President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday listed a series of development works being carried out by the Modi government in sectors like tourism, transport and other infrastructure in the Northeast, which of late has been witnessing unrest over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
Addressing the joint sitting of Parliament at the beginning of the Budget Session, President Kovind said that the government considers that the Eastern and Northeastern regions have the potential to become a new “Growth Engine” for the country.
“My government is working towards bringing about a transformation through transport and tourism in order to make the lives of the people of Northeast easier,” he said.
The president said almost all the railway lines in the Northeast have been converted to broad gauge and efforts are underway to provide rail connectivity to the capital cities of all the eight states of the region.
“For this, the work on 15 new rail lines is under progress at a cost of approximately Rs 50,000 crore,” he said.
Similarly, he said, the work on the ‘Gas Cracker Project’ which is important for Assam and the Paradip oil refinery in Odisha has also been expedited.
“The Dhola Sadiya Bridge named after Bhupen Hazarika, linking Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, has already been dedicated to the nation,” he said.
The president said out of the 18,000 villages electrified by the Modi government, about 13,000 villages are in Eastern India and out of these, 5,000 villages are in the remote areas of the Northeast.
Kovind said under the ‘Udan Yojana’, 19 new airports are being built in Eastern India and of these five are coming up in the Northeast. The construction of Pakyong airport in Sikkim has been completed.
The president said many projects where “delays in completion had become synonymous with injustice to the common people” of this country such as India’s longest Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge over the Brahmaputra river in Assam.
“By completing these projects, my government has done justice to the resources of the nation and aspirations of the people,” he said.
He also referred to the new AIIMS being set up in Kamrup district of Assam.
Assam and other Northeastern states have been witnessing strong protests against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill, which provides for according Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after seven years of residence in India instead of 12 years, which is the norm currently, even if they do not possess any document.
Political parties, students groups and others have been protesting on the grounds that the Bill seeks to grant nationality to non-Muslims who have come up to December 31, 2014, thereby, increasing the deadline from 1971 as per the Assam Accord.
Also, according to the Assam Accord, all illegal immigrants who have come after 1971, irrespective of their religion, have to be deported and this Bill violates that.
The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has quit its alliance with the BJP in Assam protesting against the Narendra Modi government’s decision to get Parliament’s approval for the Bill.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that the citizenship bill is an “atonement of the wrong that was done during India’s Partition… India will safeguard all who had been victims of the Partition”.