GUWAHATI, Sept 8 - Union Home Minister Amit Shah today announced that the North Eastern Council (NEC) will earmark 30 per cent of its fund for focused funding of priority areas and deprived villages in the Northeast. While inaugurating the 68th plenary of the NEC here, the Home Minister also urged the NEC to frame a road map of reaching development targets by 2022 for the region.
�There are 14 �aspirational districts� in the Northeast. But we want development to percolate to the most-deprived levels. There are some pockets which are still underdeveloped. Development should be inclusive. Henceforth, 30 per cent of NEC budget for each state will be set aside for underdeveloped, backward and priority areas. The state governments will identify these areas,� he said.
Reiterating Prime Minister Narendra Modi�s vision for NE as the �engine for growth� of the country, Shah said, �The GDP of then northeastern part, prior to Independence and Partition, was higher than the rest of India. We want NE to reclaim 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 growth of the region.
Shah pointed out that the budgetary outlay for NEC has been increased from Rs 3,376 crore in the 13th Finance Commission to Rs 5,053 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.
Shah said the government wants to connect all the NE states with rail and air connectivity by 2022.
�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,� Shah said, adding that the period from 2014 to 2019 was a �golden era� for Northeast�s development.
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 and languages 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 view of national security and said development has to be planned keeping it in mind.
Shah begun his speech with a tribute to Dr Bhupen Hazarika and said that the legendary artiste was a true ambassador of the Northeast who devoted his life for promoting the culture of the region. He also urged the states to take up bamboo mission as priority sector.
Addressing the session, Union DoNER Minister Dr Jitendra Singh said the North East Council has been given its highest budgetary allotment of Rs 1,476 crore for the year 2019-20. Dr Singh said that the target has been set to upgrade NEC as a state-of-the- art resource centre. He said that various steps have been taken by the Council in other parts of the country for the benefit of the people belonging to the Northeast.
Governors and Chief Ministers of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura also delivered their speeches at the plenary session.
Chief secretaries and DGPs of northeastern states, officials of NEC, officials of the Government of India and northeastern states were present at the plenary session.