A round-up of what’s happening in India’s Northeast.
Manipur: Speculations rife about Mary Kom joining the BJP
Soon after the name of M.C. Mary Kom featured in the list of Rajya Sabha members who were nominated by the Narendra Modi government in April, rumours about her joining the BJP began to build.
Manipur, Kom’s home state, is set to go to the polls early next year. The BJP is keen to grab power from Congress after its good showing in Assam in May.
Speculations were rife that the BJP will use Kom to enhance its appeal among Manipur’s voters – particularly those in the hill districts. Kom belongs to a small tribe in the hill district of Churachandpur.
On October 17, the rumours gained traction after Kom met Himanta Biswa Sarma, the convener of the BJP’s North East Democratic Alliance, in Imphal.
Sarma posted photos from the meeting on his Twitter and Facebook page saying, “Her ideas on politics seem as sturdy as her punches in [the] boxing ring. It was a delight meeting her and exchanging notes with M.C. Mary Kom on [the] political situation in Manipur today. The Olympian is humble and has brilliant ideas.”
With preparations for the assembly polls gaining momentum, a section of the local media has speculated that Kom “will be playing a pivotal role in campaigning for the BJP” in Manipur.
The BJP unit in Manipur has kept its lips sealed.
Assam: UNESCO to set up a global university in Northeast
The United Nations is reportedly setting up its second global university in the Northeast, which is likely to become functional next year.
According to media reports, Aswini Sharma, the secretary general of the UNESCO Association, said that the UN body has sought 20 acres of land from the governments of Assam and Meghalaya, and the university – which will facilitate study on a range of subjects – would be established wherever the land allotment was made “at the earliest.”
Students from across the world would be eligible to study at the university.
According to the reports, the university is being set up in the region according to a tripartite agreement signed by the world body, the Indian government and the Federation of UN Associations in India.
So far, the UN runs only one such global university in Japan’s capital Tokyo.
Sharma said, “The varsity would facilitate the study of various courses in arts stream, social sciences, management, science and technology. It would admit students for graduate, postgraduate courses, besides research scholars.”
He said that even though the UN had requested the government of Assam – both during the Congress regime and during the present BJP government – it was Meghalaya that had shown more interest in it.
“The government of Assam,” he added, “was requested for land at Guwahati first in February, 2014 and then on August 3 this year.”
Arunachal Pradesh: Work on roads in villages along the Indo-China border gains pace
On October 16, minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju inaugurated a strategic road and a bridge near the China border in Arunachal Pradesh.
Work on the 74.75 metre PSC box girder Rupa bridge in the West Kameng district and the widening of the 158-km Orang-Kalaktang-Shergaon-Rupa-Tenga (OKSRT) road have been ongoing for a few years.
In 2013, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which constructed the bridge and the road, told reporters that the OKSRT road, which connects Arunachal to Assam, would be completed by 2014.
On October 16, speaking at the inaugural programme held in Rupa by BRO, Rijiju reiterated the Centre’s commitment to the development of the border areas. He also lauded the BRO “for meeting its commitment”.
Rijiju has been personally monitoring the progress of these and other infrastructure development projects. In February, he held a review meeting on the progress of various road sectors in the state, particularly in the strategic West Kameng district.
In April, BRO connected Tame Chung Chung, a tiny village in the Upper Subansiri district of the state located near the frontier with Tibet, to a road.
Last month, union minister of state for road transport and highways Mansukh L. Mandaviya took a road journey from Itanagar to Ziro “to get first hand information on the road conditions of the region.” He also announced a fund of Rs 10 crore for the maintenance of the Potin to Bopi stretch of the road.
Considering that Arunachal shares a 1,080 km long border with China, the Modi government has given high importance to the development of infrastructure in the state. Besides planning eight airports in strategically important locations, it has also begun focusing on its land infrastructure.
However, work slowed down due to lack of funds released to the BRO. In May 2015, the parliamentary standing committee on defence came down heavily on the central government for not releasing funds to the BRO to build roads on the Indo-China border.
According to media reports, the committee, headed by BJP MP B.C. Khanduri, said, “Any cut made to the BRO would directly affect the security of the nation”.
According to an Indian Express report from May 2015, the defence ministry also told the panel that the defence minister Manohar Parrikar “personally took up the matter with the finance minister for an additional grant of Rs 1,096 crore for the BRO in the financial year 2015-16. The committee reportedly told the defence ministry that “the matter may be taken up once again, if needed, at the highest level in the government”.
According to the report, the committee had been told that only 21 of the 73 strategic Indo-China border roads had been completed so far. All those roads were to be completed by 2012.
A lot seems to have changed since then. Not just the defence and road surface ministry, but also the rural development ministry has swung into action. On October 10, Rijiju thanked rural development minister Narendra Singh Tomar for his “efforts to connect roads to all the remote border villages of Arunachal Pradesh.”