Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh has said that the Northeast is the key to “Act East” policy and that if, in the years to come, India is to engage in serious trade and economic activity with the countries on the Eastern borders, including Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan, its success will depend largely on the extent to which the growth and development occurs in the North-Eastern Region of the country.
In his address, as chief guest, at the International Seminar on “Economic Dependence on North-Eastern States of India and its bordering nations” organised jointly by ICSSR, New Delhi and Assam University at Silchar today, Dr Jitendra Singh said, Northeast has a huge potential which remained unexplored all these years because of the different priorities of the earlier governments. He said, the present government under the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi not only accords highest priority to the region, but has also made it a focus of its economic and diplomatic engagement across the Eastern borders.
Dr Jitendra Singh said, the Indo-Bangladesh agreement for the exchange of enclaves, paved the way for easy transport and movement between the two countries and it was a task which should have been accomplished at least 40 years ago, right at the time of the birth of Bangladesh, but was ignored. Similarly, rapid expansion of railway network in the region, including the rail track from Agartala to Bangladesh will shorten the journey time considerably and facilitate engagement by the two sides, he added.
With a common lifestyle and common eating habits on the two sides of the eastern border, Dr Jitendra Singh said, it is obvious that the products cultivated and grown in Northeast have the potential to find immediate takers in the countries across the Eastern borders. Therefore, he said, the Prime Minister’s thrust on organic farming and encouraging original products from Northeast will not only boost the economy of the entire North Eastern region but would also enable to do profitable business with countries across the border.
In last two years, Dr Jitendra Singh said, connectivity has been sought to be improved by improving road infrastructure and by bringing in more air flights and constructing new airports. The Union Government’s decision to set up a “Film and Television Institute” in Arunachal Pradesh and its announcement to set up “Sports University” in Manipur are actually aimed in this direction, he said.
Dr Jitendra Singh said, the recent agreement with Myanmar to provide them an assured market for the sale of pulses (Dal) is one of the instances of increased impetus on agricultural inter-dependency and innovative initiatives. There has been, he said, a paradigm shift in the approach of the present government towards Northeast, particularly in relation to development, and this is going to yield results in the times to come. He also referred to thrust on improvement of healthcare services in hospitals and other health centres across the Northeast which will not only enable the local patients to receive the required clinical management without moving to other parts of the country but will also promote medical tourism and consequent revenue generation when patients from countries across the eastern borders come to seek medical aid.
The next decade, Dr Jitendra Singh said, will be known as the decade of the Northeast and the concept of “Act East” policy given by the Prime Minister will go down as one of the most illustrious achievements of the present government.
Among those who spoke on the occasion were Prof. H.K. Nath of Sam Houston State University, USA, Prof. Kamal Ahmed Choudhury of Shah Jalal University, Bangladesh and Prof. Dilip Chandra Nath, Vice-Chancellor, Assam University.