NEW DELHI, July 18 – In a significant attempt to boost execution of pending projects in North East, the Centre has agreed to sanction additional Rs 400 crore to complete three critical rail projects. Besides, an additional Rs 200 crore has been sanctioned for the Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge and Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion project.
The decision to provide the additional funds was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to review the status of infrastructure development in the Northeastern region.
The meeting was attended by Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh, Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, Minister for Road Transport and Highways Oscar Fernandes, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, Power Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and DoNER Minister Paban Singh Ghatowar, besides Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
Sources said following complaints of long delay in execution of road projects in the North East primarily due to the problem of land acquisition, Oscar Fernandes has been asked to rush to Guwahati. He is scheduled to visit Assam in the first week of August to chair a meeting of the CMs of the Northeastern States on road transport and highway projects. Ghatowar is also likely to take part in the meeting.
The PM has also directed the Planning Commission to call a meeting of all the CMs of the Northeastern States to improve inter-State coordination for speedy completion of the infrastructure projects.
The meeting agreed that the Finance Ministry would provide an additional Rs 400 crore to complete three critical rail projects before March 2014.
The projects include Harmati-Naharlagun project to provide the first rail connectivity to Arunachal Pradesh, the Dudhnoi-Mendipathar project to connect Meghalaya and Angapura-North Lakhimpur gauge conversion project. The Ministry of Railways committed that the first trial runs will begin on these lines in January 2014, sources said.
Further, following pressure from the PMO, the Finance Ministry agreed to provide up to Rs 200 crore for two more projects including the Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion and the Bogibeel Bridge.
Official sources said that the review meeting on Thursday covered the railway, road, airport, power, and telecom projects in the region. The focus was on speeding up implementation of ongoing projects and also fill-in gaps to ensure full physical and electronic connectivity to and in the Northeastern region.
The Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission emphasised that on the Prime Minister’s direction, a special section was for the first time included in the XI Plan document on NE, which has accelerated the growth process in the region. This section is continued in the 12th Plan, he informed.
The PMO, meanwhile, is concerned over long delays in execution of power projects. The Ministry of Power has been directed to expedite work on hydro-projects, which are held up due to various reasons, sources said.
Priority will be given to building strong transmission capacities to transmit power from this potential power rich region, both in hydro and gas based power, said sources.
The agitation against the hydropower projects in Assam that has stalled projects in Arunachal Pradesh has been taken very seriously and the State Government is likely to be asked to mount a crackdown on the agitations. The Centre fears that the agitations might drive away the investors including the power companies from the region.
An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) has been constituted to finalise infrastructure projects. The EGoM includes the Union Ministers for Home, Finance, Road Transport, Civil Aviation and DoNER.