Mukhi bats for social and physical infrastructure for regional development

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HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, May 14: Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi observed that the success of  regional development hinges primarily on connecting remote areas through physical infrastructure and making greater investment in social infrastructure like health, education etc.

“Without creation of infrastructure socio-economic growth of the society is unthinkable,” Mukhi said after inaugurating a seminar here on Monday.

The seminar on “Physical and Social Infrastructure for Regional Development” was organised jointly by the ministry of finance, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI).

“The government is putting a lot of focus on infrastructure development for the all-round development of the Northeast,” Mukhi said and added that Assam is at the heart of the Centre’s Act East Policy and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has put Assam in resurgent growth back.

“The Northeast has also the best reputation of being the hub for industrial communication for its proximity to the South Asian countries. Hence, different initiatives like UDAN, single window clearance for trade, inland waterways must be utilised for the maximum development of the region,” Mukhi also said.

The Governor further said that the development deficit of the Northeast could be addressed by creating infrastructure encouraging massive investments. He, however, said, “As a core component of our cooperative federalism, the government, at the Centre as well as in most of the states, are now putting a lot of emphasis on infrastructure development in order to boost economic growth and generate gainful employment. A wide range of business opportunities are being created as part of an inclusive development strategy in Assam and other Northeastern states”.

The Governor also informed that Assam government has announced Axom Mala Programme for state highway and major district road improvement and reconstruction. The budget for 2018-19 has earmarked an initial amount of Rs. 200 crore for the project. Moreover, the Centre’s budgetary allocation on infrastructure for 2018-19 was hiked to nearly Rs 6 lakh crore against estimated expenditure of around Rs 5 lakh crore in 2017-18.

He also said that considering the strategic location of Assam and other North Eastern states, the region is put at the heart of Centre’s Act East Policy and a lot of government intervention is expected in the next couple of months to script a new paradigm of infrastructural development and make the region a centre of the South East Asian markets, the Governor exhorted.

In his address, Assam additional chief secretary (industries and commerce) Ravi Capoor stressed on improvement of “outward connectivity of Northeast” with ASEAN countries other than ‘inward connectivity” within the country.

Capoor said from a historical perspective Northeast was a very prosperous area during the pre-independence. “It was possible due to the fact that excellent trade routes were there during that time. Assam exported tea, oil, timber and coal to the rest of the world by various rail and water routes like the Brahmaputra,” he said.

“But over 50 years during post-independence, river routes were completely stopped. However, efforts have been made to make it operational again. It is high time for us to look for better projects for connectivity so that development can take place. It’s also time to rejuvenate rail lines to different neighbourhood Asian countries. Only then, we can boost our connectivity and link it to development,” he added.

Arunachal Pradesh parliamentary secretary for tourism PD Sona said that the biggest concern of Northeast is lack of digital connectivity along with other issues. He urged the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to have a clear agenda regarding the development of the region.

A detailed presentation on the AIIB was given by head of communications, Laurel Ostfield. She talked about the importance of what we do now that will determine the future world we and our children will live in. Talking about AIIB’s core values, “Lean clean and green”, she said that the goals for a greener and cleaner tomorrow have been set. She also talked about the shareholding structure of AII. India is the founding member and the second largest shareholder as well as a big beneficiary of AIIB.

FICCI deputy secretary general Manab Majumdar, distinguished fellow, RIS, Amitabh Kundu, member of governing council of RIS, Seshadri Chari and many other dignitaries were present in the function.

After the inaugural ceremony, a session on the topic of “Infrastructure needs in aspirational areas” was organized in which various panelists discussed on myriad issues pertaining to the topic. Prof. Sebastian Morris from Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad gave the lead presentation.

He discussed about the agriculture and its link to regional development as well as about human development and social movements. Dr. Kavita Iyengar, economist, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Usha Padhe, joint secretary, ministry of civil aviation, Alok Ranjan, member finance, Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), Prof. Chandan Mahanta, head of civil engineering department, IIT, Guwahati and Abhishek Chaudhary, vice president, corporate affairs and company secretary, Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation and many other noted persons were present as panelists in the session.

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