GUWAHATI, Sept 8 - Despite claims by Home Minister Amit Shah and DoNER Minister Dr Jitendra Singh of enhanced allocation and priority given to the region�s overall development, leaders of the northeastern states today expressed unhappiness over inadequacy of funds and even rooted for restructuring the North Eastern Council.
In his address at the 68th plenary of North Eastern Council here, Nagaland Governor RN Ravi said the NEC was created as an institution to look at the region as one organic whole and keep it so through creation of shared institutions, infrastructures and interests.
�Over the decades, unfortunately the NEC has been weakened. It has happened mainly due to inadequate appreciation of the underlying rationale for this unique institution. Its resources have dwindled and its capacity to be a unifier of the region has been severely eroded. It has been practically subsumed by the Ministry of DoNER. The states of the region now look at it merely as a source of additional developmental resources,� he said in his address at the plenary which was not open for the media.
Ravi requested the Union Home Minister to take cognizance of the fundamental drift of NEC away from its core objective and said the institution can be restructured in tune with the contemporary needs and realities while keeping its core objective of strengthening the underlying oneness of the region.
Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi said the NEC budget during 2018-19 was Rs 1,135 crore against which normative allocation for Assam was fixed for Rs 136 crore. This trend of allocation for NEC, he said, is quite inadequate to address the hopes and aspirations of Assam and the region as a whole. �Without sustainable backing from the NEC, it will be difficult for the State to reach the desired levels of growth and development as envisioned in the NER Vision 2020,� he said.
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said the ten per cent of allocation of all Central ministries are meant for the Northeast, but in reality it is not being invested in the region.
�My government desires that NE states be allowed to assess these unutilized resources for the infrastructure development. The amount released to the NEC is too small to make any meaningful impact on the development of inter-state physical infrastructure and human resource development of the region,� he said.
�There is still a large gap between the resources made available and the expectation and aspirations of the states. Without a quantum jump in the NEC allocation and budgetary support from the Centre, it will be difficult for the northeastern states to catch up with the development index and sustainable development goals at the national average by 2030,� Singh said in his address.
Recalling that he had mentioned about the issue of insufficient funds at the last plenary at Shillong, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said it was a �disturbing fact� that even during 2019-20, the NEC has serious fund constraints and may not be able to take up new schemes.
Both Rio and Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma pointed out that the process for approval of projects is long-winding and hence time consuming.
Sangma also iterated that to enable the NEC to fulfil its mandate of promoting development of the northeastern region in the real sense, the budget should be increased to about Rs 2,000 crore and unless such resources are made available, the NER Vision 2020 providing for comprehensive development of the region will only remain a pipedream.