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NEC empowerment still a far cry

rajnath singh 2

Dimapur, July 10: Union Home Minister and NEC chairperson Rajnath Singh envisioned a “New Northeast” as he spoke at the NEC Plenary but could not commit to a structural improvement of the NEC that was born to be a comprehensive planning body for the region.
Singh has said the road to “New India” will go through a developed and peaceful “New North East”. But a design for a “New NEC” was missing from the discourse, said sources.
Chief minister Neiphiu Rio’s assertion on Monday that there is sufficient fund accrual that should be allotted to the Ministry of DoNER for clearing liabilities and taking up new schemes had raised a red flag. On the last day of the 67th Plenary no such commitment seemed to have been declared.
Rio had said in Shillong that the NEC’s funds should be utilized for development not for clearing liabilities. All that Singh said on Monday was: NEC may be used as a forum to discuss and resolve Inter-State and Centre-State issues effectively as the other Zonal Councils are doing.
The CM’s statement pointed to the structural issues that face both DoNER and the NEC and relate to the devolution of funds for northeastern states.
“As per last count the accrual to the non-lapsable central pool of resources (NLCPR) adds to more than Rs15,000 crore,” a former member of NEC told Nagaland Page. NLCPR contains unspent but non-lapsable fund from each central ministry that is supposed to annually allocate 10 percent of its budget for the Northeast.
Sources said that although a larger vision of development in the Northeast came up in speeches of home minister and DoNER minister Jitendra Singh, structural issues were actually flagged by the CMs and governors.
Nagaland governor P.B Acharya pointed out how NEC should not be a mere recommending body. The view is echoed by the former NEC member, too.
“The NEC should be even beyond a regional planning body for the region. It should be empowered to oversee the implementation of projects in the eight states,” he said.
Another member, M.P Bezbaruah has suggested to the committee for Northeast in the NITI Aayog that five different areas like roads, tourism and horticulture should be put in mission mode. “Let us hope that this suggestion is taken up,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rajnath Singh said that if broadband services and better roads in the region to the youth in the region, they could find employment opportunities closer home. Ironically, even as Singh spoke the Asian Highway-1 that would connect northeast to Myanmar and Thailand, sank at Kohima stopping all heavy traffic to Manipur. Broadband and mobile phone services remain as erratic as ever.
Asked about the outcome of the meeting regarding structural issues of the NEC and DoNER, a senior ministry official said: “The members (of NEC) are happy.”
Rajnath Singh also said the ITIs and Polytechnic Institutes should play a role in Skill Development. “NEC should also consider setting up the Regional Institute for Skill Development,” he said.
The minister also hinted on preventing corruption. “We need to prevent leakages in the system and ensure total transparency and accountability. I urge the Chief Ministers of all North Eastern states to work towards this end with missionary zeal,” he said.
The two-day 67th Plenary of the NEC was attended by the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh, who is also the vice-chairman of the NEC, besides Governors and Chief Ministers and senior officers of the eight north-eastern states and Union Ministry of DoNER. (Page News Service)