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Focus on better connectivity

Itanagar, July 18: While chief minister Nabam Tuki’s Congress government is busy planning and formulating ways to improve surface and air connectivity to the state, Arunachal Pradesh governor Lt Gen. (retd) Nirbhay Sharma too is chipping in on his part.

The governor today met Northeast Frontier Railway’s general manager Ranjit Singh Virdi at Raj Bhavan here and suggested that inner-line permits required for non-Arunachal citizens to enter the state be issued on arrival on the lines of tourist visas on arrival issued at international airports.

The lone train service from Dekargaon in Assam to Arunachal Pradesh in Naharlagun near the state capital was suspended in May just a month after the service began following agitation from various students’ unions of the state protesting the absence of any mechanism to keep a check on illegal entry.

Several students’ unions such as the Students’ Union Movement of Arunachal, All Nyishi Students’ Union and All Papum Pare District Students’ Union had demanded the suspension of the service claiming that people coming by the train were doing so without obtaining the mandatory document. NF Railway had suspended the service citing “law and order concerns” after reports began pouring in that people were “sent back” from the railway station by protesters.

And while today the governor expressed its appreciation and happiness that the Indian Railways has established a railway link to the state, he also said the railway and state authorities must work together to resolve the issue.

Earlier this month, railway minister Sadananda Gowda announced two new train services in his budget, a daily inter-city service from Guwahati and a weekly one from New Delhi.

While the services will help establish better communication links to the landlocked state, protesters are not impressed.

The president of the All Nyishi Student’s Union, Byabang Joram, had reacted to the railway minister’s announcement saying the union “will not allow any train to enter the state regardless of where it is coming from unless proper mechanisms to check ILP are not put in place”.

The governor today also said the state’s abundant and exotic horticultural and floricultural produce could be harnessed properly if goods trains are introduced as well.

Additionally, calling for early completion of the Bogibeel bridge over the Brahmaputra in Assam, Sharma said, “It would be one of the most significant achievements in road and railway connectivity in the region which will be of huge benefit for the people of Arunachal Pradesh and Upper Assam”.

The focus on establishing better communication links to and within the state is indicative of chief minister Nabam Tuki’s second term. Although the UPA failed to return to power, Tuki has not shied away from meeting the NDA’s union ministers in an effort to procure funds for development projects.

Arunachal Pradesh’s finances rely heavily on central funding and Tuki has been careful to ensure that the BJP government in Delhi does not stifle funds.

Tuki got minister of state for environment and forests Prakash Javadekar to agree on exempting environmental clearance for road projects within 100km of the state’s international border earlier this month.

Tuki yesterday met civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and appealed for sanctioning of a greenfield airport (built from scratch on undeveloped land) near the state capital to enable starting its construction in the current financial year.

While there are advanced landing grounds in the state used by the military and for VIP visits, there is not a single commercial airport in operation in the entire state. Construction of the proposed airport in Hollongi area near Itanagar has been stalled for years after the original site for the airport was moved.