Kisama (Nagaland), Dec 1: Describing India's northeast as a "Natural Economic Zone", Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday announced a slew of packages to develop the region that included a special scholarship for 10,000 students and development of rail, air, road, and digital connectivity.
"In India, the word SEZ (special economic zone) is very popular but after visiting this area (Assam, Manipur and Nagaland) for the last three days, I found that it is not only SEZ but it is NEZ. When I say NEZ, I mean 'Natural Economic Zone'," Modi said while inaugurating the annual Hornbill festival at the Naga heritage village in Kisama.
"In other parts of India, we will find SEZ, a man-made economic zone. In this region it is NEZ, but unfortunately it is untapped. It is my priority now to nourish this NEZ for NE (North East). NE is meant for NEZ and NEZ is meant for NE," he said.
After becoming prime minister, Modi said his government has taken a number of initiatives for the development of the eight northeastern states.
"I am sure this is the proper time when we are celebrating the Hornbill festival and preparing for Christmas. We have decided to start a scheme called Ishan Uday, a special scholarship for 10,000 northeast students," he announced.
"Another scheme called Ishan Vikas will help in internship and exposure to visit IITs, NITs and NIFTs in other parts of India during their vacation. Every year, we will take 2,000 students and 500 teachers from this area to other parts of the country. This exposure will benefit this area."
Modi said his government will set up six more colleges, especially in the field of agriculture, in the northeast.
"The northeastern states can be the capital of India's organic agriculture. Only the northeastern states can provide organic food to the humanity and to the world, and that's why we have decided to set up six new colleges in these areas," he said.
Acknowledging India's rich heritage in the field of textiles, Modi also announced the setting up of modern garment manufacturing centres in each northeastern state, beginning with Nagaland, Assam and Sikkim.
"We have a rich heritage in the textile field. We have master weavers and our women have this art in their fingers. We have to utilise this art for the development of the region. The government will spend Rs.20 crore each on these centres," he said.
Modi recalled the decision by then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to allocate 10 percent of the annual budget for the development of the region.
"My government too has made a provision of Rs.53,000 crore for the development of the eight northeastern states and Rs.28,000 crore for starting 14 new railway lines to boost connectivity in the region."
Modi said many tourists arrive here from various parts of India and other countries.
"This area is the best tourist destination. But before that, we require railway, air, road, and digital connectivity for its all-round development. That is why we have decided to have 14 new railway lines in the region," he said.
To improve power and digital connectivity, the prime minister said an amount of Rs.5,000 crore has been earmarked for six states to strengthen intra-state power transmission and distribution systems.
A similar amount has been allocated for boosting 2G mobile connectivity for the eight states.
Recognising the potential of the youth of the region in sports, Modi announced the setting up of a national sports university in Manipur.
"The people of northeast will be the best beneficiaries of this sports university," he said.
Expressing his eagerness to develop tourism in the northeast, he said: "There is tremendous scope for India in the field of tourism. However, it is still untapped in these areas. But we are now focussing on it."