2022: Positivity all along

[ Pema Khandu ]

2022 is going by, and it is taking with it many memories – both good and bad – upon which we have to build on, no matter what.

With the unstinted attention and support from the central government, Arunachal Pradesh has achieved many milestones in ensuring holistic development, with a determination to ensure that no one and no region is left behind.

Arunachal Pradesh today can be cited as an ideal example of wholesome development. From overhauling of infra facilities, health and education system, good governance to the welfare of children, women and farmers, Arunachal Pradesh is writing a new chapter of progress in the promotion of local values, ethos and ethics, which makes the state different and a key contributor to make India a $ 5 trillion economy by 2025.

The challenging days of the Covid pandemic are still fresh in our minds. The lessons learned during this pandemic go beyond the health sector and encompass all aspects of human life and governance. It has completely changed our way of life. Only those who take these lessons seriously and calibrate their future path would be able to cope up with future challenges. Arunachal Pradesh has imbibed every lesson of the pandemic to bring in government process re-engineering.

This year, in a first of its kind initiative, we are utilising drones in health supply chains to deliver vaccines and medicines to distant places, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. The ‘Medicine from the Sky’ programme launched this year on Independence Day is becoming a game changer in distribution of life saving medicines to remote locations. We plan to use drones in agriculture sector and disaster management as well.

We understand that the quality of education will depend on the quality and the motivation of the teachers. To build teachers’ knowledge, skills and mindsets, a teachers’ training module has been prepared with guidance, support and assistance from Azim Premji University, Bengaluru. Ten percent of the teachers in the state will be under training throughout the year in physical or virtual mode.

To keep up with the current times, we have kept a major focus in the use of technology in education. We are in talks with the Gujarat Educational Technologies Ltd to help us establish a Vidya Samiksha Kendra in the state. The preparation of digital learning content to be telecast on five anticipated DTH channels from NCERT and BISAG, Gujarat is underway. We are creating a dedicated IT cell to oversee the technology rollouts, and teachers will be motivated to develop quality e-content.

From the days of long foot marches, crossing rivers on elephant backs or boats to the world-class roads and bridges, our state emerged as one of the best performing states in building infrastructure. We did remarkably well on all four modes of communication, that is, roads, railways, air, and information technology (IT). We have connected Tezu and Pasighat with the national aviation map. Advanced landing grounds (ALG) like Ziro, Tuting, Mechukha and Vijaynagar will help in commencing fixed-wing operations in the state soon.

Our dream project – the Donyi Polo airport – connecting Itanagar to the nation is now a shining example of our collective resilience.

Very recently, the union ministry of road, transport & highways (MoRTH) has approved sanction for the 1,500-km-long Frontier Highway that would connect all the border areas of the state from east to west and interconnecting roads between the highways of about 1,000 kms, worth Rs 44,000 crore.

Prudent fiscal management has been our hallmark. In the last six years, not even once did our state default in any of its commitments despite serious shortage of resources due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, Arunachal Pradesh has been able to maintain more than 30 percent share of capital expenditure in total expenditure outlay, which is the best in the country.

Our state has almost reached Rs 30,000 crore GSDP mark, out of which Rs 10,000 crore was added to the GSDP only in the past five years. The annual budget size of the state has doubled from Rs 12,553 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 26,111 crore in 22-23.

All recognitions are precious. And the one by India Today for governance (in most improved small state category) is especially significant, given our stepped-up focus on making lives easier for the people.

We are committed to sustainable development. Hence, this year, we signed the Pakke Declaration – the first of its kind by any state government in the country – envisaging a multi-sectoral approach towards low emission and climate-resilient development through five broad themes, or the panchdharas – environment, forest and climate change; health and wellbeing of all; sustainable and adaptive living; livelihoods and opportunities; and evidence generation and collaborative action.

Peaceful interstate boundary and good relationships with neighbouring states are essential for shared growth and prosperity. Unfortunately, the earlier governments had thought it proper to sideline the seven-decade-old boundary issue between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. But we showed a political will to resolve it.

We signed the historic Namsai Declaration with Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on 15 July, 2022, following which, 12 regional committees, each for the 12 districts where there are issues, were constituted and the number of disputed villages were reduced to 86 from 123.

The regional committees have submitted their recommendations and, with the cooperation of the Hon’ble CM of Assam, we shall soon establish peace by resolving all the vexed issues.

To cut it short, 2022 has been an eventful year for us with things being positive. Only thing that left a bad taste in the mouth – you all will agree – is the ‘paper leakage’ case of the assistant engineer competitive examination conducted by the APPSC.

During the 27th cabinet meeting of the year held on the 21st of this month, we thoroughly discussed the sensitive matter. We have decided to initiate a departmental inquiry against all government servants involved in the scam, which will be fast-tracked. We are in the process of taking up with the high court to designate one court exclusively for its early hearing and efficient trial. We will be framing strict SOP for the commission in tune with those of the Arunachal Pradesh Staff Selection Board. Due to lack of a proper SOP in the commission, a few vested interest individuals had the courage to manipulate the system and harm the sanctity of the highest recruiting agency of the state.

Our commitment to take this case to its logical conclusion can be vouched from the fact that so far 37 persons have been arrested. I make it crystal clear that no one involved in the scam will be allowed to go scot-free. No one will be allowed to play with the future of our youths.

The proud tribal communities of Arunachal Pradesh have been inhabiting this beautiful land for centuries. No other region in the world would have such culturally rich tribes coexisting peacefully as one. We are indeed one of the biggest repositories of diverse languages and cultures.

Looking back, I strongly feel that there is no scope for complacency. The task achieved so far gives us strength and inspiration to accomplish the future goals with determination and deal with challenges effectively.

As we bid adieu to 2022, let’s forget the avoidable memories of the past and welcome the New Year with a new spirit. Let us celebrate the past and nurture our future.

Happy New Year to all! (The writer is Chief Minister, Arunachal Pradesh)