Pema seeks increase in fund for Hollongi airport

NEC plenary session

SHILLONG (Meghalaya), Jul 9: Chief Minister Pema Khandu urged the DoNER ministry and the North Eastern Council (NEC) to provide fund for the greenfield airport at Hollongi “over and above its normative allocation of Rs 195.90 crore.”
“Our dream of having an airport in the state capital is yet to come true and the people of the state are eagerly waiting for this project to materialize,” Pema said, addressing the 67th plenary session of the NEC at the State Convention Centre here on Monday.
The chief minister said his government has finalized the site for the greenfield airport and has drastically reduced the cost of land acquisition and rehabilitation by one-third of the original cost.
Stating that Arunachal Pradesh has the lowest density of road network in the northeastern region, the chief minister urged the NEC to give more emphasis on connectivity, especially the roads sector.
“The NEC can explore the possibility of forming a separate fund which focuses on big road projects in the Northeast,” he said.
He said the construction of the Trans-Arunachal Highway is progressing at a sluggish pace due to rough weather and massive landslides in the region.
“However, once the project is completed, it will serve as the lifeline of the state and facilitate movement of traffic from one corner of the state to the other without depending on connecting roads of Assam,” Pema said.
Stating that the Potin-Pangin stretch of the TAH was too big to be implemented by one agency, which he said was the primary reason for the foreclosure of the project, he urged the ministry of road, transport & highways (MoRTH) to expedite the construction of the stretch.
“It was decided in a meeting with the MoRTH in February this year to split the Potin-Pangin stretch in realistic sections to complete the work immediately,” Pema said. He informed that the state PWD has submitted nine detailed project reports to the ministry as per the decision taken in the meeting.
Informing that 10 orphan roads in Arunachal Pradesh bordering with Assam have been identified under the North East Road Sector Development Scheme (NERSDS), the chief minister urged the NEC and
the DoNER ministry to revisit the guidelines to include the representation of the state governments while prioritizing the schemes.
“Further, the funding under NERSDS must be increased as the amount of Rs 1000 crore is very meagre for taking such a big project,” he said.
He expressed gratitude to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and MoS for Home Kiren Rijiju for expediting the proposal submitted by the state government for construction of the Arunachal Frontier Highway along the international border, and the East-West Industrial Corridor along the foothills.
“These projects on completion will strategically strengthen our armed forces at the border, promote tourism in border areas, and mitigate migration of people from border villages to foothill areas,” said the chief minister.
He urged the NEC to establish a regional research institute for agriculture and allied sectors in Arunachal Pradesh for development of agriculture and its allied sectors.
“Arunachal Pradesh has about 25 lakh hectares of cultivable land, out of which seven lakh hectares are fit for wet rice cultivation through flood irrigation, and 18 lakh hectares through micro irrigation. As of now, only 3.5 lakh hectares are under cultivation, of which 52,000 hectares are under irrigation coverage,” he said.
Stating that the state government is planning to bring seven lakh more hectares of land under micro irrigation in the near future with an estimated cost of Rs 17,712 crore under the PMKSY, the chief minister sought all possible help from the DoNER ministry and the NEC.
He also requested the DoNER ministry and the NEC to provide technical support in establishing forward and backward linkages in agriculture and horticulture sectors, which includes cold chain processing units, agriculture mandis, IT support to implement e-NAM and connect the state with potential markets.
Highlighting the hydropower potential of the state, which has not been tapped judiciously, Pema said his government has decided to “firmly unleash the huge hydro potential.”
“Out of 151 hydropower projects leased, 15 have already been terminated. Out of the remaining 136 alive projects, 38 are below 25 mw and the remaining 98 are in the mega category,” he said.
“We are ready to hand over these projects to PSUs or government undertakings wherever feasible, as per mutual terms and conditions,” the chief minister said.
Stating that the letter of permission to start the Tomo Riba Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (TRIHMS) from this academic year has been obtained, Pema urged the central government to increase the number of seats in the medical college from the approved 50 to at least 100 from the next year.
Informing that there is high prevalence of cancer in Arunachal Pradesh, particularly in Papum Pare district, as per the Medical Council of India report, the chief minister requested the NEC and the DoNER ministry to link the state with prestigious cancer care institutions of the country and explore the possibility of opening a critical care unit in the TRIHMS by providing additional funds.
The chief minister sought the NEC’s support in value addition of bamboo resources through an integrated value chain project which would link the farmers with bamboo processing facilities.
“This will be a crucial source of livelihood for our people,” he said.
Informing that a proposal has been submitted to the NITI Aayog with regard to the development of the bamboo sector in Arunachal Pradesh with an outlay of Rs 57 crore, the chief minister urged the DoNER ministry and the NEC to take up with NITI Aayog the matter of funding the project.
The chief minister lamented that the state of Arunachal, in spite of being endowed with considerable bamboo resources, has not been able to tap its true potential.
Also informing that the state government has submitted a comprehensive proposal to the home affairs ministry “for socioeconomic development of Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts to the tune of Rs 1524 crore,” Pema requested the home affairs ministry, the DoNER ministry and the NEC to provide funds for the proposal.
“The objective of the plan is to provide gainful employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in the region, enhance the infrastructure, improve the quality of governance, especially in health, education and administration, and ensure presence of police personnel in remotest cornet of the region,” he said.
Drawing the attention of the council members to the NEC’s recent issuing of instruction to keep the release of funds against all newly sanctioned projects on hold, Pema said whatever projects have been retained by the NEC during 2017-18 should be continued and sanctioned in the greater interest of the region.
“These projects were prioritized by the state on need basis and cancelling them without giving any opportunity to hear from the state will be unjustified,” he said.
He urged Home Minister Rajnath Singh to sort out the matters regarding holding up of projects sanctioned during 2017-18.
He informed that in many cases, implementing agencies have already awarded the works and most of the projects have already been started with progress in some cases of 30%-40%.
“Abrupt termination of these projects may invite legal complicacies,” he added.
Welcoming the step taken by the DoNER ministry in bringing out a new scheme called NESIDS and closing the NLCPR scheme, Pema requested the ministry to sanction the projects which were retained in 2017-18, saying all of them are road projects and there may be public outrage if the projects are closed.
“It is no doubt that NEC has played a crucial role in funding important development projects in the region. However, time has now come that NEC expands its role from a mere funding agency to act as a premier think tank body of the Northeastern region which guides the Northeastern states in bringing sustainable development in the region,” he said.
To achieve the same, he said there is need to bring in domain experts in the NEC who focus on developing a clear cut roadmap for ushering massive investments in the region.
“Not only does Northeastern region require adequate funds, but it also requires technical experts who suggest ways to bridge the massive divide between North Eastern region and rest of India,” opined the chief minister.
“My State, for instance, has a huge area but is struggling to tap its potential due to lack of human resource and technology,” the chief minister said, and urged the NEC to institute a detailed study “as to how the massive area of Arunachal Pradesh can act as a boon for the region.
“The study must then translate into action by provision of adequate funding through various sources,” he added.
He said the NEC must also find ways to showcase the best practices of the states in the NER, “which can be replicated so that we all benefit from this common forum.”
Pema urged the NEC chairman to review the decision to remove sectors like sports, IFC & WS, and primary and secondary education from the NEC.
“These sectors are very important for the region where NEC can play meaningful role,” he added.
The meeting was chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and attended by Vice Chairman Jitendra Singh, the governors and chief ministers of NE states, and NEC members. (CMO)