Sonowal seeks infrastructure projects, bats for simplification of visa regime; Sonowal, Mukhi attend 67th NEC plenary at Shillong

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HT Bureau

Shillong, July 9: Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal has called upon the NEC and the ministry of DoNER to take up issues of infrastructure projects like roads, waterways, airways and telecom for better connectivity with South East Asia with cooperation of the concerned ministries of government of India even as he called for simplification of visa regime.

Acknowledging Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in taking NE into the mainstream narrative of the country by terming it as ‘Astalaxmi’, Sonowal, while speaking at the 67th Plenary of North Eastern Council (NEC), highlighted the Prime Minister’s directive to ministers and officers of Union government to make regular visits to the region which has resulted in tremendous push to the development of infrastructure here.

Referring to implementation of the Act East Policy by the Centre he said that the region would derive huge benefits out of this policy in terms of tourism, investment and trade.

Highlighting the need to harness the potential of the region to become an ITES and IT hub which is crippled by poor internet bandwidth, the chief minister urged the NEC to support BSNL in payment of rentals for initial few years so that it can bring high speed internet bandwidth to Assam and other North Eastern states from Cox Bazar landing station in Bangladesh through fibre optics. “This is going to be a game changer in propelling the region to achieve fast paced growth and catapult NE as an IT hub of the SE Asian region,” he said.

“The NEC can also take up with external affairs ministry to simplify existing visa regime including introduction of provisions like visa-on-arrival to improve people to people contact and facilitate easy movement within SE Asia for furthering tourism, trade and commerce,” Sonowal said.

Referring to opening of consulates of Bangladesh and Bhutan in Guwahati, he pitched for more such consulates of ASEAN countries in the city and relaxation of restricted area permit required for coming to North Eastern Region for the ASEAN countries.

Focusing on the need to address the problems of flood and erosion affecting Assam and other NE states in a holistic manner to find permanent tangible solutions, Sonowal said proper and judicious harnessing of water resources of the region can contribute immensely to the national GDP growth.

Sonowal also put forth proposals for setting up a North East Organic Agriculture University by NEC for which Assam would provide land, an organic certification agency for the whole region and he also called for facilitating growth of bamboo-based industries here.

“As NEC is the nodal agency to fund key development projects in the NE States, the delay in sanctioning projects and procedural sluggishness in releasing funds must be addressed to speed up project implementation” the chief minister said. He also suggested releasing of funds by NEC in two installments in lump sum for a year instead of scheme wise release.

The chief minister also highlighted the need for inter-state as well as international cooperation for tackling insurgency activities in the region and efficient handling of security threats emanating from various terrorist outfits.

Governor Mukhi attends NEC meet

Participating at the at the 67th Plenary of North Eastern Council (NEC), Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi called upon NEC to play an active role in chalking out programmes for promoting brotherhood amongst communities living on both sides of inter-State borders for peaceful resolution of border disputes between the states.

He also called upon the ministry of DoNER to pay adequate attention and draw up an action plan for positioning North East as the springboard for India’s Act East Policy.

He also maintained that developing trade, transport and economic links with Bangladesh is very important for most of the states of the region and needs greater focus. The ministry of DoNER should fully reflect the aspirations of the Government and people of the region in all the forums.

Stating that Assam is geo-strategically located in the North East, he requested the Ministry of DoNER of conceiving a project of making Guwahati the Kunming of India which can stimulate the growth of other Northeastern states as vibrant region to take Act East Policy to its logical conclusion.

He also requested the Ministry of DoNER to impress upon the ministries of home and external affairs to initiate talks with their counterparts of ASEAN countries to set up their consulates in Guwahati to enable the people of North East to get their work done in Guwahati itself without going to New Delhi.

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