GUWAHATI, July 4 � Growth of infrastructure and connectivity will receive top priority for North East India in the 12th Plan, which would also be a continuing legacy from the 11th Plan. The thrust areas recognise the major challenges the states of the region face in accelerating their economic development.
This was conveyed by Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Government of India, Montek Singh Ahluwalia in a press conference held in Guwahati today. He was here to take part in the Regional Consultation on the 12th Plan organized by the Planning Commission.
The top economist, who described the consultation as productive, mentioned that the eight states of the North East required better integration not just among them but also with the rest of the country. Therefore, improvement of infrastructure along with road and air connectivity is crucial.
�A lot of progress has been made and there are signs of forward movement,� he said, but added, �there is scope for improvements�.
Ahluwalia pointed out there are areas with good economic prospect, such as horticulture and tourism, but for the potential to be harnessed better communication is a key component.
In his address, he referred to Guwahati�s LGB International Airport, which can be used for better links with neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Thailand. That would be a boost to trade and economic activities in the North East.
The senior economist said the Planning Commission is going to put special emphasis on development in the Northeast, and the Commission could play the role of a spokesperson in making a pitch for the North East in different ministries.
Responding to a query, Ahluwalia said that there would be no discontinuing of the special privileges for the North East, but stopped short of stating whether those would continue beyond the stipulated time frame. Saying that some other states also need special support, he noted that the North East would enjoy its unique privileges.
He further informed that apart from infrastructure and connectivity, there were other issues raised by the NE states, which will be considered by the Planning Commission in due course. Among those are better educational and skill-learning opportunities for the youth of the region at par with the rest of the country.
While the Planning Commission is in favour of more high quality educational institutes in the North East, he discounted the notion that youths from the region should not go outside to pursue higher education. Such a flow would enable better integration of the region with the rest of the country, he said.
Addressing the media, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi emphasized that the consultation had gone well, and he appreciated the Planning Commission�s keen interest to improve connectivity and infrastructure in the North East.
Identifying education as a key area where focus is required, he said that educating and empowering the youths and women is a priority for the state. Water resources, Gogoi stressed, is the other area in which major developments can take place in the region.
In his brief speech, Gogoi sought to discount any fear over the Chinese plans to harness the Brahmaputra in Tibet, reasoning that such apprehensions were incorrect as the river contributes more water at the point it meets the Ganga than it receives where it enters Indian territory.