Shillong, Oct 4: Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Monday laid the foundation for upgrading a road that connects Meghalaya capital with Dawki town, along the Indo-Bangladesh border, and stressed the need for improving connectivity in the northeastern region to boost its tourism prospects.
The project on National Highway-40, for which Rs 1,600 crore has been approved, is expected to reduce congestion on the feeder road adjoining the city and shorten travel time between Shillong and Dawki. Naidu, after the virtual foundation-laying ceremony at the State Convention Centre here, said that the road, once upgraded, will ease transportation of goods, step up service delivery and contribute to the overall development of the region. He called for fast-tracking of all developmental activities in the northeastern states with proper utilisation of the funds provided by the Centre.
"If we can expedite all projects here without delay or diversion, northeastern states have the potential to become the growth engines of the country," Naidu emphasised, adding that the "development of the nation is incomplete without the development of this region".
Expressing happiness over the "dip in insurgency-related activities" in the northeast, he underlined that peace is prerequisite for progress. The vice president, who is on a tour of the northeast region for 12 days, arrived in Meghalaya on Monday. Observing that rains often hinder construction activities on the hilly terrains, Naidu said, "Technical institutions around the country must take this as an opportunity and come up with innovative road designs, while cutting down on the implementation period of the projects."
Noting that there has been a marked improvement in air connectivity in the northeast, he suggested that more direct flights should be made available to and from the eight states. Describing Meghalaya as a "beautiful place with enormous tourism potential", Naidu further said that concerted efforts by the central and state governments will help improve infrastructure in the state, thus drawing more visitors.
He, however, insisted that care must be taken to ensure that the pristine ecological system is not disturbed in any manner. Referring to the importance of agro-entrepreneurship in states like Meghalaya, the vice president said that there lay immense opportunities for budding entrepreneurs to add value to the supply chain.
"There is a great opportunity to market and showcase our indigenous horticultural varieties to the world," he said, referring to Lakadong turmeric and ginger powder, which have gained popularity across the country and abroad. He urged youth to become agro-entrepreneurs and handhold small farmers to ensure that their products get the right price in the market. The vice president also congratulated Rebecca Vanessa Suchiang, who was present at the event, for becoming the first native woman to hold the chief secretary's post in Meghalaya. He added that her achievement will inspire the youth of the state to take up government service.
Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari had sent a video message on the occasion, congratulating the state for the Shillong-Dawki road project. Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, who was present at the function, maintained that the road will also improve connectivity between Guwahati and the ports.
"Once this road is built, it will take 10 hours to reach Chittagong port from Guwahati. We will no longer have to travel via Kolkata which involves a journey time of 30 hours," Sangma added.