Manmohan Singh launches northeast charm offensive

July 2nd, 2008 - 3:20 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Mani Shankar Aiyar

New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday unveiled a roadmap for all-round development of the northeast region by 2020 that will spur investment, reduce poverty, enhance connectivity and bring the region on par with the rest of the country. Launching a charm offensive to woo the people of the northeast region who have often complained of being neglected and alienated from the mainstream, Manmohan Singh formally released the ‘Northeastern Region Vision 2020′ report in the presence of chief ministers and governors of the northeastern states.

Over 1,000 students dressed in colourful ethnic attire of various northeastern states were present at Vigyan Bhavan here to witness this “historic initiative” and cheered when Manmohan Singh said: “The time has come for the sun to shine on the northeastern region and to shine brightly.”

“The union government will do its utmost to make 2020 vision a reality. Infrastructure and connectivity are cornerstones of development of the region,” the prime minister, who is a Rajya Sabha member from Assam, said while calling for replacing violence in the insurgency-prone region with development.

“Growth and equity must converge in the path of development. The all-round development of the northeast is our topmost priority,” he said while stressing on inclusive development of the region that is home to four percent of India’s population.

The vision document focuses on challenges aimed at ensuring peace and progress, spurring private investment and industrial development, empowerment of the people by maximising self governance, rural development, increasing agricultural productivity and augmenting infrastructure in the region which continues to lag behind in most development indicators.

Manmohan Singh also exhorted businesspersons from India and abroad to invest in the development of the northeast as the state needed millions of dollars in investment to bring it on part with the rest of the country. “Every major ministry in the government spends at least 10 percent of their budgetary support on the northeast,” he said.

Pitching strongly for making the northeast region an economic hub, Minister for Development of the Northeastern Region Mani Shankar Aiyar said the region requires Rs.14 trillion ($25-30 billion) in investment and stressed that the development of the region will push India’s growth rate to double-digit figure.

Aiyar said the report was prepared after extensive consultations with all sections of society in northeast that included 12 public hearings in different places and was adopted by governors and chief ministers of northeastern states May 14.

He also underlined the government’s efforts to dovetail India’s look east policy with the development of the northeast states, which share 98 percent of their border with Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal.

“We should ensure the benefits of foreign policy are felt in economic terms, specially in the northeast.”

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