By: Dhrubajyoti Chakravorty
Shillong, July 9: Union home minister Rajnath Singh has asked the Northeastern states to expedite work on long pending projects of the North Eastern Council (NEC) and ensure maximum utilisation of funds even as he remarked that security situation has drastically improved in the North eastern region.
Addressing the 67th Plenary Session of the NEC in Shillong on Monday, he said NEC and the eight North-Eastern States would have to ensure that all the ongoing projects were completed in a time bound manner.
He urged the states for effective implementation of the recently approved financial package of Rs 4,500 crore by the Centre and directed them to focus on specific areas and better convergence of the govt. sponsored schemes.
Rajnath Singh said, “The Look East Policy has been changed to The Act East Policy. We are trying to ensure in all eight states, sectors such as infrastructure strengthening, manufacturing, trade, tourism, skill development, urban renewal, smart cities, and ‘Make in India’ get emphasised”.
Urging the NEC to play its part in preparing a broad roadmap towards realizing the objectives of the government’s “Act East Policy” for forging a link between India and ASEAN, Singh expressed optimism that the newly set up NITI Forum for North East would be able to accelerate the growth of the region by identifying various constraints.
Underlining the importance of civil society participation in developmental process, the home minister advocated social audit of the projects and use of modern technology to effectively monitor project implementation.
Regarding the security scenario in the Northeastern states, the Union minister said the government was giving special attention to improving the internal security.
“Private investment and the economic activity would not flourish in the absence of peace and normalcy. During four years of NDA government the security situation has drastically improved. When compared to the 90s, the insurgency related incidents have declined 85 percent. There is 96 percent reduction in civilian and security forces casualties,” he said.
“Today, Tripura and Mizoram are completely free from insurgency and there is tremendous improvement in other North Eastern States as well. Due to this marked improvement in security situation the AFSPA has been completely lifted from Meghalaya and its coverage area has been reduced in Arunachal Pradesh,” he said.
The Union minister also urged the state governments to create conducive environment for investment so that entrepreneurs take this opportunity to set up industrial units and generate the much needed employment in the region.
Stating that the ministry of DONER had recently launched the North East Venture Capital Fund through the North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Limited (NEDFi) with a corpus of Rs.100 Cr, he exhorted the entrepreneurs of the region to access funds to take up economic activities in the field of tourism, waste management, medical healthcare, handloom and handicrafts and agro products etc.
“In the Northeastern region, civil society is very powerful medium to be engaged in all our development efforts. The participation of the civil society is crucial. They should be the partners in socio-economic change. One such partnership can be through social audit”, Singh said in his first address to NEC after the Union Cabinet’s recent approval of a proposal making the Union home minister the chairman of NEC.
“Social audit not only provides information on how funds are spent but most crucially it enables people’s participation in the planning of developmental activities and also enables mid-course correction as projects and schemes roll on,” he added.
He expressed happiness that through the use of remote sensing and satellite imagery, NEC had partnered with the North Eastern Space Application Centre (NESAC) and developed a ‘Projects Monitoring’ portal and a mobile application where stakeholders can monitor progress of capital works funded by the NEC.
Underlining the need for a critical analysis and revision of strategy for development in the North-Eastern Region (NER), HM called for drawing a short-term, medium-term and long-term roadmap.
He emphasized on the need of taking stock of progress made in implementing recommendations contained in them and taking expeditious steps further.
The Union minister said the Government had set up the NITI Forum for the North East in order to provide a platform to identify various constraints on the way of accelerated, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the region.
“After creation of North Eastern Council under NEC Act, 1971, the States of NER were deleted from the purview of Eastern Zonal Council. I suggest that NEC may be used as a forum to discuss and resolve Inter-State and Centre-State issues effectively as the other Zonal Councils are doing,” said Singh while he also talked about doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
Union minister of state (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel/ DoPT, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh, who is also the vice chairman of the NEC, in his speech gave details of NEC history and changes from time to time. He said that the Ministry has brought DoNER at the doorsteps of the North East Region.
Dr Singh said that out of 116 aspirational districts of the country, 14 districts are in the North Eastern Region. These districts are assessed on the basis of 48 indicators of the growth.
Dr Singh also mentioned about the hostel facilities for North East Student at New Delhi, where hostels are constructed in Dwarka and Rohini. He said that hostel for North East students in Bengaluru are also being constructed “as it is the need of the time”.
Governors of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Sikkim, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh, and six Chief Ministers from the NE states of Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland delivered their speeches at the plenary. Senior officers of the eight North-Eastern states, top officials of NEC and DoNER ministry were also present at the plenary.