Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Achievements/Inititatives of Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region in 2009


During the year 2009, the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region has carried forward its commitment to the people of North East for overall development of the Region. The Ministry has taken many new initiatives for development of the North East Region.

In the month of January, the 5th Plenary Session of North Eastern Council was held at New Delhi under the Chairmanship of Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar, the Minister for DoNER, also Chairman, North East Council, NEC. The Governors and Chief Ministers of North Eastern States, Members of NEC, Planning Commission and State Governments of the North Eastern Region participated. Various issues related to the development of North Eastern Region were discussed. Some of the decisions taken include:

(i) The proposed 11th Five Year Plan of the North Eastern Council could be redrafted by incorporating the views of Member States.

(ii) The NEC should directly negotiate with Air India to work out for the dedicated airlines in the North Eastern Region.

(iii) It was decided to take up the scheme for promotion of art and culture in the NEC plan in October, 2009.

(iv) The Council endorsed the report of the task force and advised that North Eastern Council Secretariat and Ministry of DoNER should process the recommendations with the concerned authorities in Government of India.

(v) NEC needs to earmark funds in their Plan for engagement of consultants for preparation of DPRs for various development projects.

(vi) NEC should be adequately strengthened so as to act a statutory body for regional planning.

A meeting to review the progress made by the Nodal Officers of the Ministry with the line Ministries/Departments was taken by the Minister for DoNER. The issues discussed and decisions taken include :

(i) Line Ministries may be requested to nominate one Nodal Officers from each Ministry/Department so as to enable Nodal Officers of Ministry of DoNER to liaison in a focused manner with the concerned officers of that Ministry/Department.

(ii) The Nodal Officers should collect information relating to major schemes/programmes being implemented by the line Ministries/Departments under 10% of their GBS.

(iii) Ministries and Departments which are not exempted from spending/earmarking 10% of their GBS for NE Region as also important activities of those who are exempted from this clause such as Department of Atomic Energy & Space should be enlisted and progress may be reviewed.

During the month, an amount of Rs. 32.39 crore was released under NLCPR Programme of the Ministry to the North Eastern States for several infrastructure projects.

In the month of February, Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) in its endeavour to attract investment and forge linkages in critical sectors like infrastructure, agro-industries, tourism, commerce & industry in the North Eastern Region held ASEAN-North East India Investment & Trade Opportunities Summit at Ho-Chi-Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam from 12th to 14th February, 2009. It is in the series of such events held earlier- North East Investment Opportunities Week from 1st-4th October, 2007 at Bangkok and North East India Investment Conference on 26th September, 2007 at New York as a part of India@60 event.

The HCMC Summit which was organized by M/o DoNER partnering with Indian Chambers of Commerce (ICC), Kolkata, was attended by 140 participants from India and nearly 200 participants from Vietnam and neighbouring ASEAN countries. The Govt. of India delegation was led by Secretary, M/o DoNER and attended by Ministers from Sikkim, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. Ministers from Cambodia and Vietnam also participated along with their officials. Representatives of State Governments, Central Organisations, PSUs, entrepreneurs from India and Vietnam and business chambers-Vietnam Chambers of Commerce, Taiwan Chambers of Commerce in Vietnam, Ambassador of India and Indian Consul General in Vietnam, Asian Development Bank (ADB), North Eastern Council (NEC) and Cane & Bamboo Technology Centre (CBTC) also participated in the Summit.

The Summit ended with high note of optimism wherein 10 MOUs were signed and 60 positive Expression of Interests (EOIs) were received by ICC, Kolkata. The major areas included construction, tourism, agro-products, handloom & handicrafts sector, power generation, packaging, IT & IT-Enabled Services, health services and consultancy firms. Mr. Sok Sopheak, Director General of International Trade, Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of Cambodia, mentioned that India is 7th largest trading partner of ASEAN and trade volume during 2007 was to the tune of US$ 640 billions. He suggested that simplification of procedures for trade, tourism, aviation and visa should be considered to upscale the gains of this Summit.

On the sidelines of the Summit, there was a meeting on Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle (CLV-DT) in the afternoon of 14th February, 2009 which was the second day of the Summit. It was chaired by Shri Jarnail Singh, the then Secretary, DoNER and attended by Ministers from Sikkim, Mizoram, Meghalaya and officials from state governments. Cambodia was represented by Mr. Sok Sopheak, Director General of International Trade, Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of Cambodia and Vietnam was represented by Mr. Tran Quan Huy, Deputy Director General, South-West Asia & Africa Deptt., Ministry of Industry & Trade, Govt. of Vietnam. The Joint Statement which was signed on 21st January, 2009 between H.E. Mr. Cham Prasidh, Senior Minister of Commerce, Cambodia and Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar, the Minister for DoNER, Panchayati Raj & Chairman, NEC, was discussed.

A meeting was chaired by Secretary, DoNER on 17th February, 2009 with Heads of Missions of some of the Latin American and Caribbean countries to acquaint them about possible linkages in handicraft & handloom sector as it exist in the North Eastern Region. The Ambassadors of Brazil, Venezuela, Paraguay and Peru and representatives from Uruguay, Dominican Republic and Ecuador participated in the meeting. A presentation was given about the efforts being made by North Eastern Handloom & Handicrafts Development Corporation (NEHHDC) highlighting the strengths of the 8 North Eastern states. Having regard to the vibrant handicraft & handlooms industry which is based on natural produces, possibilities were expressed to take R&D and exchange programmes with some of the Latin American countries which have striking similarities in certain produces. A consensus emerged amongst the foreign dignitaries to visit North Eastern Region to assess the potential of the region for such partnership in future. Ministry of DoNER and NEHHDC will provide logistic support and facilitate such visit which may take place in next couple of months.

A North East Trade Expo was held in New Delhi. The Expo was sponsored by Ministry of DoNER and organized by National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC), a PSU under Ministry of Medium & Small Enterprises (MSME). Another Expo which was 3rd in the series, was held at Hyderabad from 19th February, 2009 to 1st March, 2009, organized by North East Handloom & Handicrafts Corporation Ltd. (NEHHDC). The main objectives of the Expos is to provide as exclusive platform to all the NE states to showcase their unique products to discerning national and international clientele and to open new avenues for trade, commerce and investment opportunities. The Expo also portrays the Region in a positive light, displaying its diverse strength, tourism potential, etc. Till 2006, the NE Trade Expo was conducted as a single event organized by the India Trade Promotion Organization (ITPO) at Pragati Maidan during March every year.

The NLCPR Committee of the Ministry approved 40 projects in the 8 North Eastern States with an estimated cost of Rs. 401,73 crore. An amount of Rs. 73.59 crore was released during February, 2009 to the North Eastern States under NLCPR Scheme

In the month of March, the Minister for DoNER held extensive discussions with the officials of the Ministry on 24th – 25th March, 2009 and reviewed the progress made in streamlining mandatory allocation/spending by Central Ministries in the North Eastern Region. As part of this process, 25 Ministries (out of a total of 50 such Ministries) have already nominated issues such as progress on NER Vision 2020, setting up of a world-class Music School, Finance Minister’s Rs. 500 crore Package for the NER and other pressing matter were discussed.

It was informed several Heads of Missions from Nordic countries, Czech Republic, Italy, Latin American and Caribbean countries has visited in the past and this Ministry has coordinated these visits with appropriate support. More recently, British High Commissioner – Sir Richard Stagg visited North East and Indian Chambers of Commerce (ICC), Kolkata was asked by us to coordinate the visit. The High Commissioner spoke about combating climate change, creation of knowledge economy, development of which are playing a bigger role in the economy than ever. The ASEAN Ambassadors from Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and Cambodia have visited Assam and Tripura from 23-27 March, 2009.

The Ministry’s initiative to promote tourism in the North East through several relaxations made for government employees to visit North East on Leave Travel Concession (LTC) orders for which were issued on 2nd May, 2008, has brought extremely positive results as the Region has so far seen unprecedented number of visitors which has exceeded 4 Lakh government employees and their family members to the North Eastern Region. From very modest assessment, nearly Rs. 40 crore have gone into the Region through these travelers directly to the humble segments of the Region comprising taxi owners, drives, tour guides, dhaba and tea-stall vendors, hotel proprietors and so on. It also gave fillip to the mushrooming of tourism infrastructure as can be seen at Tawanng which is now becoming a tourist hub of the Region.

One of the main constraints for the development of infrastructure in the region is lack of sufficient data. In this regard, the Ministry has taken up steps for computing district level infrastructure indices for the North Eastern States. The States have been requested to provide district-wise data on 16 broad indicators relating to infrastructure.

The Ministry has provided Rs. 25 crore to the Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCI) to prepare Detailed Project Report, DPRs for transmission, sub-transmission and distribution networks in the NER as a follow-up fo the decisions arrived at the Special Sectoral meeting on power sector held in Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh.

The 67th Meeting of the Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) Committee was held on 2nd March, 2009. The Committee recommended sanction of 17 new projects with an estimated cost of Rs. 150.63 crores. During the month, an amount of Rs. 244.94 crore was released to the North Eastern states for infrastructure under the NLCPR Scheme. Like previous year, the Ministry has been able to spend the budgeted amount of Rs. 660.39 cores during 2008-09 in the Scheme of NLCPR.

During the month of April, the Ministry is making efforts to harness the advantages offered by strategic location of the North-East Region as a bridgehead to the countries of South and Southeast Asia for the Region’s own economic development as well as that of the rest of the country. One of the tasks in this endeavour is the development of related infrastructure. In this regard, meetings were held with the representatives of the Central Ministries concerned and State Governments to lay down specific timeframes for development of various infrastructure activities. The important issues which were discussed included facilities at Land Custom Stations (LCSs), border trade through Integrated Check Posts (ICPs), and time frames for completion of ICPs, bus service to neighbouring countries, air connectivity, cultural contacts, arrangements for teaching Southeast Asian languages in the NE Universities and improvement in telecommunication and IT connectivity in NE region. The Ministries/Departments concerned and the State Governments have to take further necessary action in the matter.

During the month, action has been initiated for simplifying guidelines for sanction of schemes under Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR), release and utilization of funds by the states so as to increase the NLCPR fund utilization capacity.

The German Development Bank (Kfw) is considering extending a concessional loan for climate change adaptation projects for the North Eastern Region. The project profiles prepared by five North Eastern States namely Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Sikkim were discussed and forwarded to the Department of Economic Affairs, who are now awaiting the outcome of the Annual Indo-German Consultations, 2009 for further action.

The Ministry has reviewed the progress of the proposed North East Rural Livelihood Project to be funded in four States of Nalgaland, Mizoram, Sikkim and Tripura with the officials of the World Bank. The Ministry is in the process of setting up as autonomous society for detailed project preparation and implementation.

In the month of May, the newly appointed Minister for DoNER, Shri B.K. Handique, assumed the charge of the Ministry on 22nd May, 2009. Immediately after, he took a series of meeting with the officials of the Ministry and the North Eastern Council to get himself acquainted with the programmes of the Ministry. As per his directions the Ministry has organized a Conference of Chief Ministers and senior officials of the NE States and Central Ministries on 24th June, 2009 to discuss the strategy for the development of the NER. The Conference will also provide an opportunity for reviewing the existing guidelines and funding arrangements and implementation of various schemes such as works under NLCPR, NEC.

The NE Region does not merely suffer from inadequate physical communication but it lags behind the rest of the country in terms of telecommunication network. In this regard the Ministry had early organized a Special Summit on IT & Telecommunication sector at Kohima. Following up on the deliberations arrived at he Summit, a detailed presentation on Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) was arranged by the Ministry for the benefit of the North-East States. The States were requested to nominate a nodal officer and to provide logistics support to the DoT and BSNL for taking advantage of the USOF for expansion of tele-connectivity in the Region.

A joint team of officials of the World Bank, IFAD and this Ministry visited Kohima and Agartala to discuss with the respective State Governments the implementation arrangements for the North East Livelihood Project to be funded by the World Bank. The main feature of the Project is social and economic empowerment of rural communities. A similar project has earlier been implemented in some districts of Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya and has been a huge success.

At the initiative of the Ministry, the Central Government has relaxed LTC rules for Central Government employees availing LTC for traveling in the NER. The Ministry has now taken up the matter of allowing travel by helicopter by Govt. employees availing LTC for NE States for tourist places which are not properly connected.

In the month of June 2009, the Minister for DoNER, Shri B.K.Handique released the agenda of the Ministry for the first 100 days of the new Government. The agenda inter-alia includes taking measures to finalise new guidelines for NLCPR, enhancing connectivity in the NER, translating NER Vision 2020 into reality, to bring NER on forefront and overhauling the functioning of the organizations under the Ministry.

The Minister for DoNER has chaired a meeting of the Chief Ministers of the NE States at Shillong on 24th June 2009. The meeting was attended by the Chief Ministers of Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Manipur, senior Ministers and officials from the States and Central Ministries. The Agenda included the revision of NLCPR guidelines and procedures, objectives monitoring of the Projects included in the PM’s socio-economic packages announced from time-to-time for NE States and increasing fund absorption capacity of the NE States.

In the month of July, the Ministry has begun regular monitoring of its 100 day’s Agenda launched on 22nd June, 2009. In this regard, Minister, DoNER, has already held two meetings with the officials of the Ministry and its sister Organisations. Action points on each of the issues are being worked alongwith the time-lines.

The Ministry has submitted a proposal for the extensions of the North East Region Community Resource Management Project to the Planning Commission. It is now proposed to cover a total of 2200 villages in six districts of Meghalaya, Manipur and Assam, 2 districts of Arunachal Pradesh and 2 hill districts each in Manipur and Nagaland. The fund requirement would be Rs. 600 crore over a period of 6 years. The Planning Commission has suggested some modifications. The NEC is working on incorporating the suggestions of the Planning Commission where after the proposal would be resubmitted to them for in-principle approval.

The Ministry has identified a total of 15 projects (Assam-3, Arunachal Pradesh-2, Sikkim-2, Manipur-2, Tripura-1, Mizoram-1 & Meghalaya-2) involving a cost of Rs. 586 crore as a follow up of Union Finance Minister’s Special Provision of Rs. 500 crore for specific infrastructure projects in the NER in his Budget Speech of 2008-09. The States have been requested to submit concept notes on these projects so that “In principle” approval of the Planning Commission could be obtained. One project costing Rs. 26 crore pertaining to Arunachal Pradesh has already been approved on 2nd July, 2009 and an amount of Rs. 10 crore has been sanctioned as the first installment. Concept notes in respect of 4 other Projects have been received.

The Ministry has devised a format for the 27 important infrastructure projects identified in the NER by the PMO for reviewing their status.

In the month of August, 2009 to streamlining the process of sanction and completion of projects under Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR), the guidelines for administration of NLCPR have been revised and issued. The revised guidelines provide specific time limits for sanction of schemes, award of work by the State Governments and completion of projects in time. These guidelines were prepared based on the discussions held in the meeting of the Chief Ministers on 24th June 2009 at Shillong.

The Minister of DoNER reviewed the progress of two projects of Ministry of Water Resources on with Chairman, Brahmaputra Board and officials of Central Water Commission and Government of Assam. These two projects are included in the 27 infrastructure projects of NE Region which have been entrusted to this Ministry for monitoring under DMU by the PMO. Minister (DoNER) has also fixed a meeting on 8th September 2009 at Lumding for review of six projects of the Ministry of Railways which will be attended by representatives of Ministry of the Railways and Ministry of Home Affairs along with the representatives of the State Governments concerned.

Three meetings of the Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) Committee took place during the month. Eleven infrastructure projects with a total approved cost of Rs. 190.52 crore were sanctioned under the Scheme for the NE States. Further, 63 projects with a tentative cost of Rs. 525.81 crore have been retained for techno-economic examination. The Ministry has released as amount of Rs. 62.79 crore during the month for different projects in the NER under NLCPR.

In the month of September, the Minister for DoNER took stock of the progress of important railway projects in the North-East Region, particularly the broad guage conversion of Lumding-Silchar-Jiribam railway line, at Lumding, Assam. The meeting was attended by senior officers of the Northeast Frontier Railways, DONER, Minister of Home Affairs, Government of Assam and security agencies.

The Lumding-Silchar-Jiribam guage project, sanctioned in 1996-97, was declared a National Project in 2004. The total length of the line is 368.48 km. The critical activities in the project include Dayang bridge, tunnel no. 10 between km 100.6 to 103.8, bridge no. 543 at km. 143.5 and bridge no. 572 on river Barak. Dayank bridge is the longest bridge in the section with span configuration of 11x61 mtr and pier height of 55 mtr. The longest tunnel in the section is tunnel no. 10 with a length of 3235 mtr.

The Minister for DoNER Shri B.K. Handique has emphasized the need to overcome all the hurdles with a view to complete the project by 2012.

A meeting was convened by the Secretary, Ministry of DoNER, to discuss the progress of implementation of PM’s Announcements pertaining to Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Tripura. He also took meetings to review the status of 27 key infrastructure projects identified by the PMO for expeditious implementations.

The Ministry has sanctioned eleven new infrastructure projects with a total approved cost of Rs. 91.57 crore during the month under NLCPR. An amount of 102.63 crore was released during this period of the NE States against the total budgetary provision of 700 crore under the Scheme. The Ministry has also retained 7 projects for techno-economic examination.

In the month of October, the Minister for DoNER reviewed the progress of implementation of important road sector projects being monitored by the Delivery Monitoring Unit in the PMO in a meeting on 28th October 2009. in addition, the progress of Special Accelerated Road Development Programme-NE (SARDP-NE) was also discussed.

The eight road sector projects in the 27 key infrastructure projects in the NER which are being monitored by the PMO are given below:

Trans-Arunachal Highway
Dhola-Sadiya bridge and Numali-Gohpur bridge (Assam)
Alternate route to Sikkim
Upgradation of NH-31-A to Gangtok
Lumal-Tashigong, Bile-Migging and Taliha-Tato roads (Arunachal Pradesh)
Four-laning of NH-37 on the Nagaon-Jorhat-Dibrugarh stretch
Upgradation of NH-52, NH-53 and NH-54

The main reasons of delay include issues relating to land acquisition, forest and environmental clearances, non-availability of resourceful contractors, inter-state coordination. It was decided that each of the issues would be taken at the appropriate level with the appropriate authority. This Ministry will also facilitate inter-state coordination and issuance of clearances.

The Ministry released an amount of Rs. 12.08 crore for different infrastructure projects in Assam and Nagaland during the month under its Scheme of Non-lapsable Central Pool of Resources. With this the cumulative releases for the financial year stand at Rs. 235 crore. With the recent streamlining of the NLCPR guidelines, the entire process of sanction and release is likely to get a fillip.

In the month of November, at the instance of the Ministry, the North East Development Finance Corporation (NEDFi) has taken a number of steps to harness the full potential of the upcoming Assam Gas Cracker Project. They have carried out an elaborate study proposing an Action Plan for promoting downstream plastic and allied industries in Assam and other States of the North East. The Ministry itself has trained a large number of youth in plastic technology and entrepreneurship and is, through NEC, exploring to set up a plastic park in the State of Assam.

The Ministry has prepared a document entitled “North Eastern Region District Infrastructure Index”. It provides a useful insight into intra-State and inter-State disparities within the NE Region and is proving to be quite handy in prioritizing projects under the Non-lapsable Central Pool of Resources. The document has also been circulated to the State Governments.

During the month, the Ministry has sanctioned 5 new projects with an approved cost of Rs. 31.38 crore under NLCPR. Apart from these, forty three projects, with a tentative cost of Rs. 534 crore, have been retained for techno-economic examination. An amount of Rs. 29.39 crore was release to the States during November 2009 under the scheme.

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