Aiming to make the Northeast a gateway of Southeast Asia, the government has initiated major infrastructure projects in the seven states, including investing Rs 40,000 crore to improve the roads and highways, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday. However, he lamented that “only Gangtok (in the Northeast) had found a place in the first 50 clean cities”, out of the 12 cities from the region surveyed as part of the recent nationwide cleanliness survey. While four Northeastern cities found a place between 100 and 200 clean cities, seven were positioned between 200 and 300, with Shillong being the 276th, he said while stressing that ‘Swachhata’ or cleanliness was a major challenge for everyone in the region.
He was addressing the centenary celebrations of the prominent voluntary organisation, Bharat Sevashram Sangha, in Shillong through video conferencing. “We have to make the Northeast a gateway for Southeast Asia,” Modi said, adding if this gateway is dirty, then the dream would not be fulfilled and asked the people and organisations like the Sangha to join hands in the cleanliness campaign. Observing that there has been no balanced development in the entire Northeastern region even so many years after Independence, Modi said his government “with all its resources” had planned to bring about overall and balanced development of the states here.
The Prime Minister said the major thrust would be to improve connectivity and develop the entire region for tourism purposes. “All these initiatives will help to make the Northeast the gateway of Southeast Asia,” he said. While an investment of Rs 40,000 crore is being made to improve the road infrastructure in the Northeast, 19 big railway projects have also been started in the region, he said. “We are also improving the electricity situation in the Northeast and trying to bring even more tourists to the region,” Modi said.
Announcing that the Northeast would soon be connected with UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagarik) scheme, he said small airports were also being developed in the region, while the extension of the runway at Shillong airport has been approved. Bharat Sevashram Sangha is a network of volunteers across the globe engaged in helping people in distress. The Sangha’s social welfare activities include disaster relief, spreading education, providing healthcare facilities, vocational training and upliftment of the tribals.
Lauding the role of the Sangha in playing a critical role during natural calamities, the Prime Minister said a myth was created that spirituality and service cannot go together. “Some people tried to tell that those who are in the spiritual path are different from those on the way of providing service to the humanity,” Modi said, adding that the Sangha has proved this wrong through its activities. He said Sangha had more than 100 branches and over 500 units engaged in providing social service in sectors including health, education as well as training the youths. He appreciated the services rendered by the Sangha during various calamities, including the Bengal famine in 1923, Noakhali riots in 1946, Jalpaiguri floods in 1950, 1956 Anjar earthquake, Andhra Pradesh cyclone in 1977 and Bhogal gas leakage in 1980.