Slamming previous governments at the Centre for keeping issues and problems unresolved for decades in various areas, including northeastern states for the sake of votes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said such an approach led to alienation of a section of people from the region who had started losing faith in the Indian Constitution and democracy.
“There are so many challenges before the nation which were ignored due to political and social considerations. These challenges have fanned violence, instability, mistrust in various regions of India. This was continuing in the country for decades,” Modi said addressing a huge crowd at the third Bodo peace accord celebrations here, about 216 km from Guwahati.
Modi said before his BJP-led NDA government came to power in 2014, the the North-East was regarded as a region which could not be “touched upon” and there was no serious effort to change the culture of obstructions, movements, blockades and violence.
“This approach had alienated some of our brothers and sisters from the North-East so much that they had started losing their faith in the Constuttion and democracy,” Modi said during the celebratory rally at Jangkritai Fwta.
The Prime Minister said as a result over the past few decades, thousands of people and security personnel were killed, lakhs lost their homes and millions could never see development during their lifetime.
“The previous governments were also aware of these realities, they used to admit these realities. But they never tried hard to bring about a change in the situation,” he said.
The Prime Minister said his government adopted a new approach to the sensitive issues of the North-East by gauging the aspirations and emotional context of various states of the region.
“We established channels of communication with them by thinking of them as one of our own and also made them feel that way. This has helped reduce extremism in the North-East.
He said whereas in earlier years, there were about 1,000 killings in the North-East due to extremism, the situation is “almost peaceful” now.
He said while the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was in force in most of the N-E states earlier, now the law was not there in most regions of Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh.
He said while businessmen weren’t willing to invest in the region before 2014, the situation has changed now.
“There was a fight for a homeland for a long time in the North-East. Today, they have accepted India as their homeland and strengthened the idea of one India, best India.”
“People from other regions of India were afraid of coming to the North-East at one time, but now they think of the region as their next tourist destination”.
He said the change came about as his government now considers the NE states as growth-engines for development, whereas in the past they were regarded as recipients.
“Earlier, this region was thought to be far from Delhi. Today, Delhi is very close to you and hears you with care. I have prepared a roster for central ministers. We’ve ensured that once every 10-15 days, a central Minister visits the North-East, spends the night there, talks to people and solves their problems.
“Our ministers have spent a great deal of time here and solved a lot of problems. My government is taking direct feedback from you constantly and preparing the Central government’s policies based on them.”
He said while the 14th Finance Commission has given the states from the region Rs 3 lakh crore, its predecessor handed over only Rs 90,000 crore.
On the development front, 3000 km of roads have been built, new national highways approved and the entire railway network converted to broad gauge in the region.
“New airports are being made and old airports are being modernised fast. There are so many rivers and a diverse waterway here in the North-East. Prior to 2014, there was just one waterway in the entire region. Today, work is going on over 12 waterways,” he said.
Due to the large-scale development work, separatism in the region has been transformed into a sense of belonging.