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Efforts on to expand connectivity of NE with SE Asia: Modi

By Correspondents

KARENG CHAPORI (DHEMAJI), Dec 25 - Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that under the Act East Policy, efforts are on to expand connectivity of Assam and other states of the Northeast with the Southeast Asian countries. He said that construction of different phases of an 800-km international highway is expeditiously going on, apart from laying of 15 new railway lines or converting 1,000 km railway tracks to broad gauge in a bid to connect all the capitals of northeastern states through railway.

Addressing a public meeting here after inaugurating the Bogibeel bridge, the Prime Minister said that during the tenure of previous governments only 100 km of railway tracks were laid every day, but under the present government, around 350 km railway tracks are being laid per day. In case of inland water transport, he informed that steps have been taken to connect the Chittagong and Mongla ports of Bangladesh through the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers.

The Prime Minister also flagged off the Tinsukia-Naharlagun Intercity Express that will run five days a week and use the Bogibeel bridge to cut down the train-travel time between Tinsukia in Assam to Naharlagun town of Arunachal Pradesh by more than 10 hours. Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh, is just over 15 km from Naharlagun.

Beginning his address in Assamese, he referred to a stanza of a Dr Bhupen Hazarika song that mentions the Brahmaputra as a confluence of unity. He also wished the people of Assam on the eve of New Year and Bhogali Bihu. He also paid tributes to great personalities of Assam like Chaolung Siu-Ka-Pha, Lachit Barphukan, Bir Chilarai and Sarbananda Singha. Taking a note of the impressive march of Assam in politics, social science, sports, etc., he also paid rich homage to �Nightingale of Assam� Dipali Barthakur who breathed her last on Friday.

Terming the inauguration of Bogibeel bridge as a historic occasion, Modi said the development of the country is dependent on the development of Assam and other northeastern states. Reiterating the Central government�s commitment to development of connectivity in the Northeast, Modi said in the last four and a half years, the NDA government attached tremendous importance to the connectivity of the region along with expeditiously completing the pending projects of the previous government.

Stating that the construction work of Bogibeel bridge was started way back in 2002, under the visionary leadership of former Prime Minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Modi said that completion of the bridge project had been delayed inordinately because of the lackadaisical attitude of the previous Central and State governments. However, after assuming power at the Centre, the NDA government completed more than 50 per cent work of the Bogibeel bridge project in just four and a half years enabling the government to dedicate the bridge to the service of the nation. He also maintained that had the NDA government regained power in 2004, the Bogibeel bridge could have been commissioned seven to eight years ago.

Giving a comparative statement, the Prime Minister said that in the last four and a half years the present NDA government has completed construction of three bridges as against the three bridges in the last seven decades by the previous governments. He also said that the construction of five new bridges are going on and once completed, these will add new momentum to connectivity in the Northeast.

Modi said the present Central and State governments have been trying to give fresh momentum to development of the Northeast along with the development of connectivity. He said the present Central government is also on its toes to complete the pending projects of the previous governments and earmarked projects worth Rs 12 lakh crore for the purpose.

The Turial hydroelectric project, which was inaugurated last year, and the Sikkim airport that was opened recently, were examples of the Central government�s efforts to expedite implementation of development projects, he said. Modi said that timeline is no longer confined to files alone but have taken the form of a reform in the government. He highly praised the Assam government for embracing this reformative approach and mentioned about projects like construction of the new terminal at LGBI Airport in Guwahati, doubling and electrification of railway line, laying of a gas pipeline from Guwahati to Tinsukia via Numaligarh, setting up AIIMS and IARI at Dhemaji as testimony of great synergy between the Central and State governments. He also said that laying of international submarine bandwith for speedy internet connection has been complete up to Tripura and soon it would reach Assam, which would revolutionize digital connectivity in the State.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, in his speech, said the Bogibeel bridge is a bridge of harmony and its opening would not only boost connectivity but also propel economic growth of the region. Sonowal also recalled the contribution of Chaolung Siu-Ka-Pha, Lachit Barphukan, Chilarai, Sati Sadhani, Sati Radhika, Dr Bhupen Hazarika and Hemanga Biswas, and said that their works inspired the Assamese people and strengthened harmonious coexistence.

The Chief Minister further underlining the contributions of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee towards development of Assam and the Northeast asserted that the State government has been working resolutely to establish good governance. He said Vajpayee�s ideals would continue to inspire the government and lend renewed impetus to the initiatives of the State government. Moreover, terming the inauguration of Bogibeel bridge as a historic day, he thanked the people of Assam for their role in successful completion of the project.

While Union Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain delivered the welcome address, Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Pema Khandu and Assam Health and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma also spoke on the occasion.

Governor Jagdish Mukhi, MPs of Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur Rameswar Teli and Pradan Baruah respectively, BTC chief Hagrama Mohilary, Jonai MLA Bhuban Pegu, several ministers of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and a host of other dignitaries were present in the function.

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