The first meeting of the newly constituted ‘NITI Forum for North East’ was held in Tripura capital Agartala yesterday.
The meeting was co-chaired by NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajeev Kumar and Minister of State for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Jitendra Singh.
Chief Ministers Biplab Kumar Deb (Tripura), Neiphiu Rio (Nagaland) and Conrad Sangma (Meghalaya), besides Arunachal Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein participated in the day-long deliberations.
Senior Ministers, Chief Secretaries and senior officers of the Central Ministries and State Governments were also present.
In his inaugural address, Mr Rajiv Kumar said the focus of development projects in the NER will be based on the concept of “HIRA” (Highways, Inland Waterways, Railways and Airways) as spelt out by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Emphasis will also be put on Education, Health and Skill Development in the region. Horticulture, Tourism, Food Processing, use of Bamboo and Made in North-East will be developed through five Mission Mode projects in a time-bound manner, he added.
Dr Jitendra Singh said there has been a significant 21% rise in fund utilization in the North-East during the last three years. The Central Government has now committed full 100% funding for development projects in the NER, as against 90-10 ratio earlier with the State Governments funding 10% of the total cost.
Mr Rio pointed out that Kohima is the only state capital in the North-East which does not have an airport. He said the State Government has acquired land for this purpose and at least one small airstrip at Kohima should be constructed for providing air connectivity to Nagaland under the UDAN scheme.
Mr Sangma said development is the solution for all socio-economic problems in the region and through Infrastructure and Connectivity, many development problems can be solved. He said that the National Games 2022 will be held in Meghalaya, which will coincide with the 75th anniversary of India's independence.
Mr. Deb said economic challenges of the NER could be met by removing the physical and economic barriers. He thanked the Prime Minister for giving Tripura an opportunity to host the prestigious event.
The State, bordering with Bangladesh from three sides, imports goods worth more than Rs. 300 crore annually from Bangladesh but exports a meagre Rs. 4.6 crore. He said certain provisions prohibit the export of rubber from Tripura, but the same is routed through West Bengal.
Tripura has immense potential in fisheries as the state has the world’s best climate suitable for aquaculture but this has not been exploited, he said.
Representatives of all eight States of the NER gave suggestions on moving towards a prosperous North East Region, the theme for the meeting. Secretary, DoNER Naveen Verma and Secretary, NEC, Ram Muivah explained the status of different development projects in the region.
The ‘NITI Forum for North East’ was constituted in February 2018 with the aim of ensuring sustainable economic growth of the region and periodically review its development status.