Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 18, 2022 said the Centre has been investing heavily in the north-east with his government’s motto being ‘Act fast for northeast’ and ‘Act first for northeast”.
Addressing the golden jubilee celebration of the North Eastern Council (NEC) in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong, he said the Centre’s is spending ₹7 lakh crore in the region compared to ₹2 lakh crore after India’s independence. Established in 1971 and formally inaugurated in 1972, the NEC is the nodal agency for the economic and social development of the north-eastern region comprising eight States.
Mr. Modi attributed the focus on the northeast to the change in the way the Centre has been looking at the region since 2014. “For us, the north-east in not the last part of the country, but the peace and development gateway for trade and other ties with Southeast Asian countries,” he said.
Slamming the previous governments for ignoring areas along the international borders in the region, he said the government’s vibrant border village programme would help develop these areas on a par with urban centres and prevent outmigration.
The Prime Minister noted that the number of airports in the region increased from nine to 16 and the number of flights increased from 900 to 1,900 in the last eight years. “Work is now under way to connect all the State capitals of the region by railway,” he said.
He also underscored the 50% increase in the length of national highways in the region since 2014, insisting that the infrastructure projects in the north-east gained momentum after the launch of the PM-DevINE scheme.
“Our government has gone beyond the conversion of the Look East policy to Act East and now to Act fast for northeast and Act first for northeast,” he said, highlighting several peace initiatives in the north-east to help “push development like never before”.
These initiatives include peace agreements with extremist groups and resolving decades old interstate boundary disputes. The reign of peace, he added, has made the Centre lift the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from many parts of the northeast.
Mr. Modi said the government has been working on improving digital connectivity in the north-east by increasing the optical fibre network with 6,000 mobile towers being set up at a cost of ₹5,000 crore. “The Atmanirbhar 5G infrastructure will help develop the start-up ecosystem and service sector in the region,” he said.
The Prime Minister highlighted the potential of organic farming in the region, the scope for deriving benefits through the oil pam mission, and the use of drones for farmers to overcome geographical challenges.
He also discussed India’s G-20 presidency and said its meetings would see people from all over the world coming to the northeast. “This will be an apt opportunity to showcase the nature, culture and potential of the region,” he said.
Earlier, the Prime Minister inaugurated and laid the foundation stone of multiple projects worth over ₹2,450 crore. These include an integrated beekeeping development centre and 21 Hindi libraries for Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Assam.
Also addressing the golden jubilee function of the NEC as its chairperson, Home Minister Amit Shah claimed the northeast improved vastly in terms of funding, peace, development and connectivity after Mr. Modi took charge at the Centre.
“Budget for the northeast never percolated down (from the corridors of power) earlier. After 2014, when our government took over, funds are reaching the villages,” he said, adding that Mr. Modi set targets for the NEC for the next 50 years while assessing its performance in the 50 years since its birth.
“The north-east has moved from violence and conflicts in the last eight years to an era of peace and progress. Since 2014, extremism in the region has decreased by 74% while attacks on security forces has come down by 60% and civilian deaths decreased by 89%,” Mr. Shah said.