NE connect: PM Modi promises 14 railway links

  • Rahul Karmakar, Hindustan Times, Guwahati
  • Updated: Dec 02, 2014 11:50 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrapped up his three-day visit to the northeast on Monday with a major connectivity package that includes new railway lines worth Rs. 28,000 crore and Rs. 5,000-crore for 2G mobile coverage.

He also dedicated to the country the second unit of the 726MW gas-based Palatana power plant in Tripura, which he underscored as the outcome of a bilateral cooperation (with Bangladesh) that SAARC countries should emulate.

At Kisama, his first stop near Nagaland capital Kohima to inaugurate the Hornbill Festival, Modi unveiled the NDA’s connectivity plans for the region and said the centre has earmarked Rs. 53,000-crore for development in the northeast. This includes 14 railway lines, improvement of the power network and boost for the tourism sector.

“Northeast is a natural economy zone… This is the best destination for tourists. But for tourism, we need road, rail and air connectivity.” Modi said, while promising better digital connectivity, a national sports university in Manipur to tap the region’s sporting talent and six new agriculture colleges since “the northeast could be India’s organic capital”.

Part of the development budget for the region was for improving power supply in six states including Nagaland, Modi said. “We have sanctioned `5,000-crore for ensuring uninterrupted power for the Northeast.”

From Nagaland, Modi flew to Tripura to inaugurate unit 2 of the Rs. 10,000-crore Palatana plant, a joint venture between ONGC and Tripura government that would generate power for the northeastern states besides contributing to the national grid.

He used the occasion to laud his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina for facilitating the transport of the plant’s machinery through her country. “Such cooperation between two countries is a message for the entire Saarc region,” he said, offering to sell 100MW of power to Dhaka.

A strong Bangladeshi delegate attended the inauguration of Palatana, 60 km from Tripura capital Agartala.

Modi also recounted Tripura’s assistance to the people of Bangladesh during their independence struggle in 1971. Bangladesh’s liberation is a cause of heartburn for Pakistan, which stalled some connectivity agreements at the Saarc summit in Kathmandu last month.

The PM further assured Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar that the centre would take up his suggestions for setting up a gas-based urea fertilizer plant and a petro-chemical hub in the Northeast.

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