The year 2014 was a spectacular year in terms of politics. The Narendra Modi-led BJP formed the NDA government at the center with a massive victory in the Lok Sabha elections 2014 . Though the victory was the most emphatic electoral victory by any political party since 1984, many anti-BJP critics recited that only 31% people voted for the BJP. Demeaning the massive crowd-drawing capacity of Narendra Modi, often the opposition have stated that the BJP is a nation-wide party whose reach is limited to the Northern states, basically the Hindi-speaking belt. This taunt along the line of regionalism is prominent from the recent statement by the former CM of Karnataka, Siddharamaiah, where he called Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath “North Indian imports”.
Irrespective of what the anti-BJP brigade thinks, the party has been enjoying growing popularity nationwide. From slowly setting foot in the North East and emerging as the largest party in Karnataka assembly election, people have started showing more faith on these North Indian faces who promote “Vikash” rather than provincial hyper-chauvinism. PM Modi’s “Vikash Model” has benefited the North East greatly, which explains why BJP is suddenly becoming popular in the North East.
Railway project in North East:
Tripura didn’t have any railway link with the rest of the country until 2008 when a meter-gauge line was started in the state. The Modi government converted the line into a broad gauge and subsequently the current government launched a Rajdhani Express and the Tripura Sundari Express between Agartala and Delhi.
In 2016, the then current Railway Minister Mr. Suresh Prabhu laid the foundation stone for the 88-km Dhansiri-Kohima railway track worth Rs 2315 crore. This line would connect Kohima with the rest of the country.
More than 15 railway projects of 1,385 km length and worth of Rs. 47,000 crore were also started to connect Imphal, Aizawl and Shillong. The BJP government has introduced more than two dozen new trains in the region. A deal with Bangladesh was also signed to develop a rail link between Tripura and Chittagong, which would speed up flow of products especially grains, to the region.
Roadway Projects and National Highways:
The lack of roadway connectivity has been a major roadblock in the economic progress of the North East. In April 2017, during the closing ceremony of “Namami Brahmaputra” festival, Nitin Gadkari announced the first express highway of North-East, along the banks of Brahmaputra. The highway is to be 1300 km long and worth Rs. 40,000 crore.
As per the government’s “Act East Policy” and “Transformation by Transportation”, the government sanctioned more than 3,800 km of national highways worth Rs. 32,000 crore in the North East. As per March 2018, nearly 1,200 km of roads have been constructed. During the inauguration of Mizoram’s biggest hydro-electricity project Tuirial (Aizawl), PM Narendra Modi committed an investment of Rs 90,000 crore in the next two to three years to build a network of highways and roads in the north-eastern region.
Also Rs. 60,000 crore would be invested under the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme in the northeast and Rs. 30,000 crore would be invested under the Bharatmala project over three years. A 271-km two-lane national highway has also been set up, connecting Tura in western Meghalaya to Shillong.
For the upgradation of airports in North East region, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has allocated Rs 3,400 crore. Projects worth Rs 934 crore have already been completed while the rest would be over in the next two or three years. The AAI has allocated
Restructuring of the runway at Silchar and Lilabari airport and an aviation manpower training institute.
Development of Rupsi airport.
A new integrated airport and an engineering work at Agartala.
Expansion and revamp of existing terminal building and runway at Dimapur.
Installation of an instrument landing system (ILS) at the Shillong airport.
Operationalisation and development of the Tura airport.
The 60-MW Tuirial hydro power project made Mizoram the third power-surplus state in the northeast after Sikkim and Tripura. It is expected to produce 251 million units of electricity annually. The project was first announced in 1998 by Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, but the proceeding was slowed during the corrupt UPA rule. It was the first major central government project to be successfully commissioned in Mizoram. The government decided to fully fund various Central projects that are to be implemented in the northeast. Earlier, the share was of sharing 90 per cent of the cost. The Modi government has also started the making of the 1360-km long India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, which is to be completed in 2020.
The longest rail-road bridge is the Bogibeel Bridge along the Brahmaputra river in Assam extends from Dhemaji to Dibrugarh district. India shares a 3,488-km-long land boundary with China and almost a third of it runs in Arunachal Pradesh. Currently, the rail and road link to Arunachal is maintained by three lower and mid Assam bridges- Jogighopa in Bongaigaon district, Saraighat near Guwahati, and Kolia-Bhomora between Sonitpur and Nagaon. This means a cargo from Dibrugarh in the north-eastern corner of Assam takes a 600-km detour merely to cross the Brahmaputra. The Bogibeel Bridge would reduce the long distance to only 4.94 km. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government approved the project, but the work was slow during the Congress govt. After passing all the hurdles, the bridge has been completed recently under the Modi government.
The NDA govt. is making investment in power transmission projects covering all the North-Eastern states worth Rs 10,000 crore, which would ensure power to more areas. The Bishwanath-Chariyali-Agra transmission line has also brought 500MW additional capacity to the North East region.
The Modi govt. recently implemented an improved internet connectivity project for the North East region in collaboration with Bangladesh. This will provide 10 GB of seamless alternate bandwidth for the entire region. Its cost is approximately Rs. 19.1 crore. The Department of Telecom would fund annual operational expenditure of about 7.2 crore.
The Ministry of Tourism has taken steps to develop tourist circuits and attract tourists from all over the world. Schemes are taken into consideration like combining a few popular destinations of the neighboring countries with their tourism circuits. This will be an added attraction for tourists. While all the other states are given 50% central financial assistance for organizing fairs and festivals, 100% assistance would be provided to the northeastern states. 10% of the plan allocation of the Ministry of Tourism has been marked for the North Eastern Region.
The Government has approved North East BPO promotion scheme in the Digital India programme for creation of employment opportunities. The scheme has established 5,000 seats in respect of BPO/ITES operations in the North East Region (NER), at an outlay of Rs. 50 crore. The North East States must avail facilities and operationalize these BPOs their respective states, which will promote growth and provide jobs to the youth.
In the past, two important projects in Assam were implemented – Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited and Numaligarh Refinery Limited’s wax unit. These two big projects would create huge employment opportunities in the North East region.
Trying sincerely to fulfill his promise of “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikash”, Narendra Modi has indeed made faithful attempts for the rapid and sure shot development of the North East regions. When the schemes benefit the common mass, they will put their faith in the party that is trying to make their life better. The electoral success of the BJP in recent North-Eastern assembly elections prove that scenario. So, it is not hard to believe that North East will vote en masse for PM Modi.