Northeast states call for speedy action on central projects


Agartala : The northeastern states have urged the central government to release funds for the speedy implementation of flagship development and infrastructure projects in the region, said Tripura Finance Minister Badal Chowdhury Saturday.

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He was speaking to reporters here after attending the pre-budget meeting between the states and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi Thursday.

“The finance ministers of the northeastern states have requested the centre to release funds under the flagship programmes and complete the ‘National Projects’ in time to stimulate the economy and to give impetus to the region’s infrastructure sector,” Chowdhury said.

The gauge conversion project of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) between Lumding and Badarpur in southern Assam, which was taken up in 1996, is yet to make noticeable progress, the minister said.

He added that the project for four-laning of Assam-Agartala national highway (NH 44) has been languishing for almost four years now.

The northeast ministers have also urged the government not to implement infrastructure projects under public-private partnership (PPP) and build-operate-transfer (BOT) models in this region, he said.

Chowdhury said fully government-owned projects were good for the region.

“If PPP and BOT models are introduced in the backward and infrastructure-hungry land-locked region, the economically weak people would be largely affected,” he said.

The ministers have also apprised Mukherjee of their financial constraints to provide pay and allowances for the state employees at par with the central government.

“The northeastern states have demanded the centre bear the entire additional expenditure of all special category states to provide salary and allowances of their employees under the revised structure,” Chowdhury said.

Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh have revised their employees’ pay scale. “Due to paucity of funds, the other northeastern states are yet to revise pay and allowances.”

The ministers have also complained that the credit flow to the region from nationalised banks is very low.

“It is unfortunate that despite intervention from the union finance ministry, the credit-deposit ratio for the commercial banks in the region has remained at a level of around 30 percent over the past many years. This should be raised to at least 50 percent by 2010-11,” Chowdhury said.

All northeastern finance ministers have demanded that the centre write off the entire central loan given to their states.