NEW DELHI, Dec 29: 2017 was a watershed year for Northeast, as it was not only a witness to some of the landmark developmental initiatives, but will also go down in the history as a year when the Modi Government took some such decisions which had been pending for decades together.
Briefing the media after releasing the North Eastern Council (NEC) wall – Calendar and table – Calendar for the year 2018, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh said,the 90 year old “Indian Forest Act of 1927”, which was a legacy of the British Raj, was amended through a decision of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as a result of which “Bamboo”, which was defined as a “Tree” under the Indian Forest Act of 1927, was shifted to the category of “Grass” in the non-forest areas, thereby doing away with the requirement of obtaining a permit for felling of bamboo for economic use. This, he said, is going to be a game-changer for generations to come, by opening new avenues of job generation and entrepreneurship by allowing bamboo cultivation and bamboo use by non-farmers on non-forest land. Another historic decision, which is the first of its kind in independent India, was relating to 100% funding by Central Government for projects in Northeast which were earlier being undertaken on the basis of Centre-State sharing in the ratio of 90:10, he added.
It was again in 2017, Dr Jitendra Singh said, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertook an exclusive trip to Mizoram, a State seldom visited by dignitaries from outside and where a Prime Minister has not visited for the last over 20 years. During this visit, Prime Minister dedicated to the nation a 60 Mega-watt Hydro-Power Project, thus making Mizoram a power-surplus State of India.
In 2017 itself, Dr Jitendra Singh recalled, North-Eastern region set an example for the rest of India by being the first to introduce “Venture Capital Fund” from the Ministry of Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER) for young Start-ups and entrepreneurs who choose to try their fortune in the region. The first lot of the cheques for young Start-ups with Venture Fund from Ministry of DoNER was handed over by Prime Minister himself.
Among the other “firsts” introduced in Northeast during this year, Dr Jitendra Singh mentioned India’s first-ever experiment to have a helicopter-based “Air Dispensary” to carry out OPD health services in remote and inaccessible parts of the region. Similarly, the work on India’s first-ever train to Bangladesh also began with the rail track being laid from Agartala and being funded up to Akhaura by the Ministry of DoNER.
For the convenience of Northeast students studying in other parts of the country, construction of an exclusive hostel in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus at New Delhi began on July 24, 2017, while a piece of land measuring 5341.75 sq. meters (1.32 acre) was obtained from Delhi Development Authority at the prime location of Dwarka, New Delhi for the purpose of constructing a Northeast International Cultural and Information Centre.
While mentioning several other first-ever initiatives in the region, Dr Jitendra Singh made a special mention of the setting up of Japan-India Coordination Forum and holding of its first meeting on August 3, 2017, wherein it was decided that Japan will be providing adequate funding and other support for projects involving major roads, food processing, organic farming, tourism, etc. in the region. In addition, the first-ever Northeast “Hill Area Development Programme” (HADP) was announced on December 3, 2017 with allocation of Rs. 90 crore, to begin with, on a pilot basis.