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Manmohan to visit Arunachal, likely to skip Tawang

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s kitty is full with schemes and announcements as he prepares...

Written by Raghvendra Rao | New Delhi |
January 24, 2008 12:17:53 am

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s kitty is full with schemes and announcements as he prepares to visit Arunachal Pradesh for a day-and-a-half starting January 31.

While the final itinerary is still under wraps, sources say that the PM is likely to skip Tawang, at the centre of a border dispute with China, and instead visit the Indian Army’s Mountain Brigade Headquarters at Lohitpur in the Lohit district bordering China and Myanmar.

A Rs 1,000-crore special package to fast-track development schemes languishing for years, construction of a new national highway within the state, foundation of a 3000-MW hydel project, a visit to Indian Army jawans in a border area and showcasing a plan to illuminate over 800 villages located on the Sino-Indian border, the visit, the first by a Prime Minister in more than a decade, appears tailored to send a message not just to the state but across its international border.

Coming days after his visit to China, the visit is generating a lot of hope and euphoria in the country’s easternmost frontier state. “The people of Arunachal are eager to know what the Prime Minister has discussed about their state during his recent China visit. We also want to know his and the Government’s stand on the issue since he has not said anything on it so far,” said BJP MP Tapir Gao.

The BJP is planning to submit a memorandum to the PM, raising issues related to China’s claim on Arunachal territory and infrastructure development in rail and aviation sectors.

Dismissing China’s territorial claims, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu told The Indian Express he would request Singh to make a statement on the issue during his visit. “We only had a border with Tibet and not China and we have documents to support this. Their claims are baseless,” Khandu said. He added that his Government has sought a package worth Rs 2,390 crore to complete ongoing projects relating to construction of roads, bridges and small hydel projects.

Singh may lay the foundation stone for the setting up of a 3,000-MW project at Roing in Lower Dibang Valley district on February 1, the second day of his visit. To be set up by National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) at a cost of Rs 17,656 crore, this hydropower-cum-flood moderation project envisages construction of a 288-meter high concrete gravity dam and an underground powerhouse with 12 units of 250 MW each. The PM may also lay the foundation stone for another hydel project in Lower Subasiri district.

Another significant announcement during the PM’s visit could relate to the construction of the 1,259-km-long East-West Highway, a National Highway within Arunachal’s territory which would connect all its districts without venturing into Assam. “Presently, travelling to one district of Arunachal from another involves passage through Assam. It is a long-standing aspiration of the people to have a National Highway which allows them to travel to all the districts without having to go through Assam,” said an Arunachal Pradesh Government official. The cost of this highway has been estimated at Rs 1,510 crore.

During a civic reception on January 31, to be followed by a public meeting, Singh is likely to showcase the “Border Villages Illumination Programme” — a project aimed at taking minimum basic domestic lighting facility to 842 villages located at the country’s easternmost frontiers using hydel and solar energy so as to match facilities on the Chinese side of the border. This project, estimated to cost Rs 61 crore, envisages electrification of border villages in the state by setting up of pico, micro and mini hydel projects, ranging from 10 KW -200 KW, either in stand-alone mode or through installation of Solar Home Light Systems.

In addition to all these projects, the Arunachal Government is planning to convey its wishlist to the PM, which includes a demand to get all the 16 district headquarters connected by 2-lane highways and 34 administrative centers connected by road. The state Government is also likely to demand the setting up of a 132-KV transmission grid.

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