NEW DELHI, April 27 - A demand was made in the Lok Sabha today for repeal of the �draconian� Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the North East, with a few members saying it was the biggest deterrent in integrating the youth of the region with India.
Participating in a discussion on the Demands for Grants of the Ministry for Development of North East Region (DoNER), members in the House made a case for bringing in change of strategy and political will for progress of Northeastern region.
�For 50 years we have clamped AFSPA on the region. Armed forces have killed 50,000 plus civilians in North East. AFSPA has been the biggest deterrent of integrating NE youth with India... Remove AFSPA without any conditionality,� said BJD member Tathagata Satpathy.
Thokchom Meinya (Cong) demanded immediate repeal of AFSPA from Manipur, saying the Act is �draconian and black law�. He said many agencies have said AFSPA should be repealed and the Centre should immediately repeal it.
Satpathy said the government at the Centre will have to change its strategy to integrate the Northeastern people with the Indian culture. �It is a change in political will that is needed. It is not the BSF, armed forces, who are at fault, it is politicians who are at fault,� he said.
Flaying the attitude of successive Central Governments towards North East, Satpathy said till 2008, Governors of the States in the region were retired armed forces personnel.
He demanded Padma award for Irom Sharmila, who is fighting for repeal of the AFSPA in Manipur. �Iron Sharmila deserves to be given Padma award for her perseverence. I admire her personally. The kind of awardees we saw this year, she deserves to be given Padma award,� Satpathy said.
He said the attitude of successive governments towards North East has been �convoluted or perverted. If Britishers had not come to India, then perhaps North East would have been put off to China�.
K Rammohan Naidu (TDP) said that Northeastern States are a victim of bad governance, lack of political will and extremism and appreciated Prime Minister Narendra Modi�s efforts towards bringing in progress in the region.
During the discussion, Prahlad Patel (BJP) remarked that National anthem is not sung in schools in North East.
Thokchom Meinya (Cong) said the funds allocated to the North Eastern region is less. He also asked the Centre to take steps to settle the vexed Naga issue within the Constitution.
Bijoya Chakravarty (BJP) said the Centre is coming out with a new industrial policy for North East and is also encouraging organic farming in Sikkim and in the entire region.
Chakravarty accused the UPA regime of not doing enough for the development of North Eastern region.
K Rammohan Naidu (TDP) said the per capita income in North East is low at Rs 6,600, against the national average of Rs 10,000. Also there are 35 per cent BPL families, compared to 26 per cent nationally.
Naidu appreciated BJP-led government�s efforts for trying to develop the NE by signing the Naga peace accord and encouraging organic farming.
Emphasising the importance of monitoring of the funds given to NE States, Arvind Sawant (Shiv Sena) said projects in the region should be completed in time-bound manner. �Unless we do it in time-bound manner, development cannot be ensured,� Sawant said.
He raised concern over porous border in the region leading to infiltration, movement of counterfeit notes and illegal arms. �It poses a great threat to our internal security. Therefore, there is need for completing the fencing of the border and increasing border security. Sealing of the border with China, Bangladesh should be given top priority,� he added. � PTI