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Northeast in infotech thrust
- Political leadership rises together to allay fears of instability

Calcutta, Nov. 17: Chief minister and senior cabinet members from the northeastern states today hitched their wagons to the engine of information technology to pull forward a region that has struggled to register a presence on the country's development map.

“This region will no longer remain a cluster of liability. With the use of IT, we want to contribute to nation building,” said D.D. Lapang, the chief minister of Meghalaya.

“Insurgency is no longer a problem and I must tell you that we have started receiving investment proposals,” he added.

Stressing the role of e-governance, the industry minister of Assam, Bhubaneswar Kalita, outlined plans to intensify the use of information technology. “We clearly understand that governments must computerise to ensure development,” said Kalita, adding that the state would benefit immensely once the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railways become operational.

Speaking at the chief ministers’ roundtable, organised as part of Infocom 2003 by Nasscom and Businessworld, an ABP group publication, their counterparts from Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura allayed fears of political instability in one voice and trotted out the advantages they could offer to infotech investors.

One of the biggest IT shows in the country, Infocom is organised with the objective of promoting the information, communication and technology industry in eastern and northeastern India. This year’s event has drawn over 600 delegates to Calcutta to discuss key issues facing the industry. Exhibitors from across the country have set up stalls to showcase their achievements.

“Our boys are showing a keen interest in IT education and are also doing well. Not just talent, we also have the necessary physical and telecommunication infrastructure. With English being the official language, the state can be the right destination for call centres,” said Neiphiu Rio, the chief minister of Nagaland.

The region’s advantage in serving the call-centre industry with an English-speaking workforce and the pledge of the state governments to offer the best facilities to investors were iterated time and again during the hour-long discussion.

“Young boys and girls from this state are working in companies in various other cities and they will come back if they find opportunities here,” said T. Manga Vaiphei, the science and technology minister of Manipur.

Vaiphei also announced that his government had earmarked over 5,000 sq ft for the industry at a prime location in Imphal that could be offered to companies free for the first five years.

Pabitra Kar, the industries and commerce minister of Tripura, gave an account of his government's e-initiatives. The Tripura government has roped in Webel, Bengal nodal IT agency, to guide its e-governance initiative.

Bengal's IT minister Manab Mukherjee promised to extend "full co-operation" to the northeastern states in their endeavours.

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