Year End Review of DoNER Ministry

Jitendra Singh
Jitendra Singh

Following are the highlights of the activities of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region during the year 2016:

Ø  The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi attended the 65th Plenary Session of North Eastern Council (NEC) on 27th May, 2016. This is the first time after 40 years that the Prime Minister had attended the Plenary Meeting of North Eastern Council at Shillong which is the headquarters of the Council. The last Prime Minister to do so was Shri Morarji Desai in the year 1977. On this occasion, the Prime Minister announced various initiatives for developing NER.

  • Accordingly, NEC has undertaken several actions during the year 2016. As a step towards linking the NEC with institutes of excellence to make it as a state-of-art resource centre, ‘Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Center for Policy Research and Analysis’ was formally launched in October 2016 at the Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management (RGIIM), Shillong. The Centre will provide strategic policy support on livelihood, Act East Policy, Biodiversity, Organic Food Basket, Bamboo Mission and Horticulture. An MoU was also signed between Ministry of DoNER and the Centre for Development of North Eastern Region (CEDNER), RGIIM, Shillong for the purpose of skill gap analysis in NER, reviewing the integrated Tourism Master Plan for NER prepared by TCS for NEC; preparing the approach paper for industrial corridor, North East Civil Aviation Corporation and BPOs in NER.
  • As part of another initiative of the PM, NEC has been conducting Skill Development and employment oriented training programmes for NE youths on fields such as beauty care for Class 8th and above, computer hardware and software, hospitality, etc. The NEC also recently sponsored 80 North East youth for one year course on hospitality and retail at World Class Skill Centre, Vivek Vihar, New Delhi. Trainees are advised and encouraged to set up entrepreneurship units in the region. An “Expression of Interest” floated for empanelment of Agency/Institute for employment oriented training programmes and skill development of NE youths in different sectors. Besides, Institutes such as Regional Institute of Architecture and Planning, Regional Institute of Public Health, Medical, Nursing and Paramedical colleges, Regional Institute of Civil Aviation Training & Development have been identified for setting up in the Region to bridge skill gaps in these areas.

Ø  The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, on Jan.18, 2016 inaugurated the Sikkim Organic Festival 2016, and addressed the Plenary Session of the National Conference on Sustainable Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, at Gangtok in Sikkim. The Prime Minister digitally launched the logo of “Sikkim Organic.” He launched three new Orchid species developed in Sikkim. The Prime Minister handed over to the Chief Minister of Sikkim, Shri Pawan Chamling, two commendations for its journey towards total organic farming. He also handed over commendations for two districts of Sikkim for achieving 100 percent coverage of soil health cards.

Ø  Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on Jan.19, 2016 unveiled the plaque for the foundation stone of the campus for Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Guwahati.

Ø  In two historic moves by Indian Railways, Railways Minister Shri Suresh Prabhu on July 30, 2106 laid the foundation stone of the proposed Imphal railway station, and also announced the commencement of work for the longest rail tunnel in India. The overall cost of construction of the Station Building will be roughly Rs 8.7 crore. The longest railway tunnel in India will come up on the Jiribam–Tupul–Imphal new broad gauge railway line. It will be 11.55 km long, more than the famous Pir Panjal tunnel on the Banihal-Qazigund line.

Ø  In a big milestone, Railways Minister Shri Suresh Prabhu, in the company of his Bangladeshi counterpart Mohammed Mazibul Hoque, on July 31, 2016 laid the foundation stone for the Agartala–Akhaura broad gauge line. The 15.06 kilometre line between India’s Agartala and Bangladesh’s Akhaura is part of the Trans-Asian Railway Network. The new line has the potential of substantially shortening the railway connectivity distance between Tripura and Kolkata. The total anticipated cost of the project is Rs 968 crore. DoNER Ministry provided an amount of Rs.580 crores to Ministry of Railways for Agartala-Akhaura Rail project.

Ø  Referring to fast-track movement of rail expansion in Northeast, 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 said on April 13, 2016, the long-time pending work on the broad-gauge track in the NER was expedited in the last two years and during the year 2015-16, over 500 kilometers of broad-gauge railway track was laid in the region. This includes the broad-gauge track to Agartala which became functional on February 20, 2016 and also Kathakat-Bhairabi in Mizoram.

Ø  Assam Chief Minister Shri Sarbananda Sonowal on Oct. 3, 2016 announced in Guwahati, direct flights introduced by Spicejet airline on the Guwahati-Silchar and Guwahati-Aizwal routes starting Oct. 4, 2016.

Ø  In the Smart City list released on Sep.20, 2016 by Union Minister of Urban Development, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, two cities of Northeast namely Kohima in Nagaland and Namchi in Sikkim have found a place.

Ø  Central Monitoring Committee (CMC) on Non Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) Central Scheme accorded in-principle approval to fund Rs.15 crores to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting towards the Capital Assets Creation for the proposed ‘Arun Prabha Project’. The proposed Channel, to provide a platform to the rich cultural and linguistic identity of the North-Eastern parts of the country, was announced by the Finance Minister in his Budget Speech for the FY 2014-15.  The work on the channel has already commenced and the same is proposed to be launched by the end of this financial year.  The initial expenditure on setting up infrastructure and development of content for launch is expected to be around Rs.25 crores.  As per M/o I & B, the proposed 24×7 Arun Prabha Channel will contribute to a large measure to develop content concerning North East that will be continuously used for broadcasting to the rest of the country through the vast network of DD/AIR and is expected to contribute substantially towards integrating this part of the country with the rest of India much more intimately. As the Channel will be completely dedicated to the North Eastern States, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting had requested Ministry of DoNER to provide financial assistance for the above project.

Ø  M/o DoNER has initiated creation of Venture Capital Fund for NER with North East Development Finance Corporation Ltd (NEDFi) to provide capital for start-ups in the NE region and to attract investors from outside NE Region. For this initiative, a fund size of Rs.100 crore has been set up (Rs.45 crore from MDoNER, Rs.30 crore from NEDFi and Rs.25 crore to be underwritten by NEDFi).  All the statutory approvals to launch the first dedicated Venture Capital Fund for the North East Region have been put in place. An additional incentive of Venture Capital Fund will be provided to any youngster from any part of India who wishes to set up a “Start-Up” entrepreneurship in the Northeast Region (NER). Speaking at an interactive programme organized by the Northeast MPs’ Forum on Dec.15, 2016, Dr Jitendra Singh said, “Startup India, Standup India” is the most unique programme in the world ever started anywhere and it offers unprecedented incentives like 3 years of tax holiday and 3 months of exit period. In addition to the incentives already announced in the programme, Dr Jitendra Singh said, the NEDFi has provision to provide easy loans to set up entrepreneurship. With enormous unexplored avenues including organic farming and manufacturing, he said, Northeast has the capacity to emerge as the favourite destination for young startups from all over India, he added. Dr Jitendra Singh also disclosed that “Northeast Industrial Policy” has also been revived.

Ø  DoNER Ministry organised the Bamboo Summit on September 27-28, 2016 in New Delhi where Bamboo strategy for NER and role of DoNER were discussed. Other topics were GoI Policy support and Vision for Bamboo Development in NER, Role of Cultivation and Harvesting Methods, R&D in Bamboo Production/Development, Best Practices, Upgradation and Innovative Uses of Bamboo, Skilling in Bamboo Craft and scope of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in Bamboo Products manufacturing, Cluster Development, etc. The Ministry has finalised an Action Plan for Bamboo Development in the NER and is coordinating with Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, as well as the NER states to inter alia establish a regional bamboo development body for NER as well as to facilitate an effective value chain for bamboo and bamboo by-products.

Ø  Ministry of DoNER sanctioned Rs.207 crores in December 2016 for protection of Majuli island from erosion. Majuli, the world’s largest river island located in Brahmaputra river in Assam, is the nerve centre of Vaishnavite Cultural Heritage Centre in Assam. Thousands of tourists and devotees visit Majuli due to its unique natural beauty and cultural mooring. The area of the island was 709 sq-km during 1949, which at present has reduced to 524 sq-km as per census 2011 due to flood and erosion.

Ø  The NEC approved formation of the North Eastern Tourism Development Council on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode to particularly promote regional tour packages.  This is being actively pursued to encourage regional tourist circuits in the NER in the future including collaborations across the border with Myanmar and Thailand.

Ø  From the academic session 2016-17, one seat each for cancer super-specialization in DM (Oncology) and MCh (Oncology) has been introduced in Dr. B. Borooah Cancer Institute, Guwahati. These courses will be conducted under the aegis of Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India, through Tata Memorial Cancer Centre, Mumbai which is a constituent institute of Homi Bhabha National Institute. This was announced by Dr Jitendra Singh on Feb. 11, 2016. From February this year, DoNER Ministry has begun sponsoring short-term cancer medicine and cancer surgery training for doctors from all the eight States of the region in country’s reputed Cancer Institutes.

Ø  Dr Jitendra Singh laid the Foundation Stone of a Hostel exclusively for Northeast girl students in Bengaluru on June 6, 2016. The hostel, which is the first of its kind in Bangalore University, will have a capacity to accommodate 269 students and will be constructed at a cost of around Rs. 14 crore. Dr Jitendra Singh disclosed that the next hostel project will shortly be started in the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, where land has already been acquired by the North Eastern Council (NEC). Since JNU has a larger number of students from the eight North Eastern States compared to several other States of India, it was found appropriate to raise the facility there, he said. Meanwhile, Dr Jitendra Singh informed that negotiations are going on with Vice Chancellor of Delhi University, Prof. Yogesh K Tyagi for suitable land to have a hostel for Northeast students in the South Campus. Following up this initiative, Dr Jitendra Singh said, he is now looking for land in other student hub towns like Pune as well.

Ø  Dr Jitendra Singh on March 3, 2016 hailed the quantum jump in the Budget allocation for North East Region in Union Budget 2016-17. He said that in addition to all other allocations, the single most important announcement of exclusive and unique “Organic Value Chain Development” scheme for Rs. 115 crore will prove to be a game-changer for the entire region. Dr Jitendra Singh said that the Budget for Ministry of DoNER has been increased from Rs 2,334.50 crore to Rs 2,400 crores this year as compared to previous year, The Minister said that the main emphasis of the Budget allocated for North East is on the overall development of the region. The provisions have been made for connectivity in North East Region, skill development and organic value chain development among others. Besides, the Minister said that a budget of Rs 33,097.02 crore has been allocated for the North Eastern Region across 56 ministries. This is 13.75% higher than the BE of Rs 29,087.93 crore for previous year. The Minister also informed that Rs 150 crore have been provided for the newly launched NE Road Sector Development Scheme.

Ø  Due to effective monitoring and recent revision in the guidelines of NLCPR scheme, the unspent balance has reduced from Rs.1,820.67 crore to Rs.1,430.94 crore in a span of only six months from April, 2016.  If the releases made during 2015-16 (Rs.606.10 crore) and 2016-17 (430.31 crore upto September, 2016) are deducted, for which Utilization Certificate are due in March, 2017 and March, 2018 respectively, balance from previous year is only to the tune of Rs. 422.53 crore. 108 projects have been completed in the last three years.

Ø  Lauding the innovative and fast track approach adopted by the Ministry of DoNER, Dr Jitendra Singh said in Guwahati on Oct. 3, 2016 that there has been a substantial jump in the release of funds and submission of UCs in the last two-and-a-half years in which a total of Rs.252.54 crores has been released. Citing the figures, he said, in 2014-15, when the present Government took over, a total of Rs. 60.46 crores was released for NLCPR projects in whole of the year while in the current financial year of 2016-17, in the first 6 months itself, Rs. 92.67 crore has already been released.

Ø  Focus of the DoNER Ministry continued on early completion of projects by releasing maximum funds for ongoing projects. During 2016-17, 111 projects have been completed (76 projects under NLCPR Scheme and 35 were completed by NEC). Two pronged strategy has been taken up for quicker processing of proposals under NLCPR Scheme.  One, as a part of Business Process Re-engineering (BPR), the guidelines have been revised which incentivize faster completion of the projects taken up under the scheme.  Second, the entire process starting from conceptualization of the project till completion of the project has been automated through web-based applications and monitoring through IT tools. The Ministry is now making ‘Just in Time’ releases under NLCPR scheme, with a token amount of Rs. 10 lakhs released with the sanction order and the regular instalments after work order is issued.

Ø  In order to fast track the development schemes /programmes in NER, a greater synergy is required amongst the Central Ministries who are implementing own schemes. To achieve the best level of synergy, Ministry of DoNER has constituted several Inter-Ministerial Committees (IMC). Currently there are four IMCs on Road sector, Civil Aviation sector, Livelihood Programmes and Tourism sector. Meetings of the IMCs are held regularly and issues settled.

Ø  A DoNER project portal has been launched for online data capture from State Governments, enabling Public Transparency and Social Audit. It will fast track the information dissemination and the follow-up action relating to execution of the projects ultimately leading to proper fund utilization and timely completion of the projects.  The features of social audit by allowing the public in general to upload the photographs of different components of the work and comments thereon will strengthen the monitoring mechanism in terms of their quality and quantity. The Ministry is in the process of going for a satellite based monitoring system of the projects lat-long cameras after their geo tagging. Rural Development Ministry is being roped-in for monitoring the execution of the projects by using the services of their National Level Monitors. State Level Empowered Committee (SLEC) also constituted to monitor the      progress of the projects being executed in their State. Regular Monitoring of projects is also done by way of visits of Ministry           officials of various levels.

Ø  The Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region has gone LIVE on e-office from Sep. 6, 2016. All the officers and the concerned staff were regularly trained in the implementation of e-office in the month of July, 2016. The e-office platform would not only digitize the entire office correspondence and file notings, but also ensure an audit trail of all entries and correspondence, thus providing an unprecedented level of accountability.

Ø  DoNER has embarked upon the agenda of using Geo Spatial, Remote Sensing and GIS technologies as decision support systems for planning. The Ministry has taken up the task of mapping the entire North Eastern Region (NER) with the help of National Centre of Geo Informatics (NCOG), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and North Eastern Space Application Centre (NESAC), which is a space application unit of North Eastern Council. The purpose of using space application in mapping is to aggregate all development related data about NER in one place and to be able to use it as map based information and inputs to strategise, plan, implement and monitor various developmental schemes and projects in the area.

Ø  The Ministry is pursuing the digitalisation agenda in all earnest.  E-office has been implemented at the Ministry and all payments are being made digitally. In compliance to the Cabinet decision dated February 24, 2016 and directions of Secretary, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) to take immediate steps to ensure cashless/digital transactions, the Ministry and NEC are making all transactions without involvement of cash.  Ministry has already started e-payments through PFMS. As a part of awareness campaign, officers and staff of this Ministry were sensitised to adopt digital means of transactions. PSUs have also been requested to conduct workshops/programmes highlighting the benefit of digital mode of payments.

Ø  Ministry is monitoring expenditure in NER by non-exempt Ministries under 10% Gross Budgetary Support. There has been a sharp rise in Plan expenditure by Central Ministries in NER by 35% from Rs. 23170 crores in 2013-14 to Rs. 31291 crores (provisional) in 2015-16. In 2015-16, non-exempt Ministries made a total expenditure of Rs.31291 crores against revised allocation of Rs.29669.22 crores or about 105% of the total allocation for NER.

Ø  Dr. Jitendra Singh took two meeting in Guwahati and Imphal in October 2016 to review the progress of projects sanctioned under NLCPR schemes in the States of Assam and Manipur. The Minister appreciated the efforts made by the State Governments for their overall performances, especially submission of Utilisation Certificates of significant amount during the last few months.

Ø  In compliance to the decision taken in the Committee of Secretaries meeting held on September 16, 2016 on convergence of Central Skill Development Schemes/ Programmes/Institutes under the umbrella of M/o Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), MSDE proposed to transfer the Capacity Building Component of CB & TA scheme of DoNER Ministry to MSDE along with budgetary allocation and physical targets. Accordingly, the proposals received for skill development in this Ministry have been transferred to MSDE.

Ø  DoNER Ministry is implementing World Bank assisted North East Rural Livelihood Project (NERLP) in four States namely Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. A joint mission of the World Bank and the project team of NERLP, which recently took stock of the project, appreciated and commended the efforts of the Ministry and has assured to upgrade the project to the next level.

Ø  Dr Jitendra Singh on Nov. 23, 2016 presented to the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the first of its kind, Northeast coffee table book prepared by North Eastern Council (NEC). The Secretary, NEC, Shri Ram Muivah was also present. Released on Sep. 21, 2016, the book contains a pictorial depiction of the exclusive features of each of the eight States of Northeast. Briefing about the 108 page volume book, Dr Jitendra Singh said that the book has been titled “A story of sagacity and success” and its creation was possible because of the inspiration and patronage personally provided by Shri Narendra Modi.

Ø  The North East-ASEAN Business Summit was organised during April 7-9, 2016 at Imphal, Manipur. The Summit was attended by participants from North Eastern States, representatives from National and Regional Institutions and concerned Ministries of the Government of India, Ambassadors of ASEAN countries and Commerce & Industry Minister of Bangladesh along with his business delegation.

Ø  A meeting on “Economic Cooperation Dialogue in Eastern South Asia: Transport Corridors and Border Special Development Zones” was jointly organised by UNESCAP, Government of Meghalaya and North Eastern Council at Shillong on April 25-26, 2016. The programme was attended by representatives from neighbouring countries i.e. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam. In the meeting discussion on points such as initiatives taken by this Ministry in filling critical gaps in infrastructure in NER, venture fund through NEDFi, business incubators in remote and border areas, importance of private investment for developing cross-border value chains especially in sectors, such as, Organic Produce, Floriculture, Horticulture, Medicinal Plants, Food Processing, Textiles, Handlooms and Handicrafts and Tourism took place.

Ø  Ministry of DoNER supported the Business Sessions held in Mandalay and Yangon in Myanmar as part of the India Myanmar Thailand (IMT) Car Rally which was held from 13th Nov to 3rdDecember 2016. Representatives from DoNER, North Eastern Agricultural Marketing Corporation (NERAMAC) and North Eastern Handicrafts & Handloom Development Corporation (NEHHDC) participated in the B2B session on tourism and agri/horti produce which was held with the Myanmar counterparts.

Ø  Senior officials of North Eastern Council, Ministry of DoNER, Govt. of India participated at Stalls in the India Pavilion put up by the Ministry of Tourism at the World Travel Market (WTM), London 2016 during November 7-9, 2016.  A total of 11 regional North East India Circuits were marketed. Several tour operators and tourists had visited the NEC stall and had shown keen interest in North East India tourism. This initiative will help in the promotion of tourism in the North Eastern Region.

Ø  The DoNER Ministry organised a mega-event “Destination North East-2016” from February 12-14, 2016 at Pragati Maidan, ITPO, New Delhi to showcase the inherent economic, social and cultural strength, potential and opportunities in the North East Region. Most of the Central Ministries e.g. Railways, Power, Telecommunication along with Tourism, Textile, MSME, Food Processing etc. made their presence in the event by setting up Exhibition Stalls and participation in Business Summit. All the State Governments of North Eastern Region actively participated in Exhibition Stalls, Business Summit and Cultural Programmes. Deliberation were made on investment potential, tourism, IT and ITES, Livelihood and Food Processing, Micro Finance, Skill Development, Handloom and Handicrafts and Start ups, in different sessions of the Business Summit of Destination North East 2016.

Ø  Dr Jitendra Singh inaugurated the “Northeast Textile & Craft Shopping Mela” on Dec.3, 2016, which was jointly organised by the Ministry of DoNER and the Ministry of Textiles. He also confirmed the availability of cashless transaction facility and QR (Quick Response) cash transaction provision at some of the stalls.

Ø  The Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, Smt. Rashmi Verma inaugurated the Purbashree Emporium in New Delhi on June 2, 2016. In order to give a boost to the development and promotion of North-East handicrafts and handlooms products, North Eastern Handicrafts and Handlooms Development Corporation Ltd (NEHHDC) has set up its ‘Purbashree Emporium’ in the Handloom Haat, New Delhi showcasing a wide variety of ethnic and exquisite handlooms products which are eco-friendly and biodegradable.

Ø  Dr Jitendra Singh inaugurated the Purbashree stall at Dilli Haat, INA on May 16, 2016. Later, the Union Minister of Textiles Smt Smriti Irani and Dr. Jitendra Singh formally launched the United Payments Interface (UPI) cashless payments at Purbashree stall at Dilli Haat, INA on Nov.28, 2016.

Ø  Union Minister of State for Textiles (Independent Charge), Shri Santosh Kumar Gangwar and Dr. Jitendra Singh, jointly inaugurated in New Delhi on May 30, 2016 an Exhibition-cum-Sale of Handicraft and Handloom products from the North Eastern States of India.  The project, which comes under the North-East Region Textile Promotion Scheme (NERTPS), will develop entrepreneurship through various capacity building measures and also train the people to work efficiently on high-end garment machines. Each Apparel and Garment Making Centre set up under the initiative is estimated to generate direct employment for 1,200 people. It will help develop an ecosystem that will trigger further investments and employment. The Centres in Tripura and Nagaland have already been inaugurated, while work is in progress in the remaining six states.

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