Nov. 14: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and defence minister George Fernandes today reached the Northeast with different objectives, but focused on the same subject: improper utilisation of Delhi-sanctioned funds for development schemes in the region.
Advani, whose two-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh is seen as a thanksgiving trip after the BJP’s ascent to power in the state, said after laying the foundation stone of a referral hospital in Naharlagun that the Northeast had yet to reap the benefits of centrally-sponsored programmes.
To illustrate his point, the deputy Prime Minister quoted from a speech by Rajiv Gandhi. He said the former Prime Minister once remarked that “a rupee starting from New Delhi becomes 15 paise before reaching the place where it is needed”.
Advani described democracy as the “benchmark of India”, but hastened to add that development “should not be hampered in the name of democracy”.
The deputy Prime Minister, however, took everyone by surprise when he claimed to be unaware that he was to lay the foundation stone of a 500-bed referral hospital. The proposed hospital in Naharlagun, adjoining Itanagar, was planned several years ago.
As Advani held centrestage in Arunachal Pradesh, the defence minister was harping on Delhi’s keenness to develop the Northeast while addressing ex-servicemen at Leimakhong in the Manipur capital. He said there was no dearth of funds for the region, but money sanctioned by the National Democratic Alliance government was not being properly utilised.
Fernandes gave the ex-servicemen a patient hearing and promised to redress their grievances. Some of the former army personnel complained that they were facing difficulty in collecting pension from the state treasury in Imphal.
At a news conference later, Fernandes appealed to all militant groups of the region to give up the gun and come to the negotiation table. On being asked why there was no national policy on rehabilitation of surrendered militants, he said that was the responsibility of the state governments.
When a journalist pointed out that 100-odd surrendered militants were waiting to be rehabilitated, as promised by the Manipur government, the defence minister claimed the Okram Ibobi Singh government had never discussed the subject with anybody at the Centre.
Fernandes will address NCC cadets at the historical Kangla Fort tomorrow. He will visit Moreh, on the Indo-Myanmar border, before leaving Manipur. The defence minister has been regularly touring remote areas where the armed forces are deployed.
Advani’s Arunachal Pradesh itinerary includes a visit to the Ramakrishna Mission Hospital and a civic reception tomorrow morning. He will then leave for Jorhat district of Upper Assam.
The deputy Prime Minister inaugurated the Energy Awareness Park in Itanagar this evening. He was accompanied by the Union minister for development of the Northeast, C.P. Thakur, and Union ministers of state Tapan Sikdar and Bijoya Chakraborty.