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NE development not on track: Panel

From Our Special Correspondent

 NEW DELHI: In a startling revelation, the National Advisory Council, headed by none other than UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, has admitted that despite adequate funding the Northeastern states have not made expected progress till date and recommended for greater role of the DoNER ministry to bring the backward region at par with rest of the country.

“At present 10 per cent of annual budget is earmarked for the Northeastern region, yet there is no separate Plan in the Ministries for the region,” a Working Group member pointed out.

In addition annual budget ceilings fixed by the Ministry of Finance with regard to NLCPR is coming in the way of development of the region, access to the fund should be eased based on demand.

The Working Group headed by Prof Pramod Tandon, a member of the NAC as Convener, was constituted a year ago to deliberate on the issues pertaining to development of the region.

“One of the reasons for such a paradox is the same norms and standards of development of the region with the rest of the country,” the report said. Special socio- economic, cultural and geographic characteristics of the region and its deficit skilled manpower have also not been taken into account, it added.

The Working Group also pointed out at the poor functioning of the North Eastern Council (NEC) which was meant for a balanced growth of the whole region.

The more than half century old council has a dearth of both funds and trained staff for such a gigantic task, it said.

The Working Group went into all the key sectors of economy and suggested remedial measures.

First of all the landlocked states should have proper internet connectivity , daily direct flights from each of the seven state capitals to Delhi and a separate plan to implement healthcare initiatives. Contending that telecom connectivity in the North Eastern Region should be looked at as an “essential service”, the advisory panel has suggested a separate Comprehensive Telecom Plan for the region which may adopt the “farthest first” principle to bring remote parts on the telecom map.

It also took note of the demand from the region to provide internet connectivity from the Cox’s Bazaar international gateway in Bangladesh instead of internet gateways at Mumbai and Chennai. This will work much faster and better than the existing practice, it felt.

Recommending better air connectivity with rest of the country, it also stressed that every state capital of the region be connected to Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata with a direct daily flight during the 12th Plan. There should be connecting flights among each state capital in the region, it said.

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