Dubbing north-eastern states as 'Ashtalakshmi' that can take India to new heights, President Pranab Mukherjee today said the government is focussing on reducing isolation of the eastern region and the North-East by improving connectivity.
Addressing the joint sitting of Parliament, Mukherjee said India is opening up road and rail routes to neighbouring countries in South-East Asia to boost economic development of the region.
"My government sees the north-eastern states as Ashtalakshmi that can take India to new heights. The North-East is the gateway to South-East Asia. We are opening up road and rail routes to our neighbouring countries to boost the economic development of the region," the President said.
Reiterating that balanced and equitable development of all the regions is vital to India's progress, he said: "Under its proactive 'Act East' policy, my government is focussing on reducing the isolation of the eastern region and the North-East by improving connectivity through road, rail, air, telecom, power and waterways."
Spelling out steps taken by the government to "ensure unhindered support and development of the states" of the region, Mukherjee said: "My government is continuing with the special dispensation in the assistance pattern to the north-eastern states and is providing assistance in the ratio of 90:10 for core central schemes and 80:20 for the non-core schemes to these states."
He further said that by the end of the year, all the metre gauge rail tracks of the region will be converted into broad guage and the Railways has undertaken a major expansion in the region at a cost of Rs 10,000 crore.
"Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya have been put on the rail map, Agartala in Tripura has been connected with broad-guage line," he added.
Paying special attention to the region's natural landscape, Mukherjee said: "The beauty and diversity of the North-East makes it a natural hub for tourism. The Ministry of Tourism has identified a thematic circuit for the North-East."
Highlighting various steps taken by the government to uplift the region, he said the North-East BPO promotion scheme in the Digital India programme for creation of employment opportunities has already been approved.
Additionally, he said: "The Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited and Numaligarh Refinery Limited wax unit are big projects that will create huge employment opportunities in the North-East."
Mukherjee also said the government has provided special financial assistance to mitigate the damage caused by the unprecedented floods in the hilly and other areas of the country.
On the security situation in north-eastern states, he said it has "also shown significant improvement" while overall in India, "there has been considerable success in containing Left wing extremism over the last three years, with the surrender of over 2,600 extremists".--PTI