NE CMs and Governors demand more funds for development

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Agartala, May 12 (UNI) The Chief Ministers and Governors of the NE states today stressed on the importance of increasing the budget and finances of the North Eastern Council (NEC) for providing adequate infrastructure for roads, railways, airways, telecom and waterways networks.

DoNER Minister and NEC Chairman Mani Shankar Aiyar, who chaired the 56th Plenary session, felt that adequate funds should be made available for the overall development of the region.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said the main thrust of the NEC should be on how to increase the plan size of the Council so that more funds were available for the member states in implementing various projects.

''The deliberation should make the whole proceedings more meaningful,'' he added.

Mr Sarkar said eradication of poverty, univerlisation of education, employment generation and to make available health and sanitation facilities to everyone should be the basic objectives of any vision.

Mizoram Chief Minister Pu Zoramthanga expressed concern with the budget estimate of 2008-09 for NEC, which he opined, was too meagre to be shared among the eight sister states.

He said the Vision document, which the states have accepted, could remain unfulfilled and the dream of the people could not be translated into reality with inadequate funds.

''We need to raise our voices in unison to make the Centre restore the NEC's original proposed budget outlay of at least Rs 1,200 crore during 2008-09,'' Mr Zoramthanga said.

Echoing his counterparts, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said the task of proper budgeting and planning was indeed daunting.

''We have certain reservations regarding the manner of distribution of the NEC funds among the states and the lack of transparency in the process of fund allocation,'' Mr Rio said.

Arunachal Pradesh Governor General (Retd) J J Singh said the Planning Commission had allotted only Rs 624 crore for annual plan 2008-09 which was too meagre for the regional planning body.

''We endorse the views of the Council members to take up the matter with the Planning Commission to restore the NEC's proposal of Rs 1,200 crore,'' Mr Singh said.

Meghalaya Governor Dr S S Sidhu said the ''NER Vision 2020'' was an important initiative in merging the people's approach with that of planning and development, a participatory mode that had tried to get viewpoints of various stakeholders as well as a range of people, especially from the rural areas, to highlight priorities for ordinary people.

Manipur Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh said, ''The economic growth has not been even and many of the poorer segments are being left out. Unfortunately, the NE states have been excluded from the benefits of the liberalised economy and the impressive growth pattern achieved by the country.'' Mr Singh said the NE states must evolve, adopt, and focus on innovative and clear-cut strategies to remove the gross disparities.

Supporting the views of the member states, Sikkim Governor Sudarshan Agarwal suggested the Council to create a fund dedicated to road maintenance for the entire NE region.

Mr Agarwal further said no development programme and orientation could remain the same forever and it had to undergo transformation, depending on the changing needs and aspirations of the people.

Assam Planning and Development Minister Prithvi Majhi, who spoke on behalf of Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, said the development projects taken up in Assam, in which the benefits accrued to other states as well, should be considered as projects of multi-state nature and given high priority for funding by the NEC.

UNI RRK DPM SP HT1510

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