Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma used the 70th Plenary of the North Eastern Council (NEC) here on Sunday to flag the need for "collective efforts" by the governments in the Northeast for a “permanent and final” settlement of inter-state boundary disputes.
Addressing the second and final day of the plenary here, Sarma raised the inter-state border disputes along with other issues crucial for the inclusive and sustainable growth and development of the region in general and Assam in particular. Formed in 1972, the NEC is the nodal agency for the economic and social development of the region.
Since taking over as the chief minister in May 2021, Sarma’s government has been pushing for swift resolution of long-pending boundary disputes with Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram to ensure peace and expedite development along the border. The disputes have often led to law and order issues.
Sarma raised the border dispute issue in presence of Union home minister Amit Shah, who attended several party and official meetings since his arrival on Friday. Shah, who chaired the plenary session on Sunday, has been one of those pushing for early resolution of border disputes in the region.
The plenary had representatives from all states, including several chief ministers, deputy chief ministers, ministers and senior bureaucrats of the region.
The Assam chief minister spoke on the measures being taken to reach an amicable settlement to the inter-state border disputes in the Northeast, adding 50 per cent of Assam’s boundary dispute with Meghalaya has already been resolved.
Steps have been initiated to reach a permanent solution to Assam’s boundary dispute with Arunachal Pradesh, Sarma said, while stressing the need for collective efforts by all the state governments in the Northeast, “if boundary disputes settlement is to be permanent and final”.
Sarma also stressed the need for a museum in Assam to highlight the ethnic, cultural artefacts and products of all the states of the Northeast, assuring the NEC of “all co-operation, including allotment of land, from the government of Assam, if the regional statutory advisory body comes up with a concrete plan for such a museum”.
Lauding Shah’s focus on resolving insurgency in the region, Sarma said permanent peace in Northeast would provide a new fillip to the region’s growth momentum.
Governor of Arunachal Pradesh Brig. (Dr) B.D. Mishra (Retd.) in his address at the plenary emphasised that the NEC must keep its guidelines adaptable enough to the changing needs of the region.
“Important sectors like sports, water resources and flood management should receive adequate attention in addition to sectors like power, roads and school education. While allocating the resources due consideration should be given to the expanse of the state’s geographical area, its remoteness, and the present status of development,” Mishra said.
He sought support for the developmental needs of Arunachal Pradesh by ensuring that the resources allocated match the financial requirements to bridge the vast developmental gap of the state.
While highlighting the challenges of the state, Mishra, who is also the Meghalaya governor, said the climate change and anthropogenic conditions have put the state under severe strain.
Since nearly 80 per cent of the state population is dependent on natural resources for sustaining varied forms of agri-based livelihoods, he suggested giving priority to environmental conservation efforts.
Home minister Shah, presiding over the plenary, said the whole of India considers the languages, cultures, cuisine and costumes of the Northeast as its heritage and the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is “making every effort to preserve and promote the natural identity of this region”.
He said in the past eight years, the government has made efforts to solve all the problems of the Northeast by "finding their root cause" and that a flood-free and a drug-free Northeast was "very important" for the Modi-led government.
Urging the chief ministers of the Northeastern states to make full use and benefit of the North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NESAC) data for flood control, irrigation, tourism, afforestation and agriculture, Shah said the chief ministers should appoint a nodal officer for the NESAC in their states so that maximum and better use of this platform can be made. The NESAC is in Meghalaya.