Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday inaugurated the strategically crucial and India's longest 9.15-km river bridge connecting Assam and Arunachal Pradesh near the China border on the third anniversary of his government and said the NDA dispensation was working to make the North East region a trade hub for Southeast Asia.
Modi named the bridge — built over Brahmaputra tributary Lohit and linking Dhola in Assam to Sadiya in Arunachal — after Dadasaheb Phalke awardee and legendary lyricist-singer late Bhupen Hazarika.
"Our government has decided to name the bridge after a son of the soil, who is the son of Brahmaputra, a worshiper of the Brahmaputra. He is late Bhupen Hazarika," the prime minister told a well-attended gathering.
The bridge, which can bear the weight of a 60-tonne battle tank, will provide a road-link to various strategic locations in the region and make civil and military logistics movement easier for Arunachal's Anini, some 100 km from the China border.
The bridge constructed at a cost of Rs 950 crore will also reduce travel time for the military supplies to reach the border areas in Arunachal's Dibang and Anjaw — a tedious journey that otherwise takes about two days.
Modi said the bridge will lay a new beginning for economic revolution not only for the region but the entire country.
After throwing it open for the public, the prime minister said the bridge would connect and bring closer the people of Assam and Arunachal.
The travel time from Dhola to Sadiya through another route would take some eight hours. Through the Brahmaputra river ferry, the journey would take about four and a half hours. Now, the same journey will take only 30 minutes.
Speaking on the Act East Policy, the prime minister said he wanted the North East region to become a trade hub for southeast Asia by connecting the area for economic activity.
"For this, we are laying stress on development of infrastructure and making the North East tourism centre. Lakhs of tourists would also come to Kamakhya temple and improve the economy," he said.
"Stress in now being laid on what was never done earlier... Electricity, roads, rail infrastructure and optical fibre network in the North East will connect every corner of the region with the country," Modi said.
"The bridge will not only save money, reduce travel time but it comes as a foundation for the beginning of a new economic revolution. That's why the whole nation has its eyes on this bridge. This region can play a huge role in connecting India to Southeast Asia," Modi said.
After the inauguration, Modi walked for a few metres on the bridge, saluted the mighty Brahamaputra river, waved to the waiting people and drove with his cavalcade for about 2 km on the bridge towards Sadiya before returning to Dhola to address the gathering.
He said, "The bridge will bring development to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. For fulfilling India's dream of becoming a top economically developed nation, a superpower, then the North Eastern region is the place to begin with", he said.
"If development is to be made permanent, then infrastructure is the first requirement. It is on the two tracks of physical infrastructure and social infrastructure that complete development is achieved," Modi said.
He said the previous Congress-led UPA government delayed the project after it was conceived by then BJP prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2003 and the people in the region had to wait for five decades for it.
"If Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji had returned to power in 2004, then you would have got this bridge 10 years ago. But then another government came to power due to which your dreams were delayed," Modi said. The project got approval in 2009 under the Congress-led UPA government, and construction began in 2011, under the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government in Assam.
Greeting people in Assamese, Modi asked them to switch on the torches of their mobiles to "show to the nation that you are celebrating the occasion".
The prime minister arrived in Dibrugarh Airport with Union Minister of Roads and National Highways Nitin Gadkari and headed straight to Dhola accompanied by Chief Minister of Assam Sarbananda Sonowal and Governor Banwarilal Purohit.
Launch of SAMPADA at Gogamukh
The prime minister then launched the agro-marine processing scheme SAMPADA (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing) to promote food processing and promised to make the North East the economic hub of "new India" at Gogamukh.
"There are immense possibilities for agro-product valuation and the Rs 6,000-crore SAMPADA will go a long way in developing the food processing industry and creating employment opportunities for the youth," he said after laying the foundation stone of the Indian Agriculture Research Institute in the Dhemaji district.
Modi, who kickstarted the celebration of three years of his government, said: "Initially, there will be investment of Rs 6,000 crore and later, we will go in for public-private partnership which will include foreign direct investment." The central government will work "shoulder to shoulder" with the state government to usher in development, he promised.
Modi urged the youth of the North East to take advantage of this scheme, saying the region will be the "new engine for new India and the term NE will mean new economy, new energy and new empowerment".
This will be achieved by following the 'pancha path' (five paths) with "the focus being on infrastructure development like highway, railway, waterway, airway and I(information)-way".
In the last three years, more than 9,000 soil health card labs were set up across the country and there are plans to set up more as these have helped farmers understand the strength, weaknesses and fertiliser requirement of the soil.
Foundation set at AIIMS
After inaugurating the the nation's longest river bridge and laying the foundation of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute at Gogamukh in Dhemaji district, Modi laid the foundation stone of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Guwahati to be set up at Changsari in Assam's Kamrup district.
Among others present at the function were Governor Banwarilal Purohit, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Guwahati AIIMS will be constructed under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana at an estimated cost of Rs 1,123 crore.
He then took the helicopter to Sarusajai stadium to lay the foundation stone of AIIMS.
Addressing rally at Guwahati
Later on Friday during BJP's pan-India festival-like campaign in Guwahati, Modi spoke on the government's decision to go ahead with demonetisation was a very tough decision.
"Demonetisation was a very tough decision. (Opposition) Political leaders tried to create anger and provoke the
people. But with the people's blessings, my government withstood all the problems," he said.
"Our support grew, despite tough decisions. People can see the change now,"
On the issue of black money, Modi said, "We had decided to take strong steps against black money in the very first
meeting of the Union Cabinet. The black money seized from the corrupt will go back to the poor. I'll face problems, but won't hesitate to do it as I had promised this to the people".
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: May 26, 2017 22:20:11 IST