New Delhi, May 8 (IANS) It’s heart-warming for the lawmakers from regional parties to be speaking in parliament on the problems faced by the “long neglected” northeast, MP and former Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio said on Sunday.
“This new trend is definitely encouraging. We appreciate that members from other parties in various parts of the country are taking keen interest in the region,” Rio, who is the lone Nagaland MP in Lok Sabha, said.
Rio was referring in particular to the Lok Sabha debate on April 27 on demand for grants for the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) in which several members from across the country participated.
Those who spoke their heart out were Tatagatha Sathpathy of Biju Janata Dal (Odisha), Arvind Sawant of Shiv Sena (Maharashtra), Ram Mohan Naidu Kinjarapu of Telugu Desam Party (Andhra Pradesh), and Saugata Roy of Trinamool Congress (West Bengal).
What they said was a far cry from the parochialism that MPs, especially from the regional parties, are often accused of.
Sawant, for instance, suggested that the government should set up a sports university in the northeast and Kinjrapu called for immediate restoration of the northeast industrial and investment promotion policy which, he said, greatly helped the people of the region.
Sawant told IANS: “Shiv Sena is Maharashtra-based. That does not mean we are not concerned about the rest of India. Northeast is an important constituent of India, but it did not get its due.”
“Though not neglected always, it definitely deserved better attention. That was our point in the Lok Sabha,” said the MP from Mumbai South.
Sawant said he had also suggested developing the tourism potential of the northeast.
“The region has scenic beauty, rivers and diverse flora and fauna. There are also 13 big monasteries in the region. All of that provides the leverage for boosting tourism,” he said.
The April 27 debate contrasted sharply with the acrimonious discussion over AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam in the ongoing budget session, but did not lack the boldness required to deal with the sensitive security situation of the troubled region.
Biju Janata Dal’s Sathpathy even claimed that Indian armed forces have killed over “50,000 civilians in the region”.
“The Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) has been the biggest deterrent to integrating the youth of the North-east with the rest of India,” he said.
Sathpathy also called for honouring Manipur’s Irom Sharmila, a long-time campaigner against AFSPA, with a Padma award.
TDP’s Kinjarapu said: “The North-east region has been a huge victim of lot of different things, starting from bad governance, bad policy making and bad political will”.
He appreciated, however, what he saw as a renewed commitment shown by Prime Minister Narendra Modi towards the region.
The government should immediately increase funding for the North-eastern states, especially to promote organic farming, Kinjarapu said.
Sikkim has officially become the first state in India to have 100 percent organic cultivation, he noted.
Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy took a critical stand in the April 27 debate against the Centre for dismissing the Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh.
“All you have done is to topple the government in Arunachal Pradesh. North-east is not the place for political manipulation,” he said.
Roy said the region ought to be dealt with “in a sensitive way” so that the people of the North-east “feel that they are not ruled from Delhi and they have some say in what is happening in Delhi”.
“The money you give for the Ministry of DoNER is not sufficient. Last year, the budget estimate was Rs.2,334 crore and the revised estimate was Rs.1,973 crore. That means you could not spend the full plan estimates,” he said.
Neiphiu Rio said: “Much has been said, but we have to be very serious on the implementation of the government programmes and policies.”