The Hon’ble Governor of Manipur Dr. Najma Heptulla spoke that due to her role as an interlocutor between the Centre and State , she should become the spokesperson of the entire North-East by listening to their grievances and taking steps towards roads of development while addressing at the closing function of the 16th Annual Conference of North-East Region Commonwealth Parliamentary Association at Manipur Legislative Assembly today. The Conference was held on the theme “ North East and Look East Policy.”
Pointing out Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s working from the Centre taking into consideration the possibilities and constraints concerning any developmental agenda, she said that she never failed to share those issues concerning the entire North-East : be it connectivity, health or education and job creation. She mentioned that even though the North Eastern Council was established way back in 1972, it needs to be constantly updated and revamped from today’s point of view.
Supporting her strong view of a federal Government, she also said that allocation of money/funds should be need-based and not merely on the basis of size and population of the states. The criteria of backwardness and degree of deficits after conducting a thorough survey of the states should be taken into account, she also stressed.
Highlighting that connectivity and communication is one of the major problems hindering the progress of the North Eastern States, Deputy Speaker, Tripura Legislative Assembly, Shri Pabitra Kar stated that states cannot develop if transport bottlenecks are not solved. He mentioned the need to improve the air route connectivity of Tripura to Singapore via Bangladesh to encourage more foreign tourists to the N-E Region. “There should be a natural Grid system and more visibility of the Brahmaputra waterways,” he also said.
Speaker of Mizoram Legislative Assembly, Shri Hiphei said that more than 200 Hindi teachers under SSA could not draw their monthly salary for about 6 months and elaborated on a special plan for overall development of the North Eastern States.
Speaking on the topic “Special Plan for Development of Railways,Airways,Surface Road and Inland Waterways connectivity for speedy economic development of the North East”, Speaker of Arunachal Legislative Assembly Shri Tenzing Norbu Thongdok said that provisions along with the estimated cost have to be kept in mind to connect railways upto Tawang that is about 10,000 km above sea-level and waterways till Passhighat and Teju. “Aircraft capacity of around 100/150 passengers should be introduced in the N-E Region in large number,” he continued.
Member of Manipur Legislative Assembly & Chief Whip Manipur Shri P. Sarathchandra Singh said that as the North East has thousands of years of historical and cultural affinity with Myanmar, there is great hope that the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, which would bring global connectivity to the region, would be a hallmark of the Act East Policy. He shares a strong opinion for adopting a multi-model approach and modernized and well-equipped integrated check posts where there will be a single delivery system thereby make N-E Region a major hub of economic activities.
Speaker of Nagaland Legislative Assembly Dr. Imtiwapang Aier observed that the Look East Policy has great significance for the Far East because as it has the potential of bringing more trade and commerce, which would lead to economic uplift to the region. Stating that we have close affinity with special category states due to our geographical location and communication backlogs , he also emphasized on the need to demand special grant from the Centre for the development of railways in our region.
Expressing his concerns over delayed implementation of the Look East Policy and its resultant impact on the economic development of the region, Speaker of Assam Legislative Assembly Shri Hitendra Nath Goswami observed that unless the region has better connectivity and adequate infrastructure, no policy- be it Look East Policy or Act East Policy- would bring the desired results.
Summing up the discussions held during the Conference, Speaker of Meghalaya Legislative Assembly & Chairperson, NERCPA Shri A. T. Mondal concluded that the discussions mainly centred on policy shift and inclusive policy. The thoughts put forward by the delegates include setting up of a legislators’ forum, a separate ministry on the line of GST council to take forward the Act East Policy which recently got rejuvenated in 2014. He elaborated on the role of the External Affairs Ministry to look into the matter , revival of certain schemes which are earlier left out, provision for special category states, renewal of NE industrial promotion and Backward Region Grant Fund(BRGF) and most importantly, removal of AFSPA.
Pointing out all major possibilities of development in the North Eastern States from core aspects like IT, power and human resources, he appreciated that the North East is nothing but an image of India. He later said, “We should request the Union Govt. to uplift this region to change the face of the country by researching about the impact of natural calamities, solving brain drain crisis, developing human resources (HR) and maintaining good relationships with neighbouring countries like China.”
The Conference later adopted a resolution comprising of core N-E issues like connectivity, employment problem, energy, tourism, trade and commerce, telecommunication and internet networks, special category state status, North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP) and a separate Ministry, Department or Forum exclusively for ‘Act East Policy.
It may be mentioned that the next NERCPA conference is to be held at Arunachal Pradesh.