Hon’ble Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Dr. Montekji, my esteemed colleague Chief Ministers of the other N.E. States, Members of the Planning Commission, distinguished participants.

I must thank the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission for organising this regional level consultations on the approach to the Twelfth Five Year Plan. It is indeed thoughtful of him to appreciate, through such an interface, the views and expectations of cross section of the people in regard to strategy, direction and content of the next Five Year Plan. It is a right step towards making the Plan more realistic and relevant to the ground situation. I am sure such an exercise, perhaps undertaken for the first time, would prove to be extremely useful and helpful.

North Eastern Region is treated as a special zone for the purpose of Central Plan and some other development assistance. This special dispensation may not be confined to the economic domain alone, but should be extended to various all India criteria, yardsticks, norms and standards so that they are relexed to go well with the ethos, culture and ground realities of the region. This, I submit, should be one of the guiding consideration in the formulation of the 12th Plan.

The broad vision and strategy of the Plan in relation to the North East may be growth with equity based on enhanced livelihood options through agriculture and rural development,  better  resource management and development of human resources including relevant skill upgradation. The region being pre-dominantly rural, and agriculture being the mainstay of the economy, this approach is an inescapable imperative of development. It will ensure inclusive development, shared prosperity, generation of employment opportunity and more purchasing power to the vast rural population (about 87%). Such a strategy will also push up the region’s economic growth rate. Because, rise in the purchasing power of the ‘bottom million’ will raise the consumption and demand level with its spread effect on the local economy.

After the fundamental postulate, I come to the specifics. The growth rate in the agriculture sector in the region has been pathetic - ranging between 1.5 to 2.5 percent. The 12th Plan objective should be to raise it to at least six per cent and sustain. Diversification of agriculture with greater emphasis on raising production and productivity in horticulture is a prime need in the hill areas of the region where crop husbandry has geo-climatic limitations. It has to be an integrated and comprehensive programme covering all the contributory areas and, very importantly, a market mechanism for product disposal. We in Mizoram are engaged in this task through an innovative system called the New Land Use Programme. That can possibly show the way. I may also mention here that demand on the resources of the N.E. States from other important sectors has been so high that per force lesser fund is allotted to this sector than what it really deserves. Twelfth Plan should, therefore, provide much larger fund for this sector.

In the hill areas there is pressing need to go in a big way for water harvesting, particularly rain water harvesting, with modern technology. That would serve three important objectives - (a) providing water for agro-horticulture activities, (b) provide water for domestic use, and (c) prevent soil erosion. This point may be noted while formulating future plans.

Availability of institutional credit, particularly microcredit, both for agriculture and small industrial endeavours has been a serious problem. We would strongly recommended implementation of Thorat Committee’s report on improving the credit delivery system in the North East. Besides, a dedicated Venture Capital Fund should be set up exclusively for this region to help farmers as well as unemployed youths making sincere efforts to be self-employed.

In the power sector for the hill areas one of the strategies should be to harness hydel power potential through micro-hydel generation. The terrain and environmental concerns support adoption of technology that is relatively simple, cheaper and readily available. The Planning Commission appointed Task Force headed by former member, Shri Yugandhar also recommended such an approach. Centre may consider encourating a new, unconventional method involving the local communities in formulation, execution, operation and maintenance of such projects as informed stake holders. This pattern has produced very encouraging results in some of the Western Himalayan States.

As regards bigger power projects, while we would advocate PPP model, the problem in States like Mizoram is that there is no private taker. Due to logistic and other problems posed by nature, project cost becomes relatively higher and so also the cost of generation rendering investment economically unviable. Centre has to relax the existing ceiling of VGF for infrastructure projects in respect of North East hill areas and raise it to 40 per cent of the final cost estimate.

Side by side, a workable and efficient long distance transmission system should be put in place by the concerned central utility so that the States do not have to construct transmission lines to draw power from big Central or regional projects for which the State Government do not have the needed resources.

The North East has to go a very long way in the matter of human resource development. The system of education requires revamping both in terms of quality and standard. The North Eastern Regional Education Council has made a number of important recommendations concerning improvement in the standard of education and development of skills relevant to the development needs of the region that need to be implemented.

One of the shortcomings in the field of education, particularly in the hill areas, is teaching of science and mathematics because of which majority of students at the secondary level opt for general courses. This has been one of the causes for growing number of educated unemployed. NCERT has brought out teaching modules, and science and mathematics kits which are ideal for the N.E. Region. Centre should provide fund to the State Governments to enable them to supply these teaching aids to all the schools.

Only about 4% of the total workforce in the region being skilled, a major thrust area will obviously be skill upgradation. It will help more youths getting wage-employed or becoming self-employed. During the Twelfth Plan there should be at least one Centre of Excellence in each District of the constituent States, All the above activities would involve huge expenditure and the twelfth plan should provide for it adequately.

In the industrial sector, I would strongly recommend implementation of Shri Yugandhar Committee’s recommendation for formulation of a Regional Industrial Policy to complement and supplement the Government of India and State Government policies concerning availability of credit, quality power and water, transportation network, warehousing and marketing network. In hill areas we would prefer to go for small and cottage industries utilizing local resources with a conveyor belt system starting from production, processing to marketing. With a huge quantity horticultural produce and over 60% of nation’s bamboo resources being available in this region, a chain of small industries can be successfully created. It would need much higher level of investment than at present. As regards bigger industries, private sector should be encouraged to play a more pro-active role. However, in hilly areas, the private sectors would have to be provided more incentives to make any venture commercially attractive. It would call for policy intervention at appropriate level.

Absence of required infrastructure has been a big hurdle in faster economic growth of the region. However, the return from investment in the sector not appearing to be attractive, it will be difficult to bring in private investors. This fact has been highlighted in the NER Vision 2020 which has suggested that for sometime to come investment has to come largely from the public sector. This point may be kept in mind in the formulation of the twelfth plan.

Maintenance of infrastructure related assets is another serious problem in the North East for which the States have hardly any resource of their own. A separate Regional Infrastructure Maintenance Fund, particularly in regard to roads and buildings, may be created to meet this need for which the Planning Commission may consider allotment of adequate fund. I would like to mention that as per Hon’ble Prime Minister’s direction, a high level committee was formed to suggest appropriate measures to ensure that terrain and other geographical difficulties do not hinder economic development of this areas. I hope the Committee’s report is available by now. Planning Commission may kindly take note of the committee’s recommendations while formulating approach for the Twelfth Plan in relation to hill areas.

Having made some general observations, I would now like to raise certain issues concerning the development of my State. It is very urgent to strengthen the District Councils for higher level of efficiency in the delivery system and project implementation. These areas are relatively backward and face more constraints. Capacity building and provision of adequate fund to the ADCs are two necessities, Government of Mizoram proposes to prepare an integrated development plan for the three District Councils. This would demand substantial additional Plan fund from Planning Commission. Similarly, we have taken up a programme to revitalize the PRIs through capacity building of the members of the Village Councils as a measure to accelerate rural development programme. Village Councils are proposed to be provided with necessary skilled expertise needed for formulation and execution of projects. Additional plan fund would be needed on this count.

In regard to Human Resource Development, we are proposing to set up higher technical institutions like NUT, IIM, Medical College, Institute of Agriculture Science etc. We expect these institutions to come up in the Central Sector and State can meet its share of expenditure only with additional central assistance. Government of Mizoram constituted an Education Commission whose recommendations are required to be implemented for improvement of educational quality, strengthening of infrastructure etc. Planning Commission may kindly provide additional fund for the same in the Twelfth Plan.

The existing infrastructure in Health Care is poor and inadequate. These are required to be improved urgently by constructing District Hospital buildings, Community Health Centres, PHC and PHSC and strengthening diagnostic facilities. It will be an important additional items of expenditure.

Road being one of the most important infrastructure for development, the existing strategy for construction of road may be modified to speed up density of road. By end of 11th Five Year Plan, road density of Mizoram will be 28.36 Km per 100 Sq. meter against National level road density of 96.57 Km per 100 Sq.Km. Mizoram proposes to increase length of road to reach road density of 54.46 Km per 100 Sq.Km by end of 12th Plan.

Due to paucity of fund under untied fund, the State Government is not able to avail the CSS/Central Schemes fully resulting in loss of Central funds. Against projected fund flow of Rs. 1498.80 crore for 2011-12 from the existing CSS/Central Schemes, Rs. 161.00 crore is required as SMS against which the state Government can provide about 60% of SMS. More funds may be allotted to cover matching share of the State.

Frequent cancellation of flight to Aizawl is attributed to poor aviation infrastructure. Because of locational disadvantage compounded by frequent road block by landslide during monsoon season and problem of air connectivity due to frequent cancellation of flight, the State is facing problem of bringing qualified faculty for Mizoram University and other institutes. Planning Commission may facilitate setting up of an Automatic Weather Monitoring & Transmitting Station and an Integrated Satellite Communication System under the Civil Aviation Ministry at Aizawl Airport to tackle air hazards and frequent cancellation of flights. Air Cargo flight should also be introduced at the earliest.

Mizoram is possibly the first State in the North East to take up comprehensive land reform to introduce land ownership system in an area where customary land holding system prevails. Planning Commission may support the initiative of Mizoram being the first State to take up pilot project in tribal area where customary land holding system continues.

In the past, fund for maintenance of buildings used to be allotted under Finance Commission Award. But the 13th Finance Commission did not allocate any fund. In view of the State’s poor resource position, Planning Commission may separately allot fund for maintenance of buildings already constructed following the norms prescribed by Finance Commission.

Thank you Mr. Dy. Chairman for giving me this opportunity to make some observations for whatever these are worth. I am hopeful that the deliberations in this two day meeting would help the Commission in deciding an appropriate approach for the 12th Plan so far as it relates to the North East. The region needs greater and continued assistance from the Centre and I am sure you would show the way.