Urging the North Eastern Council (NEC) to frame a roadmap of reaching development targets by 2022 for the region, union home minister Amit Shah on September 8 announced of earmarking 30 pc NEC budget for under-developed and priority parts of the region.
In his inaugural speech at the 68th plenary session of NEC in Guwahati, Shah said, “There are 14 ‘aspirational districts’ in NE. But we want development to percolate to the most-deprived levels. Henceforth, 30pc of NEC budget for each state will be set aside for under-developed, backward and priority areas. The state governments will identify these areas.”
Noting that NEC will complete 50 years of its existence in 2022 when India will celebrate its 75th anniversary of Independence, Shah exhorted the NEC plenary to set targets of development by 2022 and frame a roadmap for achieving those.
Reiterating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for NE as the ‘engine for growth’ of the country, Shah said, “The GDP of then-North-eastern part, prior to Independence and partition, was higher than the rest of India. We want NE to re-claim this position.”
He hoped that the access to the ports in Bangladesh following the Indo-Bangladesh land boundary agreement will help propel faster economic development in NE since the ports in undivided India were a major source for the growth of the region.
Shah pointed that the budgetary outlay for NEC has been increased from Rs 3376 crore in the 13th Finance Commission to Rs 5053 crore in the 14th Finance Commission, besides elaborating on the developmental activities, like building infrastructure, in the region under the current BJP-led dispensation at the Centre.
“I don’t want to make any political comment here, but people decide on the basis of development done by a government and hence, today we have all eight chief ministers in NE from the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA-a BJP-led political conglomeration in NE,” Shah added.
He maintained that while NE was known for terrorism, disturbances and backwardness earlier, the region is now becoming synonymous with development and progress.
Terming NE a ‘mini-India’, the union home minister said, “There are several communities and groups and languages and cultures in NE. If development is at the cost of these groups, it holds no value. The culture of NE has to be preserved along with development.”
He also sought to dispel the oft-quoted ‘disconnect between NE and mainland India’ and, narrating instances of close links with the region since the days of the Mahabharata, Shah said, “The relation is not about ‘geo-political’ identity. There is a ‘geo-cultural’ link with this region.”
The Union minister also underlined NE’s importance in the defence sector and said development has to be planned aligned to it.
Earlier, MoS (Independent Charge) for Development of North East Region (DoNER) Dr Jitendra Singh, in his speech, said his ministry has been able to reach out to the people of the region.
He pointed out that the outlay for DoNER has increased from Rs 700 crore when he had taken charge of the ministry in the first Narendra Modi-led government to currently over Rs 1400 crore.
The governors and chief ministers of eight states, NEC vice-chairman, and top officials of several central and state government were also present at the two-day meeting.