People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 23, 2006
Ensure Comprehensive Development Of North East
TRIPURA chief minister Manik Sarkar has made a strong plea to the centre to make its “Look East” policy meaningful and effectual by seriously implementing the task of comprehensive development of the backward and long neglected North East. Participating in a meeting organised by Planning Commission on July 8, 2006 in Shillong, he urged upon the centre to formulate policies for the development of the region. The meeting was held to determine the desirable direction of the Eleventh Five Year Plan in consultation with the North Eastern states. The two consecutive sessions of the meeting saw the Commission’s vice chairman Montek Singh Alluwaliah discussing with the chief ministers and the top most officials of each state regarding the desirable direction of the upcoming Plan.
Speaking during the discussion in connection with the ongoing process of the Planning Commission for regional level opinion sharing, Manik Sarkar maintained that the direction of a country’s five-year plan ought to be determined on the basis of the problems of the poor and backward who cannot fend for themselves. That is why, the actual number of the people below poverty line(BPL) ought to be centrally brought out instead of being artificially concealed through arbitrary and misleading criteria variously fixed by the Union Rural Development Department and by the Planning Commission, he opined.
He said that the entire economy of the country could be radically changed and the market of the country expanded had there been a concerted endeavour by the centre and the states to augment the purchasing power of the poor, the lower middle class and the middle class through land reforms, in stead of confining the market on 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the countrymen.
Vehemently opposing the proposal put forward in the perspective plan, for reimbursement of the foreign funded development projects from the coffers of the beneficiary states themselves, the chief minister said that in respect of the North Eastern states, such allocation ought to be made on 90 per cent grant and 10 per cent loan basis, if not 100 per cent grant, because private capital is yet to be interested in investing in infrastructure development in the North East. He also vehemently condemned the proposal of the perspective plan in favour of giving access to foreign capital in retail market, pointing out that while the country’s agriculture has already sustained an irreparable damage by abiding to the WTO dictates, access of foreign capital in retail market would devastate millions of small traders as well.
Coming down heavily on the criminal discriminatory role of the nationalised banks in the North East, Manik Sarkar pointed out that even with 60:40 credit: deposit ratio at the national level, such banks never exceed 25 per cent to 30 per cent credit in respect of the North East ignoring the union finance minister’s harping on flow of fund from nationalised banks for agricultural sector. Even the NEDFI is far from playing an equitous role in respect of each and every North Eastern state.
Emphasising on the proper purposefulness of the “Look East” policy of the centre, the chief minister made a strong plea for transformation of Tripura into the golden gate of South-East Asia by augmenting the country’s business opportunities with Bangladesh through broad-gauge railway extension linking together all the state capitals of the North East including extension of the broad-gauge upto Subroom, the southern-most tip of Tripura and upto Akhaura of Bangladesh. This will enable the state to use the neighbouring country’s Chittagong port and Ashuganj as a port of call, of course in consultation with Bangladesh with a fraternal attitude.
He also laid stress on upgradation of all the national highways of the North East, making them 4-lane ones linked to the East-West corridor, airport construction in all its state capitals alongside modernisation of Agartala airport, revival of the airports at Kailashahar and Kamalpur of North Tripura, and reserving the small air craft like ATR exclusively for the North East through centering them on Guwahati. Stress was laid on proper utilisation of the North East’s massive prospect from its two abundant natural resources – water and gas making a strong case for immediate starting of Palatana project of the ONGC and Monarchawk project of NEEPCO, both in Tripura, over and above bringing all the block and sub-divisional headquarters of the North East under sophisticated tele-communication net-work, expansion of internet service and expansion of telephone service upto village level.
The chief minister finally demanded that the centre release its plan allocations well in advance each year allowing for adequate time for the North Eastern states to utilise such funds in the face of the peculiar vagaries of their nature and the consequent communication bottlenecks. He also lashed out at the centre for its policy of financially victimising all the states for failure of one or two to act properly.
Everything needful for comprehensive development of the North East should be incorporated in a separate chapter of the perspective Plan and special efforts should be made for a 10 per cent growth rate target in respect of the North East so as to attain the 8 per cent growth rate target at the national level, Manik Sarkar concluded.