Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday called on the North Eastern Council (NEC), the planning body of the eight north-eastern states, to re-orient itself for the region’s overall development.
“To meet the growing aspirations of the people, it is important that the NEC introspects and assesses the extent to which it has been able to achieve its objectives. There is a need to re-orient and upgrade the North Eastern Council.
“You may like to consider developing the NEC as a state-of-the-art resource centre for the northeastern states with the necessary resources, knowledge and skills,” Modi said at its 65th plenary session attended by governors and chief ministers and union Development of North Eastern Region Minister Jitendra Singh.
Such a centre may enable the states to properly plan and execute projects, promote research and innovations and provide strategic policy vision for the region, he added.
He also asked the NEC to look into developing specialised domain expertise either by itself or through an agency model to assist in development planning as well as to focus on issues in areas of livelihood, entrepreneurship, venture funds, start-ups and skill development which will help in job generation.
Stressing his government has been focussing on the region’s development through its proactive “Act East Policy”, Modi said: “As part of this policy, we are focussing on reducing the isolation of the region by improving all round connectivity through road, rail, telecom, power and waterways sectors.”
He said he was “convinced that India can move forward if all the regions develop including the northeast which was “also very important to us for strategic reasons” and needed to be brought at par with other developed regions.
The central government earmarked more than Rs.30,000 crore for the region and it should be ensured that this is “spent well”, he said, adding that his government has decided to continue to provide 90 percent funding for core central schemes and 80 percent for non-core schemes in the region.
Citing a “number of strengths” which must “be harnessed for healthy growth”, Modi said all these states “are blessed with natural scenic beauty, distinct historical, cultural and ethnic heritage” which offers tremendous scope for tourism, including mountaineering, trekking and adventure tourism.
“If developed and promoted well, this can emerge as the biggest employer in the region. It can also add to the growth and income of the region,” he said, adding the region can also look into combining a few popular destinations of neighbouring countries with their own tourism circuits as added attraction for tourists.
Informing that a Northeast BPO promotion scheme has been approved in the Digital India programme, Modi urged the states to avail the facility.
“The majority of youth of the northeast region is English-speaking. With improved connectivity and language skills, you may look into setting up of the BPO industry in the region,” he said.
Modi also urged the governments to focus development strategy on organic farming, as the region is home to exotic fruits, flowers, vegetables, aromatic plants, and herbs, and asked the chief ministers to take a lead from Sikkim.
The NEC can also play an important role in development of organic farming in the region, he said.