PM changing N-E to make it path to Indian prosperity

by Friday, June 2nd, 2017

The North-East is the new engine of growth, says Prime Minister Narendra Modi while inaugurating the longest 9.15 km Dodha-Sadiya bridge of the country linking Assam and Arunachal.

modi dhola sadiya bridge

But can a bridge change the fate of a disaster and poverty-ridden region? In fact, it is much more than the bridge. It is becoming the major land gateway to Southeast Asia – Bangkok, Phuket, Singapore – an emerging area of global prosperity.

The bridge reduces the distance from Rupai in NH 37 in to Meka/Roing in on NH 52 in Arunachal from 6 hours to only an hour. The bridge is quake resistant and can take a load of 110 tonnes against India’s main battle tank’s weight of 68.6 tonnes. It takes troops to India-Tibet border, McMohan Line, in a jiffy in all weather.

It was backed by the foundation-stone laying of region’s first All India Institute of Medical Science and Indian Agricultural Research Institute. In a day, Modi announced Rs 3500 crore projects for the region.

A total investment of over Rs 1 lakh crore is envisaged in the next five years.


In January this year another crucial bridge was inaugurated by Union Shipping and Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on the Brahmaputra at Saraighat. He had announced a number of new road projects and bridges for Assam, worth Rs 65,000 crore over the next five years.

The North-East is changing, says Aruanachal chief minister Pema Khandu. “Now we do not have to queue up in Delhi to meet ministers. They come to us”. That is the crucial change that has happened over the last three years.

The region feels its isolation is ending and it is privy to a new development path that connects not only the rest of the country but beyond to Bangladesh and Southeast Asia.

It is now part of India’s Act East strategy started by former NDA prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Even the Dhola-Sadiya bridge was conceptualised by Vajpayee.

The new bridge has brought cheers to 40,000 tea growers, including 509 tea gardens and factories in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts, Arunachal’s Roing and adjacent areas, cut-off from mainland for centuries. It produces 40 crore kg of green leaf per annum.


The five paths to accelerated developments, Modi says, are highway, railway, waterway, airway and information way fibre-optic network. The N-E will denote new economy, new energy and new empowerment. A local journalist Pranab Bora says it is path of love and bridging minds.

The Modi government has taken many diplomatic activities to connect the region. The transit between N-E to other areas in the country is to be faster as transit through Bangladesh is becoming a reality. Direct bus services, flight from Guwahati to Dhaka, Bangladesh visa office and a joint tour package with Bangaldesh, will bring this hilly region closer to the beaches of Cox’s Bazar.

The Bangladeshis will now have access to Kaziranga sanctuary and can invest in textiles, tissue paper making, food items and ceramics in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal. Bangladesh imports $ 7 billion goods a year. Now the tiny country will have opportunities to invest to boost their economy.

As the Dhola-Sadiya bridge takes Indian troops faster to China border, the bridge on Feni in Tripura will ferry heavy machines and goods to and from the N-E and the rest of India via Bangladesh through the Chittagong international port, as per Modi and Bangladesh prime minister Hasina Sheikh agreement. The Bangladesh government has earlier agreed to allow India to use the Chittagong port, about 72 km from Tripura’s southern border town of Sabroom.

Narendra Modi_Sheikh Hasina

The move is aimed at boosting investment and production in the region. A gradual transformation in this area is increase in local production and reduction of imports either China or northern Indian.

Two more toll roads are to be built along both banks of the Brahmaputra. The two roads to serve as flood protection wall would be constructed using silt dredged to improve the navigability of the river. This is expected to improve the farm production and reduce seasonal miseries.

The new IARI is to boost production in the region with the new scheme of SAMPADA – Scheme for Agro Marine Produce Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters. This will be Rs 6,000 crore umbrella project for seamless transfer of food products for producing to consuming areas. This is expected to double the income of farmers by 2022, says Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh.

Development is happening in Mizoram too. The Kaladan corridor is poised to link N-E with S-E Asia through multi-modal transit system (KMTT) based on road, river and seas as part of the Act East policy. It is to be developed as potential sea-gate.


The project includes the improvement of Sittwe port in Arakan province, west Myanmar, construction of an inland waterway on Kaladan river and preparation for a highway transportation system linking up with the Mizoram capital of Aizawl. Consequently, road transport is proposed to the Indian border in Mizoram. India invests Rs 2904 crore and offers $ 214 million aid to Myanmar.

The North-East has better prospects as Indian ambassador to Thailand Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi said in May 2016. For the first time in decades, India will be linked by land to Southeast Asia. India, Thailand and Myanmar are working on a 1,400-kilometre-long tri-nation highway, in a bid to provide a boost to trade and cultural exchanges among the three countries. India is funding renovation of 73 bridges, constructed during the World War II. The planned highway starts from Moreh in India and reach Tak in Thailand. Gadkari says that India is investing Rs 5000 crore in Myanmar to build this road.

The road will help in transportation of goods and further development of SMEs in N-E. Myanmar’s Dawei deep-sea port and industrial estate project near the Thai border is also expected to help further integrate eastern India with Southeast Asian countries. The planned port can be linked up with India’s Chennai port as well as Thailand’s Laem Chabang Port on the other side of the Indian Ocean.

The Modi vision is likely to transform the region with high resource lacking people. It is connecting the least linked-up areas to prosperity by opening up avenues beyond the eastern borders and to the seas. If growth is as planned, N-E may become the gateway to prosperity to the rest of the country.

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