Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s address delved into the profound impact of the Modi-led government’s strategic efforts to ensure sustained peace, security, and inclusive development in the Northeast. Acknowledging the Prime Minister’s hands-on approach, he highlighted the remarkable decrease in insurgency and near 100 per cent drop in civilian casualties in 2023. Over the past nine years, more than 8,000 insurgents have surrendered, and steps to scale down the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) have seen considerable success, including its complete withdrawal from Tripura and Meghalaya.
The ‘Act East Policy,’ a cornerstone of the government’s approach, has catapulted the region into a new era of growth. Sonowal specifically mentioned the PM-DevINE scheme, launched in October 2022 with a total outlay of Rs 6,600 crores for the 2022-2025 period. This initiative, fully funded by the Central government, has already sanctioned 11 projects worth Rs 1,503 crores in the fiscal year 2022-23, opening up significant opportunities for the region.
Infrastructure development has been a key focus, with the Modi government allocating Rs 1,040 crores for the development of waterways. This investment has resulted in the operation of 20 waterways in the Northeast, a stark contrast from the single waterway in 2014. The region witnessed a 170 per cent increase in cargo handled via the Indo Bangladesh Protocol route (IBPR). Notably, the first Ship Repair facility in the Northeast, a project worth Rs 208 crores, is underway through Hooghly-Cochin Shipyard Limited (HCSL) at Pandu along the River Brahmaputra.
Cruise tourism in Brahmaputra achieved a major milestone this year with MV Ganga Vilas completing the longest river cruise route globally, covering around 3,200 km in 51 days. To enhance transportation, six ferry terminals in Assam, with a total investment of Rs 310 crores, are in development at Kurua, Bahari, Dhubri, Guijan, Ghagor & Matmora.
Under the Sagarmala programme, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways (MoPSW) has undertaken projects worth more than Rs 1,000 crores for the holistic development of the North-East states.
Sonowal also highlighted the impressive increase in average annual budget allocation for the Northeast, with a 370 per cent rise compared to UPA-2 (2009-14). The ‘Capital Connectivity’ project has expanded railway networks, connecting Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh) and Agartala (Tripura), in addition to Guwahati (Assam).
Infrastructure milestones, such as the completion of the Bogibeel Rail-cum-Road Bridge over River Brahmaputra and the expansion of National Highways by 45 per cent, underscored the commitment to comprehensive development. The North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESIDS) has sanctioned 145 projects worth Rs 3,392.99 crores for the region’s progress.
The healthcare and education sectors have witnessed substantial investments, with Rs 31,794 crores allocated for healthcare, leading to the approval of state cancer institutes and the operationalization of the first AIIMS in the Northeast. In the education sector, Rs 21,151 crores have been spent since 2014, resulting in the establishment of schools and higher education institutions.
The power sector has not been left behind, with Rs 37,092 crores sanctioned for various projects, including the Subansiri Hydro Electric Power project. Telecom connectivity has seen a remarkable improvement, with Rs 4,360 crores spent since 2014, connecting over 12,690 Gram Panchayats via the Bharat Net project.
Sonowal concluded his address by underscoring Prime Minister Modi’s unprecedented commitment, having visited the Northeast 64 times since taking office. This commitment reflects the government’s dedication to bringing the region into the mainstream, making its residents active participants in the nation-building process, and contributing to the vision of a self-reliant Atmanirbhar Bharat by 2047.