On the day his government completed three years in power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday identified the Northeast region as the new engine of India’s growth and announced the launch of a Rs 60,00-crore scheme, ‘Sampada’, to promote the agro and food processing industry.
The Prime Minister was speaking at Gogamukh in eastern Assam, after laying the foundation stone for a new Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI). Earlier in the day, Modi formally inaugurated India’s longest bridge — the 9.15-km bridge connecting Dhola and Sadiya across the Brahmaputra — at Dhola, and named it after the legendary Assamese singer Bhupen Hazarika.
At Gogamukh in Dhemaji district, 420 km from Guwahati, Modi said, “The government of India has adopted five paths to take India’s ashtalakshmi (the eight Northeastern states) forward. These involve highway, railway, waterway, airway and information way (optic fibre network). Once these bring about growth in the Northeast and transform it into a hub of new economy, new energy, new empowerment, the region will automatically become the new engine of India’s growth.”
Elaborating on the Sampada scheme, Modi said, “We have earmarked Rs 6,000 crore for Sampada, which stands for Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters. We will also welcome foreign direct investment in the schemes under Sampada, which will be implemented through the PP mode.”
Asking researchers in the fields of agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry to find new and cheaper ways to make farmers prosper, the Prime Minister said the scientific community can hand-hold and take farmers forward. “While our farmers had contributed immensely in bringing about the Green Revolution, what I foresee now is a new enthusiasm among the farmers who will not stop at just a second Green Revolution, but bring about an Evergreen Revolution,” he said.
Stating that his government believed in decentralisation, Modi said that the network of institutions like IARI were being expanded so that the government’s vision of “Lab to Land” and “Seeds to Market” became a reality.
He asked scientists involved in the upcoming IARI at Gogamukh — — to emphasise on area-specific research and scientific intervention based on local demand.
“We have a dream of changing the lives of our farmers. We want to modernise agriculture through holistic intervention in order to double the farmer’s income by 2022 when India completes 75 years of her independence,” he said.
Detailing ways and means to increase farmers’ income, Prime Minister Modi suggested planting timber alongside cultivation fields, without causing any disturbance or damage to the main crop. “We are currently importing huge quantities of timber for furniture and other items. If every farmer can grow a few trees, he adds to his income, while the country cuts down import,” Modi said.
At Dhola, after inaugurating the Bhupen Hazarika bridge, the Prime Minister said, “Our government has decided to name this bridge after Bhupen Hazarika, the mahapurush who was born by the Brahmaputra here at Sadiya and sang the glory of the river in his numerous songs not only across the country but also all over the world. What better tribute can we give to the legendary artist and singer but name this bridge in his birthplace after him?”
Modi, who took a walk on the new bridge, alone at first and then with Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and State Governor Banwarilal Purohit, also took a dig at the Congress for the delay in its completion.
“It was our then MLA Jagadish Bhuyan who wrote the first letter to the government in May 2003 for a bridge here. Immediately afterward, the Atal Behari Vajpayee ordered its feasibility study. Had the Vajpayee government come to power again in 2004, and had Congress not wasted 10 years in between chanting ‘hoti hai’ and ‘chalti hai’ (it happens), this bridge would have come up ten years ago and the people’s dreams would have continued to remain as dreams,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister also said that while projects were not moving and funds were not being spent in 15-20 years in the Northeast, the present government has begun completing them in two to three years.
“This bridge will not just save time and money, but also trigger a new economic revolution in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and the entire Northeast. It will open up doors for economic development. The farmers of Sadiya, for instance, will now get access to the global market to sell the finest quality ginger that they grow,” he said.
Stating that his government’s primary stress has been on creating infrastructure that included roads, railways, aviation, waterways and bridges, Prime Minister Modi said he believed in giving permanency to development.
“Balanced development is possible if we create the twin rails of physical and social infrastructure. We don’t believe in temporary measures. Instead, we want to fulfil those dreams which can take the country forward with permanent development,” he said.
Speaking about the Northeast, Modi said, “Our government is trying to convert the Northeast into the hub of economic activity for the entire South-east Asia region. Once we put up world-class infrastructure here, this region of India will definitely get converted into the epicentre of development of the entire South-east Asia region.”
The Prime Minister also called for attracting tourists from the world over to the region. “By creating better infrastructure we are not only connecting the Northeast to various corners of the country, but also facilitating travel to the region from all over. If lakhs of people start coming to see the Kamakhya Temple, Kohima and other tourists spots here, it will give a huge boost to the region’s economy and make it a major tourist hub of the country. After all, the Northeast is today’s our biggest natural resource to attract tourists from all over the world,” he said.