Aizawl, Feb 13 (UNI) DoNER Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar today asserted that the Kaladan project would greatly benefit the people of Mizoram, especially the backward southern part of the state, as soon as it became operational.
Addressing mediapersons here, Mr Aiyar said, ''The Kaladan multi-model project will fulfill the 150-year-old prophecy of Pastor Chhawna, the well-known Mizo prophet, who had predicted that 'there will come a light from the south'. With 75,000 tonnes of goods moved to and through Mizoram annually, the project will make the state the economic gateway to India.'' He stated that the main purpose of his visit was to have a panoramic aerial view of the project and see what else could be done.
''While flying over the Kaladan river, it dawned on me that if we could build a railway track along the river, the Kaladan project would be of greater benefit,'' he opined.
The DoNER Minister pointed out than the Kaladan project had been conceived more than ten years back and had not it been for the deterioration of Indo-Myanmar relations in the mid 90s, it would have been completed by now.
The Kaladan project, which will include shipping, river and road transport, is estimated to take four years to implement and will include construction of roads from Kalewa to Saiha at Mizoram border.
Later, this road will be connected with India's National Highway 54 in Mizoram.
The project will be implemented by the Rail India Technical Economic Services, a public-sector organisation, and is expected to be commissioned by 2009.
The final agreement on the project is expected to be inked between Myanmar and India in April.
Mr Aiyar said he was grieved to see the backwardness of the three autonomous district councils of Mara, Lai and Chakma in the southern part of the state and the fact that the entire rural Mizoram was still reeling under Mautam (bamboo flowering famine) and acute food shortage.
''Once we get the Sittewa (proposed sea port at Kaladan) going, southern Mizoram will get sufficient rice, coming from Myanmar and Bangladesh,'' the minister assured.
Mr Aiyar also said he was disturbed to learn that the minority population (Chakmas, Mara and Lais) in the southern part had been deprived of development funds.
''It appears that only a very small proportion of funds have reached these people who constitute 15 per cent of the state's population. I can now understand why the minorities are demanding Union Territory status. Mizoram should remain one, but it can remain united only when all the sections of the people feel that they are equally treated,'' he affirmed.
He also advocated that double-cropping in the southern part would make the region self-sufficient.
UNI ZS DPM DB2000