North Eastern Region Vision 2020 *

.... The North Eastern region is the land of the rising sun for India. The time has come for the sun to shine on it and shine brightly. This Vision 2020 defines the path to that bright future. As the adopted son of this region, as a representative in Parliament for the people of this region, I thank all those who have been associated with the completion of this project of momentous importance.

The Vision is a tribute to the democratic sensibilities and traditions of the people of the North Eastern region. This is also a unique event in our nation building processes that the leaders of a region have come together to forge a common path to development and greater prosperity for the people of this region. I congratulate the political leadership of the region, its civil society representatives, the academics and the officials who have been involved in preparing the Vision document, and my cabinet colleague, Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar, for making the creation of the Vision an exemplar of participatory governance. I assure you all that the Union Government will do its utmost to make this Vision a reality.

Our Government has made connectivity and infrastructure development the corner-stone of regional development in the North –East. At the same time we have emphasized the importance of institution building and of strengthening local democracy. I am happy to see that your Vision document shares this perspective. We need roads, railways, airports, schools and hospitals, but we also need institutions and processes that ensure sustainable development. And we also need to look at the processes of governance because I do believe that here too, there is a vast scope for improving on the present state of affairs.

Another hallmark of the Vision, I find, is its stress on inclusiveness. Growth and equity must converge in the path of development and special efforts must be made to address the concerns of the underprivileged and the marginalized sections of our population This is our national commitment to our people and this must guide all processes to sustain the development momentum in various parts of our country. Our Government is committed to the aam admi through our flagship schemes. We are also committed to the all round development of the North Eastern region as a topmost national priority. I greatly appreciate that poverty alleviation in all its dimensions is highlighted as the greatest priority for the region in this Vision document and that is as it should be.

The North East has been blessed with natural and human resources that can greatly contribute to the overall development of this region. However, it has also been disadvantaged by geography and the history of the Partition of our country in 1947. History and geography cannot be changed but the constraints they impose on human endeavour and human development can certainly be broken through combined, collective efforts at the national and regional level. The time has therefore come for the region to look beyond limitations to a future that is inclusive, that is modern, that is global and yet rooted in its traditional values and, importantly, is environmentally sustainable.

Our commitment to the North Eastern region’s progress is displayed in the range of special dispensations available to it. Every major Ministry in the Union Government spends 10 percent of its budgetary allocation mandatorily for the North East region, which has approximately 4 percent of our population. Most Centrally Sponsored Schemes provide assistance to the North Eastern States with a grant component of 90 per cent as against 30 to 75 per cent in the case of other States of the Union. Additional funds are provided for special packages to address specific requirements and situations of the region and I do agree with Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar ji that more needs to be done and it will be our collective national effort to do that.

The Ministry of DONER is a symbol of our nation’s commitment to the North Eastern States. It was specially created to act as an emissary, as a facilitator and as a spokesman of the North Eastern States to ensure that their development process is accelerated through the Government of India. No other region of the country has been given such a special and privileged place in our scheme of national level.

I am aware of the several initiatives that the Ministry of DONER has taken in the recent past to address the region’s development deficit. These are now yielding results, especially in the infrastructure and human resource development sectors. I am given to understand that the Ministry is already in the process of structuring a new role for itself and the NEC, with greater financial resources for fulfilling its mandate as a regional planning body. In order that the NEC operationalises its statutorily mandated role of a regional planning body, a consensus on both the processes and the strategy of development for the region is required so that all stakeholders are truly committed to it. The Vision 2020 for the region is a valuable step in that direction.

Infrastructure deficiency remains a major concern of the Government. You will be happy to know that we have decided to link all State Capitals with railway lines. These projects have been given the status of National Projects with a special funding pattern. Airports are being modernized and new ones are being built. An ambitious programme of road building has been taken up under the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for theNorth East (SARDP-NE) and an amount of Rs. 31,000 crore is being invested on roads in the 11th Five Year Plan. There are relaxed guidelines for rural roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) so that even the farthest hamlets on the border are linked by road. Within the 11th Plan period, these interventions will begin to show positive results.

To bridge the infrastructure gap in the region, our Government has taken several initiatives. Work on the Tipaimukh and Loktak Downstream Hydro Electric Projects, costing about Rs.6,000 crores and Rs. 800 crores respectively, has been expedited. The 726 MW Palatana Gas based Power Plant, with an outlay of Rs.3,000 crores, a 750 MW Thermal Power Plant at Bongaigaon with an outlay of Rs. 4375 crores, and the Assam Gas Cracker Project have all broken ground. The Kumarghat-Agartala railway line has been approved as a National project, with an outlay of Rs. 750 crores. The Jiribam–Tupu-Imphal railway line, which will put the Manipur valley on the rail map of India, has also been sanctioned as a National project for Rs. 727 crores.

I was recently in Arunachal Pradesh where we have announced our intention to build the Trans-Arunachal Highway. A programme for the electrification of all villages along the State border at a cost of Rs.550 crores, construction of a Greenfield Airport in Itanagar and a daily helicopter service between Guwahati and Tawang will also be taken up. I have laid the foundation stones for the 3000 MW Dibang Valley Power Project and a new railway line between Harmuti and Itanagar.

Along with infrastructure development, we have also to focus on agricultural and rural development of the region. This region too requires a second Green Revolution specific to the requirements and development potential of this region. Only a more productive, a more modernized agriculture can truly dent rural poverty. State governments must also explore possibilities for industrial development based on the natural endowments of the region. We have announced the North East Industrial Investment and Promotion Policy (NEIIPP) in the year 2007 which offers, I believe, extremely attractive incentives for investors. Investment, after all, is an act of faith. I invite all our businesses to have faith in the people of the North-East in their bright future, in their creative potential and I invest businessmen from all over India and abroad to invest in the development of this region.

I am also happy that new initiatives are being taken up to strengthen education, especially higher education in the region. To ensure that the youth of the region have access to quality education, an IIT at Guwahati, an IIM at Shillong have been established. We are also in the process of setting up a NIFT in Shillong and IITs in Shillong and Dimapur. New Central universities are also being set up. High quality education for the youth of region will enhance their employability.

I am delighted to see young people from this region finding new employment opportunities, especially in the services sector, across the country, especially in major metros. They have become the region’s ambassadors across the country highlighting the immense development potential for creativity that exists in the region and among its people. We are committed to providing the youth of this region every opportunity for quality education and skill development.

Let development now be the leitmotif of the North Eastern region. For too long has violence been the dominant recurrent theme of discourse on the North East. It shall, and it must now be development and inclusive development. I appeal to all the patriotic people of this region to work together to create an environment of peace and security in which we can working together improve the quality of life of all people, violence has no place in our society and our culture.

Our nation is based on the concept of “Unity in Diversity”. I am confident that we can resolve all differences amicably through discussion and dialogue. I have often said that there is no grievance that cannot be addressed through a ballot box and no grievance that can be redressed through a barrel of a gun.

Democracy has opened new vistas of opportunities for development and empowerment of the people of our country. I am confident that within the framework of our unique democracy we can continue to prosper and ensure that the fruits of such prosperity are shared equitably among all sections of our society and in all regions of our great country. A Vision is not merely a static statement but is embedded in the hearts, minds and actions of the people and their leaders. In this room today, there are a thousand or more leaders of public opinion whose commitment to the path of sustainable, equitable development can make a great deal of difference to the development of future of the North East. Therefore, the time has come when the Union and State Governments of the region should stand shoulder to shoulder to pledge themselves to the rapid realization of the ambitious but realistic goals of the Vision 2020 for the North Eastern Region. I pledge that the Government of India will work with the people of the North East to convert this region into a living shining reality.”
 

( * Text of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address on the occasion of release of the North Eastern Region Vision 2020 Document at a function in New Delhi on July 2, 2008.)