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PM’s Address at the Plenary Session of the North-Eastern Council

PM’s Address at the Plenary Session of the North-Eastern Council


I am very happy to be here for the North Eastern Council Plenary meeting. I also take this opportunity of welcoming you all to this meeting. I hope that the deliberations that have already taken place since yesterday and further deliberations that we have today, will help in faster development of this region.




I am also happy to note that the North Eastern Council has provided support in the development of the North East region. It has been instrumental in establishment of a number of institutions and taking up infrastructure projects in the region. 

The North Eastern Council was set up in 1972. Since then it has contributed to the development of the North East region. To meet the growing aspirations of the people, it is important that the North Eastern Council introspects and assesses the extent to which it has been able to achieve its objectives. Perhaps, there is a need to re-orient and upgrade the North Eastern Council. You may like to consider developing the North Eastern Council as a state-of-the-art resource centre for the North Eastern states with the necessary resources, knowledge and skills. The resource centre may enable the states and the implementing agencies to properly plan and execute projects, promote research and innovations and provide strategic policy vision for the region.

The North Eastern Council may look into developing a specialised domain expertise either by itself or through an agency model to assist states and central ministries in their development planning as also problem solving needs. This will enable the imbibing of good governance and best practices in the region. The North Eastern Council should also consider focussing on issues in emerging areas of livelihood, entrepreneurship, venture funds, start-ups and skill development. All this will help in generating jobs.

The government has been focussing on the development of the North East region through its pro-active “Act East Policy”. As part of this policy, we are focussing on reducing the isolation of the region by improving all round connectivity through road, rail, telecom, power and waterways sectors.

If the western region of the country can develop, if other regions of the country can develop, I see no reason why the North East region of the country cannot develop. I am also convinced that India can move forward if all the regions develop including the North East region. The North East region is also very important to us for strategic reasons. And it is my conviction that we have to bring this region at par with the other developed regions of the country.

In the current Budget, more than Rs.30,000 crores have been earmarked for the North East region. It should be our endeavour to ensure that this money is spent well for the development of the region.

We believe in cooperative and competitive federalism. States that are strong and want to grow further, need to be given adequate authority and resources. And States that are not so strong, need to be given needful assistance. It is in this regard that based on the report of the Committee of Chief Ministers, we have decided to continue to provide assistance in the ratio of 90:10 for core Central schemes and 80:20 for non-core schemes to the North Eastern States.

In the recent past, we have established two important projects in Assam - Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited and Numaligarh Refinery Limited’s wax unit. These are big projects that would create huge employment opportunities in the North East region. However, it has taken us many years to complete these projects. We have to ensure that we are able to complete our projects in time and without cost over-runs. Only then can we realise the true benefits of these projects.

The North East is the gateway to South East Asia and we need to take advantage of this. We are opening up both road and rail routes to our neighbouring countries. This should give a boost to the economic development of the region.

We have created a specialised highways construction agency for the North East - the “National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation” - that was incorporated on 18th July 2014. Since then it has set up its Branch Offices, one each in every North Eastern State. As of today, it is implementing 34 projects in the North Eastern States covering a length of 1001 kilometres at a total cost of over Rs. 10,000 crore.

In the road sector, we need to keep in view the special land and weather conditions of this area. Most of the North East areas get a lot of rainfall and are also prone to natural calamities and land-slides. We thus need to be careful in using appropriate technologies in the construction of roads in this area.

We have recently implemented an improved internet connectivity project for the North East region in collaboration with Bangladesh. This will make available 10 GB of seamless alternate bandwidth for the region. This integration will benefit the North East region tremendously.

The Government is also making a heavy investment in power transmission projects covering all the eight North Eastern states at a cost of around Rs 10,000 crore. This would ensure power to more areas. The recent commissioning of Bishwanath-Chariyali-Agra transmission line has also brought 500 MegaWatt additional capacity to the region.

The railways have undertaken a major expansion in the region at a cost of around Rs 10,000 crore. In November 2014, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya were put up on the rail map. Agartala in Tripura has also been connected with broad gauge line. We are on the way to ensure that all the North East states come on the rail map soon.

In the North East, the Indian Railways has commissioned about 900 kilometres of Broad Gauge in the last two years, leaving only about 50 kilometres Meter Gauge lines to be converted in 2016-17. In addition, a 132 kilometre part of third alternative connectivity route to North East (that is New Maynaguri – Jogighopa) has also been commissioned.

There are a number of strengths of the North East which we need to harness for healthy growth of the region. All the states of the North East region are blessed with natural scenic beauty, distinct historical cultural and ethnic heritage. All this offers tremendous scope for tourism in the region. There is also a great scope for mountaineering, trekking and adventure tourism in the region. If developed and promoted well, this can emerge as the biggest employer in the region. It can also add to the growth and income of the region.

I understand that the Ministry of Tourism has identified a thematic circuit for the North East region. I hope that the North Eastern states will make the best use of the scheme to develop tourist circuits and attract tourists from all over the world. The region can also look into combining a few popular destinations of the neighbouring countries with their tourism circuits. This will be an added attraction for tourists.

The majority of youth of the North East region is English speaking. With improved connectivity and language skills, you may look into setting up of the BPO industry in the region.

The Government has approved North East BPO promotion scheme in the Digital India programme for creation of employment opportunities. The North East States must avail facilities and get these BPOs operationalized in their respective States. This will promote growth and provide jobs to our youth.

The North East is home to exotic fruits, flowers, vegetables, aromatic plants, and herbs. Most of them are organic in origin. If we focus our development strategy on organic farming, it would help the region greatly.

A few months ago, I was in Sikkim and participated in a function to declare Sikkim as the first organic state in the country. Other States can take a lead from Sikkim and the North East Council can also play an important role in the development of organic farming in the region. The North East can become the organic food basket for this country. Organic products are going to be increasingly used widely and if the North East Council can assist the states in the region to take a lead in this area, it will contribute immensely to the income of the people and the region.

There is a large rural population in the North East region. If we talk of Assam alone, 86% of the population lives in rural areas. We have initiated the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Mission to bring in economic, social and basic development of the rural areas in a cluster model. It should be the endeavour of the region’s states to make use of this mission for the development of the rural areas.

In the end, I would like to express my gratitude to the chairman and all the members of the North Eastern Council for successfully conducting the plenary meeting in Shillong.

My special thanks to the Governor and the Chief Minister of Meghalaya for hosting this meeting. I am sure that the deliberations in this meeting will go a long way in providing direction to the development of the region. Thank you. 

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Speech of the Prime Minister at the public meeting in Shillong


Before arriving on the stage here, I visited an exhibition of stalls set up by Self-Help Groups comprising women from all eight North Eastern States. The artefacts and products displayed in this exhibition are indeed impressive. Let me begin by congratulating the ladies from these Self-Help Groups, who are present here today and have just given me a glimpse of their immense talent.

The promotion of Self Help Groups has got a boost from the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana. A large number of Self Help Groups are also benefiting through credit linkages by North Eastern Development Financial Institution with the component of interest subsidy being provided by Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region.

The Government is committed to the development of Self Help Groups, particularly Women Self Help Groups. Keeping this in mind, in December 2015, the Union Cabinet approved a Special Package Fund for the North Eastern States. The objective is to accelerate the implementation of the National Rural Livelihood Mission, so as to cover two-thirds of all rural households in North Eastern States by 2023-24.

Friends.

Today, I unveiled a plaque for the foundation stone of a football stadium. We are all aware of the love that the people of the North-East, and especially Meghalaya, have for Football. Football is a passion here and is played in every nook and corner. We are all familiar with famous football players such as Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Aibor Khongjee, and Marlangki Suting. They have done both the country and the State proud, by representing India in International Tournaments, and their clubs in the Indian Super League.

I am told that the State Government’s Meghalaya Mission Football aims at detecting talent at the grass-root level and providing support for grooming and nurturing promising children and youngsters as professional footballers. I am sure that the football stadium being constructed at a cost of 38 crore rupees with the support of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, will go a long way towards fulfilling this objective.

Next year, that is in 2017, India is hosting the Under-17 FIFA World Cup. We need to take advantage of this event being held in India; and ensure the spread and development of this sport not only in the North Eastern Region, but also in other parts of the country.

Meghalaya has a large number of football clubs and associations. Perhaps, you can organize competitive local tournaments and lead the way for other parts of the country, to build a series of major events leading to the Under-17 World Cup.

Friends.

We all know Cherrapunji, for being the place that receives the highest rainfall in the World. Today, another feather has been added to its cap. The Doppler Weather Radar at Cherrapunji has been dedicated to the Nation. I congratulate the Indian Space Research Organization; Bharat Electronics Ltd.; and the Indian Meteorological Department for setting up this Radar in Cherrapunji.

The North East, a land of beauty and adventure, has been hit by several natural calamities in the recent past, on account of heavy rain and landslides.

This Weather Radar System will enable better weather forecasts, especially for the North Eastern region. This should help in minimizing the threat posed by extreme weather conditions.

Earlier today, I had an opportunity to participate in the North Eastern Council Meeting and interact with the Governors and Chief Ministers of this region. This gave me an opportunity to get a glimpse of the development work being carried out in the North East. A lot is being done. Much more still needs to be done.

My Government has been proactively following the ‘Act East Policy’. I consider the North Eastern Region as the Gateway to South-East Asia. As part of this policy, it is our mission to upgrade the infrastructure in Road, Rail, Telecom, Power and Waterways in the region. And today, as part of that mission, I have flagged off three new trains. We are committed to connect all North Eastern States with the country’s railway network. Since the formation of the NDA Government at the Centre, we have spent more than Ten Thousand Crore Rupees for development of the railway network in the North East. The Railway Ministry plans to spend more than Five Thousand Crore Rupees during the current year for the same.

In November, 2014, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh were brought on the rail map of India. Recently, Agartala in Tripura has been connected with a broad gauge railway line. Today is indeed a red letter day in the history of the North-East. Broad Gauge Passenger Trains will now connect the States of Manipur and Mizoram. Today, Kamakhya in Guwahati has been directly connected with Vaishno Devi in Katra, near Jammu.

We are opening up both Road and Rail routes to our neighbouring countries. This will give a boost to the economic development of the region.

The Union Government has incorporated a special Corporation named ‘National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation’ in July 2014, for the development of Highways in the North Eastern region. This Corporation is constructing three new bridges on Brahmaputra River. It is implementing 34 road projects in the North Eastern Region to construct around 1,000 kilometers of roads at a total cost of over Ten Thousand Crore Rupees. The North East Road Sector Development Scheme has been started, with an aim to connect every district in the region with a National Highway.

The development of inland waterways has been given a boost. The Union Government has declared 19 Waterways in the North East as National Waterways.

We are committed to provide 24 by 7 electricity to all the people. Keeping this in mind, the Union Government is making heavy investment in the power sector. Two projects covering all the eight North Eastern States are being implemented at a cost of around Ten Thousand Crore Rupees for improving power transmission.

The commissioning of the Bishwanath-Chariyali to Agra transmission network has made available 500 Megawatts of power in the region from outside. Out of the 18,000 unelectrified villages in the country, we have already connected more than 7000 villages with electricity. I expect that no village in the country, including the North Eastern States, will be left without electricity by 2018.

The Government is implementing a comprehensive Telecom Plan for the North Eastern Region at a cost of over 5,300 crore rupees. Agartala has become the third city in India to be connected with an International Gateway through Cox Bazar of Bangladesh. This has improved telecom connectivity and will give a boost to the economic development of the region.

During my last visit to Gangtok a few months ago, Sikkim was declared as the First Organic State in the country. Other North Eastern States can take a lead from Sikkim to become Organic States. In fact, the North Eastern Region has the potential to become Organic Food Basket of India. This will increase the income of the farmers.

Friends.

Today one need not go through the tedious scrutiny of a banker to get small loans. The Union Government has launched the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, under which collateral free loans are provided to small business entrepreneurs. During 2015-16, more than three crore forty eight lakh entrepreneurs have been sanctioned loans worth more than one lakh thirty seven thousand crore rupees. Of these, six lakh loans have been sanctioned in the North Eastern States for a value of around 2800 Crore Rupees.

Similarly, 93 Lakh bank accounts have been opened in the region under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. Around 21 Lakh people have been enrolled under the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana. Around 19 Lakh people have been enrolled under the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana.

The Textile Sector provides employment to most people after agriculture. Within the sector, it is the apparel segment that provides maximum employment. A large number of women are employed in the segment.

In order to boost industrial activity and employment under the North East Region Textile Promotion scheme, one apparel and garment making centre is being set up in each of the eight states at a cost of Rupees One Hundred and Forty Five Crores. Out of the eight centres, seven centres have already been completed, each having three units.

Friends.

Meghalaya has a distinct historical, cultural and ethnic heritage. It is blessed with natural beauty and wildlife. There is no reason for a tourist to not want to visit Meghalaya. There is a tremendous opportunity for tourism, as well as adventure tourism, in the North Eastern Region, particularly, Meghalaya.

We need to develop Tourist Circuits by providing better facilities to tourists, in terms of improved road connectivity, hotels, and cleanliness. The Union Government has launched a new scheme of Swadesh Darshan, under which it is developing Tourist Circuits in the country. One such circuit is proposed for the North East.

Less than two years ago, on 2nd October, 2014, the Union Government started its journey to create Swachh Bharat by October 2019, as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, ‘The Father of the Nation’. In exactly one year, from 15th August, 2014 to 15th August, 2015, under the Swachh Bharat – Swachh Vidyalay Programme, we have constructed four lakh seventeen thousand toilets in over two lakh schools.

The Swachh Bharat Mission is a public movement for cleanliness. The biggest beneficiaries of this movement are the poorest of the poor. I request all of you to actively participate in the movement and ensure an open defecation free society and clean environment.

I am happy to note that the traditions of hygiene and cleanliness in the region got a boost with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Mawlyynong village in Meghalaya, the cleanest village, and the entire state of Sikkim, including Gangtok, have become major tourist attractions.

I would like to congratulate all the winners of the run with the theme ‘North East leads the way – Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’. I congratulate the North Eastern Council for organizing the run. Gangtok deserves applause for being ranked the cleanest city of the North East.

Congratulations to the people of Meghalaya for hosting the North Eastern Council Plenary Meeting in Shillong. I also express my gratitude to all of you for giving me the opportunity for a wonderful interaction.

Jai Hind. 

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