NEW DELHI, Feb 8 � While advocating the strengthening and revamping of North Eastern Council (NEC), Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Sunday said that he would have no problem if its role and functions can be redefined to reflect the necessity of regional planning and serve as a link between the Union Government and the North Eastern Region (NER).
One of the mechanisms proposed for effecting cooperative federalism by NITI Aayog is a Regional Council. There should not be any move to reduce the effectiveness of NEC. Rather their role and effectiveness is to be enhanced, Gogoi opined, while participating in the first meeting of the governing council of the NITI Aayog that has replaced the Planning Commission.
Stating that it is particularly relevant in the context of the national �Act East� Policy, Gogoi said that countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand, are now showing keen interest in the North-East and have started to send delegations to Assam for developing travel, tourism, business, economic and cultural linkages. The development of international linkages and transport connectivity through the North-East in the form of national highways, inland river transport, international air connectivity, as well as railway linkages also need to develop more rapidly, he said.
�We suggest that the NEC and the DoNER be given a larger coordinating and implementing role under the Council of Chief Ministers and the NITI Aayog for ensuring that these important linkages are completed on priority, said the Chief Minister.
Strongly favouring the current arrangement of special category States, Gogoi urged the Prime Minister to continue the financial assistance under plan for all development activities, even under any new set up on the earlier approved 90:10 � grant to loan � basis. �There should be no change in this format. There should be no dilution of the Special Category status for the states of the North Eastern Region,� he pleaded.
Calling for increased allocations to Assam to enable the State to keep pace with the developed states, reducing and gradually removing the socio-economic disparities, Gogoi pointed towards the high rates of infant and maternal mortality in Assam, saying that it remain a serious cause of concern.
Supporting the Smart Cities Mission, the Chief Minister said that Assam faces a crucial lack of technical, accounting and planning expertise available within the Urban Local Bodies, which are the implementing agencies for all schemes and services for the public.
�As for the smart cities scheme we propose the following city and towns to the Government of India for consideration under Smart Cities Scheme including Guwahati, Golaghat, Silchar, Jorhat, Tezpur, Tinsukia, Barpeta and Bongaigaon. We would also request special assistance from the Central Government for a Metro System for Guwahati,� the Chief Minister proposed.
Gogoi said it is estimated that Assam loses about 8000 hectares of arable land annually through degradation of flood and erosion. In this way, Assam has lost nearly 4 lakh hectares or about 7.4 per cent of its land area in Brahmaputra valley in recent times. The loss of land owing to river bank erosion is permanent and has a long term impact on the economy of the region and its people. The land lost due to erosion puts additional burden on the scarce land resources, as the population density is already higher than the national average, he pointed out.