`Northeast`s connectivity issue to be dealt with`

Committees formed by PM to find solutions to northeast region`s connectivity problem and economic growth are expected to submit their reports shortly.

Updated: Jun 20, 2012, 17:32 PM IST

Agartala: High-powered committees formed recently by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for finding possible, early solutions to deal with the northeastern region`s connectivity problems and subsequent economic growth were expected to submit their reports shortly, a union minister said on Wednesday.

"The committees, formed to deal with rail, road and water connectivity within the northeastern region and with neighbouring countries, would soon submit their reports. Then, the government would undertake projects to overcome connectivity problems," said union Minister of Development of Northeastern Region (DoNER) Paban Singh Ghatowar.

"For the economic development of the mountainous northeastern region, connectivity, infrastructure and investment are the basic needs. Government has accorded highest priority to these issues," Ghatowar told reporters.

"To make the `Look East Policy` (LEP) more significant, the central government has been trying to resolve critical issues of the region, comprising eight states."

The LEP was initiated in 1991, but the underdevelopment of the northeast region, particularly its poor connectivity and infrastructure, was a major drawback.

Ghatowar arrived on Tuesday and held meetings with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and Governor D Y Patil. In a meeting on Wednesday, he also reviewed the progress of DoNER`s projects and schemes in the northeastern state.

The minister expressed displeasure over the slow progress of railway gauge conversion (metre gauge to broad gauge) projects now underway in southern Assam and to be extended up to Tripura capital Agartala by December next year.

The Rs 3,846 crore gauge conversion project of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) was sanctioned in 1996 and subsequently declared as a `national project` by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. According to NFR officials, around 60 percent of the 368-km gauge conversion project has been completed.

"Due to terrorism in Dima Hasao district (formerly North Cachar Hills district) in southern Assam, the gauge conversion plan, specially the construction of tunnels is getting delayed," the minister said, adding that he had reviewed the progress of the project and would next month again hold meetings with officials.

Ghatowar said the `North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP), 2007` would be suitably modified to attract more investment in the industry-starved northeastern region.

"Infrastructure along the international border is being developed to accelerate cross- border trade and business between the northeastern states and adjoining countries," he added.

The eight northeastern states share 4,750 km of international boundaries with China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal, thus having huge scope to undertake cross-border trade, business and diverse economic activity.