‘Centre not neglecting northeast’

Shillong, Oct 28 (IANS) Rubbishing the opposition Congress’ allegation of the NDA government neglecting the north-eastern states, Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday said that developing infrastructure in the region is being given top priority.

“If India has to develop, our region (north-eastern states) has to be developed too. And without the north-east being developed, India will not develop. Therefore, our government at the Centre has decided to first build infrastructure in the region,” Sonowal told IANS.

“Our prime minister is giving priority to the north-east and wants ministers to visit the region regularly. He also focuses on cooperative federalism in which the Centre and the states will put in joint efforts,” he added.

Stating that Narendra Modi is putting in maximum effort to build infrastructure in the north-east, the BJP parliamentarian from Assam, said the Road Transport and Highway Minister Nitin Gadkari had announced a special package of over Rs.1 lakh crore for infrastructure development.

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu also announced projects for the development of railways in the north-east for the next five years with an estimated cost of Rs.28,000 crore.

Apart from those infrastructure projects, Sonowal said that the central government has also taken keen interest in developing waterway projects to improve the water connectivity in the region with neighbouring countries Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Brushing aside Congress’ allegation that the Narendra Modi government was neglecting north-eastern states by withdrawing the special category status and discontinuing the special funding pattern, Sonowal said that the Niti Aayog had taken decisions in consultation with the chief ministers.

“The prime minister has always emphasised on the growth of the states in the country. That is why Team India, comprising all the states, has been created, Therefore, there is no question of neglecting the north-eastern states,” he said,

Congress leader V. Narayanasamy accused the NDA government at the Centre of “crippling” the elected governments in the north-eastern states by withdrawing special category status and discontinuing central 90:10 funding pattern for all sponsored schemes for the region.

The former Congress minister also accused the Narendra Modi government of not providing central assistance for ongoing developmental projects.

On the insurgency problem in the north-eastern states, Sonowal said that his ministry has initiated several new schemes to empower and wean away youths from militancy.

He said a National Youth Advisory Council is being set up to advise the government on youth issues. The council will have youth representation from every single state and union territory.

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