government has been focusing on development of the region through its proactive Act East Policy. As part of this policy, we are focusing on reducing isolation of the region by improving all-round connectivity through road, railway, telecom, power and waterways sectors.”
Describing the Northeast as India’s gateway to Southeast Asia, Modi asked the states to take full advantage of this. “We are opening up both road and railway routes to our neighbouring countries. This should give a boost to economic development of the region,” he said.
“The northeast region is also very important to us for strategic reasons. It is my conviction that we have to bring this region at par with other developed regions of the country,” Modi said. “In the current Budget, more than Rs 30,000 crore has been earmarked for the region.”
Reiterating the Central government’s belief in cooperative and competitive federalism, the Prime Minister said states that were strong and want to grow further need to be given adequate authority and resources, while states that are not so strong need to be given needful assistance. “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 northeastern states,” he said
In 2014, he said, the Centre had created a specialised highways construction agency — the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDC) for the region. This agency is at present implementing 34 projects covering 1,001 km at a total cost of more than Rs. 10,000 crore.
Outlining some recent developments in the Northeast, Modi focussed on two important projects recently commissioned in Assam — Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited (BCPL) and Numaligarh Refinery Limited’s wax unit — and an internet gateway for the region opened in Agartala with Bangladesh’s collaboration. Likewise, Rs 10,000 crore has been invested for power transmission projects, and the Railways has undertaken projects worth Rs 10,000 crore, he said.
“Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya were put up on the railway map. Agartala has been connected with broad-gauge line. We are on way to ensure that all the northeastern states come on the railway map soon,” he said.
Accepting the states’ demand for the NEC’s revamp, Modi said he was also in favour of reorienting and upgrading the Council. “It is important that the NEC introspects and assesses the extent to which it has been able to achieve its objectives in order to meet the growing aspirations of the people. Perhaps, there is a need to re-orient and upgrade the North Eastern Council,” he said.