NEW DELHI, May 29: Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Monday strongly endorsed empowerment of the North East Council (NEC) to serve as an effective vehicle for transferring resources and capacities to the north eastern states.
He reasoned that the council was created with the sole objective to decentralise regional planning and investments.
Speaking at the 66th plenary of the NEC here, Khandu pointed out that all schemes of NEC have been categorised as Central sector schemes, which earlier used to be centrally sponsored schemes, a report from the CMO said.
“The very purpose of creating NEC was to encourage decentralised regional planning and investments. A departure from this approach may be counter-productive to need-based project development,” he observed.
Asserting that the budget allocation to NEC needs to be enhanced, Khandu proposed that all unspent 10% allocation of union ministries for the region may be transferred to NEC for focussed investments in infrastructure and institutions of the North East.
The chief minister termed deficit of skills and dearth of private investments and jobs as the biggest challenges for youths of the region, especially Arunachal Pradesh. He urged NEC to increase investment in institutions of skill development, sought establishment of a Regional Institute of Skill Development in Arunachal Pradesh and offered to make available adequate land.
He also suggested NEC to help create a venture capital fund in partnership with public sector banks and other financial institutions to provide access to low cost finance for educated unemployed youths.
Khandu said NEC must also play a crucial role in creating Institutions to help in aggregation of agricultural produce, marketing and processing. He hoped that the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Centre for Policy Research, Shillong will come out with practical solutions for developing the horticultural value chain for the region.
Calling for a new paradigm of economic development of the region, Khandu proposed to host a two-day regional conference in November in partnership with NITI Aayog, DoNER and NEC along with leading academic institutions and active participation of all chief ministers of North East to outline a new vision for development of the region.
The chief minister requested the DoNER Ministry to consider infusing a block grand for some of the eight doable hydropower projects since Arunachal Pradesh has barely been able to build 500 MW of its potential of more than 57,000 MW.
He also expressed optimism that with support of Assam government the issue of stalled 2000 MW Subansiri Lower Hydro Electric Project would be resolved, which he said will be a landmark in India’s hydropower journey.
Khandu urged construction of a road from Lumla to Tashigang in Bhutan under Delhi’s Act East Policy. He also emphasised the need to establish an integrated check post at Pangsau Pass, which would help opening up of Stillwell Road up to Myanmar for trade purposes besides starting of informal border haats.
Impressing the need to learn from cumulative experiences of the region, Khandu said NEC can help build a reservoir of regional experience and sharing of best practices which would be replicable in other states. Further, he said NEC needs to support member states in ushering in a new paradigm of e-governance as the north eastern states may require hand-holding in absorbing changes of digital transactions.
Describing robust connectivity as a major challenge for Arunachal Pradesh, Khandu sought support of NEC with viability gap funding for completing all road, rail, telecommunication and airstrip projects. He also sought the council’s support in value-addition of hugely abundant bamboo resource through an integrated value chain linking farmers with bamboo processing facilities.
The 66th plenary chaired by DoNER Minister Jitendra Singh was attended by Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, governors and chief ministers of all the north eastern states, officials of DoNER and NEC.
Singh assured all members that the development of north eastern region is amongst the foremost priorities of the prime minister and the union government is in the process of reinventing NEC as an effective regional body. He also said that earnest measures should be taken to deploy the 10% resources under the non-lapsable pool of resources.
Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein, Chief Secretary SD Gamlim, development commissioner, secretary to CM and several state government officials also attended the day-long session, the report added.