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PM reviews strategy

- Northeast CMs told to improve infrastructure
Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Jan. 20: With elections approaching and under pressure on missed deadlines for infrastructure projects in the Northeast, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today met chief ministers from the region to review the progress of crucial projects.

While Singh said “considerable progress has been made” in sectors discussed today, he also directed the Planning Commission to constitute a monitoring committee with representatives from the eight northeastern states to improve co-ordination among central ministries.

Central ministries have focused on development of infrastructure, including railways, roads, airports, telecom and power.

Environmental clearances and “local factors” continue to dog many of these projects across different sectors. The Northeast currently has 4,080MW of power generation capacity and another 6,810MW is under development but has an untapped hydro potential of 55,561MW — enough to solve a growing India’s energy needs.

There is need for expeditious environmental and forest clearances and also land acquisition, the Prime Minister’s Office conceded in a release today. The Lower Subansiri project is facing some implementation problems, which need early resolution, the release said.

The Union ministry of power and Assam government have scheduled a meeting in February to sort out these issues. Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi also conceded that environmental clearances held up some projects.

The Twelfth Plan initiated a major expansion in railway development in the region. There are 20 railway projects under way, of which 10 are national projects.

The Centre has made additional financial resources of Rs 314 crore available in the current year to allow completion of rail links at Rangiya-Rangpura (Tezpur), Rangpura-North Lakhimpur and North Lakhimpur-Murkongselek.

The Prime Minister’s Office today claimed that the longstanding Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion for main line would be completed by March next year and the branch lines in June 2016.

“Work is being carried out on the Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge across the Brahmaputra (to be completed by December 2016, according to the PMO),” Assam chief minister said later.

However, he said, “(But) it will depend on the release of funds.” Gogoi was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting at the Planning Commission this afternoon.

Gogoi and Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma conceded that deadlines had been missed due to a variety of factors. Sangma said though some had missed deadlines of completion because of “local factors”, others like the Shillong Bypass had been completed ahead of schedule.

The PMO indicated that the new broad-gauge line from Dudhnoi–Mendipathar would be completed by March this year and will be the first rail connectivity to Meghalaya. Similarly, the new broad-gauge line from Harmuti-Naharlagun is set to be completed by the same time and will be the first rail connectivity to Arunachal Pradesh.