On this occasion of the seventy-first Republic Day, I extend my warm greetings, felicitations and best wishes to all who have gathered here today, and to the people of Mizoram. The twenty-sixth of January, 1950, was a momentous day in the long and chequered history of India. For, on that day, the Constitution of India came into force. This is a day for all of us to celebrate and honour our nation and our sovereignty. This is a day to remember with gratitude the enormous efforts and sacrifices of millions of freedom fighters whose blood and sweat gave us Independence and created our Republic. Above all, this is a day to cherish our republican values.
The men and women who took us to freedom saw the Constitution not just as providing basic tenets for building a new nation, but as a scripture for social transformation. The framers of our Constitution were men and women with great foresight. The lessons from that formative period, the period that gave shape to our Republic, serve us well to this day. They serve us well in whatever we do, wherever we work, whichever goal we aim for. These lessons continue to spur our development process.
I would like to express my happiness at the quadripartite agreement recently signed between the Centre, State governments of Mizoram and Tripura, and the Bru – Reang representatives to peacefully conclude the 22-year long Bru-Reang imbroglio. I would also like to thank the efforts rendered by the NGOs, churches, general public and my government in this respect.
As you are aware, my Government has completed one year in office. During this period, the Government has taken up a slew of initiatives on various fronts and laid a strong foundation on which it can help build a strong and self-reliant Mizoram.
Our state has been witnessing remarkable economic growth in recent years. Last year our economic growth rate was 14.82% which is one of the best among the states in the country and it is likely to be similar this year as well. In fact, during the period 2012-18, Mizoram had highest average growth rate of 12.75% in the country and we have never witnessed such consistent high growth rates in the past. I am confident that if we maintain this momentum of growth for the next ten years, then it will be possible for us to eradicate poverty, ensure all round development, be self-sufficient and bring equity in all aspects of societal life. This is not a dream but something that is possible and can be achieved in our times. It is the result of our combined hard work that Mizoram today has made its mark in the country and we should feel proud about it.
Our growth is critically dependent on various sectors which are already incorporated under our flagship programme ‘Socio-Economic Development Policy (SEDP)’. SEDP aims at accelerating progress in these key sectors and transforming Mizoram into a welfare state. For successful implementation of SEDP, fourteen Boards comprising of Ministers, MLAs, experts and officials have been created, and 25 Departments mandated to implement SEDP are distributed under these Boards for supervision and monitoring of the implementation of SEDP projects. Two bamboo species namely Dendrocalamus latiflorus and Dendrocalamus brandisii will be taken up as Area Expansion Scheme in cluster mode under National Bamboo Mission.
Our emphasis has always been and will continue to be on agriculture and allied sectors, where majority of the population is engaged today. Farmers are the backbone of our economy and our state. However, the growth in agriculture has not been at the required pace and I assure you that my government will do its best to put agriculture and allied sectors on a new growth trajectory. My government has taken a number of steps to alleviate the problems faced by our farmers. One such initiative has been setting up of State-level and District-level Co-ordination Committees for Doubling Farmers Income by 2020 under the Chairmanship of Chief Secretary and Deputy Commissioner of each District respectively. These Committees are working earnestly in developing strategies to double the farmers’ income by 2020. We understand the importance of providing physical market infrastructure and protecting the general interest of the native farmers. My government in collaboration with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has implemented a project called ‘Capacity Enhancement for Sustainable Agriculture and Irrigation Development in Mizoram’. To boost agriculture product output in the rural areas, several infrastructures like warehouses, processing plants, cold storages, wholesale markets, etc., have been constructed and we have given priority to promote animal husbandry especially in the rural areas to create sustainable livelihoods.
There is huge potential for horticulture growth in our state, both from employment and income generation perspectives. However, I feel that there is a need for drastic changes in the cultivation of horticulture crops based on the changing climatic conditions. We have recently taken up cultivation of Dragon fruit as well as Mandarin Orange on a large scale with an objective to export these fruits outside the state and we have registered remarkable achievement so far. Cultivation of vegetables is also taken up in cluster mode, which has resulted in increased production of off-season vegetables, especially tomato and cabbage. This provides better remunerative price and higher income for the farmers.
My government understands the importance of fruit and vegetable preservation infrastructures such as pack houses, ripening chambers and cold storages. Hence one unit of Integrated Pack House of 80 MT capacity at Sairang and 5 satellite units of Integrated Pack House of 30 MT capacities are being constructed at Serchhip, Kolasib, Lunglei, Mamit and Aizawl. Two Ripening Chambers of 50 MT capacity each are also being established at Serchhip and Aizawl, while another such ripening chamber was recently commissioned at Baktawng village. These Ripening Chambers will not only help farmers in hastening the ripening process but will also deter the use of calcium carbide which is considered harmful for human consumption.
It is impossible for our rural areas to develop in the absence of basic infrastructural facilities. In order to improve basic infrastructure in rural areas, we have implemented various schemes and programmes such as Border Area Development Programme, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchaye Yojana, Mizoram State Rural Livelihood Mission, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Rurban Mission, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and others with the aim to improve the socio-economic conditions of the people, to bridge rural-urban gaps, to improve rural connectivity, health and all-round development. I am also happy to learn that convergence of rural development schemes has been successfully carried out by my government.
My Government understands that the overall development of the State cannot be achieved without inclusion of our Autonomous District Council Areas. The government has taken a number of new developmental initiatives to these areas through each of these District Councils. 49 school buildings are being constructed to strengthen educational infrastructure in Lai Autonomous District Council areas. To provide additional piped water connections to houses and to improve the quality of drinking water supply in the Chakma Autonomous District Council, the Kamalanagar Water Supply Scheme has been formulated and submitted to NEC for approval. A Detailed Project Report for electrification of all households in CADC area has also been submitted to the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy. New roads are being constructed in these areas and upgradation of solid waste management systems is also being undertaken.
I am delighted at the successful conduct of the first Sinlung Hills Council election last year. I am confident that the mandate of the people will provide stability and ensure long lasting peace in the region. My government is committed towards honoring the peace accord signed with the erstwhile Hmar People’s Convention (Democratic) on the 2nd of April last year. My Government will take massive efforts to usher in a new era of growth and development in the area.
Today, almost half of the population in our state are living in urban areas. While our urban habitations are expanding, urban infrastructures and urban needs have to be met and must be commensurate with urban growth. It is imperative to deal with urban growth in a systemic and sustainable manner incorporating environmentally friendly measures and technology. My government is making concerted efforts to expand coverage of various urban development schemes to all the 23 notified towns for creation of various urban infrastructures. Various Urban Infrastructure Development projects such as Multi-level car parking, Sports stadium at district headquarters, Auditoriums, laying of Artificial Turfs etc have been implemented through various State sector projects under the State flagship schemes like State Priority projects and State fund of Minor Works etc.
Aizawl City was selected as one of the Smart Cities under the nationwide Smart Cities Mission. The Smart City Project is being implemented by following the area based strategy (retrofitting) and pan City strategy. A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) has already been established for implementation of Aizawl Smart City. Under Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), we have covered all 23 notified urban towns by focusing on cleanliness, hygiene and sanitation. Our efforts in urban sanitation is expected to enable our State to emerge as the “Cleanest State in India”. We are also making all efforts to reduce poverty and vulnerability of the urban poor household by enabling them to access gainful self-employment and skilled wage employment opportunities.
We have a large proportion of young people in our population. We need to keep on investing in their education and health so that their future prospects are bright. My government clearly knows that they are our biggest asset for the future. It is necessary for our children and our young population to be literate and educated so that they can develop into enlightened citizens who will contribute massively for the progress of the country. We are currently implementing Total Literacy Drive by targeting areas with low literacy rates in Lunglei, Mamit, Lawngtlai and Aizawl districts. Keeping in mind the Census of India 2021, a Special Eradication of Illiteracy Project (SEIP) is proposed to be implemented under SEDP to achieve the topmost literacy rate in the country among all the states and union territories. Maintenance of school infrastructure and provision of learning equipment has been undertaken and this will hopefully result in making education interesting and meaningful for students. We are also committed to provide quality education to differently-abled children as well.
The role of teachers in providing quality education can never be neglected. My government has successfully conducted the first phase of the National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers Holistic Advancement (NISTHA) to improve learning outcomes at the elementary level in schools by building competencies among all the teachers and school principals at elementary stage. 4097 teachers out of targeted 8951 elementary school teachers have been trained during the first phase. The second phase of training will commence next month. SCERT, Mizoram is also currently conducting the only B.Ed Special Course in Hearing Impairment and Visual Impairment in the north east region. It has also recently introduced a Diploma Course in English Language Teaching (ELT) with the aim of providing quality teacher enrichment programme to the teachers of English at all levels.
Skill development is one of the essential ingredients for our future economic growth and the government alone cannot accomplish this task. It calls for a concerted effort of the government, private players and NGOs to address the issue in a comprehensive manner. There are a number of skill development centres run by the government such as ITIs and Polytechnics. The facilities and courses in these institutions will be upgraded to meet the challenges and needs of today. Apart from the government owned and operated skill centres, there are a few good private sector and NGO-run skill centres in our state. We have a very dynamic and vibrant youth population and it is very important to raise their confidence, improve their productivity and give them direction through proper skill development.
In order to provide opportunity for our youths and sportspersons to develop their skills, we will make all possible efforts to ensure that they are given the right platform and guidance for their progress. I would like to commend the successful organization of Mizoram State Games last year, which I believe will be a huge stepping stone for sports development in our state. We are also giving our best effort to provide sports infrastructure and equipments for our sportspersons.
My government is committed to provide excellent primary health care to improve the health of its citizens especially those of young mothers and children in rural areas. At the same time, HIV/AIDS has become a major problem and we need to tackle this problem on a war-footing. We need to create mass awareness and movement to ensure that this disease is rapidly checked and its growth arrested. I appreciate the efforts of the church, NGOs and Voluntary Organisations in tackling this menace, and I believe, if we join our hands together, we can win this battle. Apart from this, I am delighted to say that we have launched an improved Mizoram State Health Care Scheme which aims to provide health insurance to beneficiaries especially economically backward classes. I request my fellow citizens to make the best use of this scheme.
Electricity is an essential ingredient of economic development. We need to ensure that electricity generation grows at a steady pace and that power shortages are eliminated. My government is taking up several projects to generate more electricity through solar power and Hydro-electric power, and we are also taking up many new projects to upgrade our power sub-stations in order to ensure quality services to the consumers.
We are committed to provide safe and sufficient drinking water to our people. Out of 23 urban habitations in the state, 15 of them are fully covered with water supply and continuous efforts are being made to fully cover the remaining towns. At the same time, over 14 Water Supply Schemes have been taken up to provide water supply in rural areas. We hope to provide 34797 household tap water connections covering 228 habitations during 2019-2020.
It is essential that minorities should have every opportunity of carrying their daily activities with a feeling of security and happiness in our great nation and in our state as well. We must understand that cultural and religious practices have undoubtedly added heavily to form their identity and have proven to be effective tools in helping them pull through difficult times.
The government has taken concerted efforts to improve our industrial sector. We are taking steps to revive Mizoram Handloom & Handicraft Corporation Ltd. (ZOHANDCO). We have also established Industrial Development Board under SEDP, Entrepreneur Facilitation Centre to help prospective entrepreneurs in preparing concept notes, and detailed project reports has also been established. We are also going to construct Integrated Industrial Promotion Centre and Mizoram Handloom Facilitation Hub. I believe these efforts will bear fruit in promoting growth in industrial sectors in the state.
Tourism is a promising area for enhancement of the service industry and for employment generation. The total recorded tourist arrivals during 2019 was 1,42,353 in 2019, which is 63% higher than the previous year. We have a huge potential for development of tourism industry, especially eco-tourism and rural tourism. Heritage sites and cultural landmarks must be preserved in their natural and original conditions so that their beauty can be appreciated by tourists. My government has taken several steps to improve tourism industry and Mizoram Tourist Police have been recently activated to ensure security to tourists. To promote eco-tourism and a greener environment, assets like orchid centre, nature trails and cycling tracks have also been introduced.
Culture and Arts are important to preserve our heritage. They provide a channel not only for artistic expression but can also serve as a useful employment for some youth, who could have otherwise been easy victims of a possible life of crime. For promotion and preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Mizoram and to resuscitate the value of Mizo culture in the minds of young generation, art festivals and creative workshops have been regularly organised throughout the year.
Today, environmental degradation and damages are serious issues that governments across the world are tackling on a massive scale. We are not immune to this problem, and in fact, as a hilly state which still practise jhum cultivation on a wide scale, we are vulnerable to climate change and its issues. We need to pay special attention to safeguarding our environment. We must remember that we are the only custodians of our environment and it is our responsibility to preserve and pass it safely onto our future generations.
My government has been taking pro-active steps to realize the vision of the Digital India programme in the state. We are going to introduce the Mizoram Telecom Infrastructure Policy to encourage telecom service providers to erect the backbone of telecom infrastructure which we need in a digital age, and also to ensure enhanced user experience and better services for consumers.
We are also taking steps to utilize modern technology to provide user-friendly services and transparency to the people, such as the recently launched online electricity bill payment system, upgradation of the existing Ration Card Management System Software in order to increase Aadhar seeding of ration cards, which will help eliminate bogus ration cards, traffic e-challan system to ease the process of collection and deposition of traffic violation fines, online ILP portal, ILP Mizoram mobile applications for NGOs and ILP Enforcer mobile applications for state police. We have also requested the North Eastern Council (NEC) to set up Computer Emergency Response Team Laboratory in Aizawl to counter cyber crime. I appreciate the recently launched mobile application by the Mizoram Police - the ‘Mizoram Safety App’. This app will enable any person to easily and quickly contact the police in times of need which would go a long way in preventing crimes and other illegal activities.
I applaud the selfless dedication and tireless efforts of our police forces to maintain law and order, and to ensure peace in the state. Our tactful and quick-thinking police forces have always professionally handled possible outbreak of law and order situations, which has given a high sense of security to the citizens and is highly appreciated. It is also noteworthy that Mizoram police has constituted Social Media Cell and appointed Public Relations Officers to help simplify public-police interactions, to enable faster police response and disseminate important public announcement. The recently inaugurated all-women police station for Aizawl district at Aizawl is expected to encourage registration of cases of crimes against women and children, since the victims will feel more comfortable to approach the police station without fear of gender discrimination and prejudice. Efforts are on to open women police stations in other districts as well.
It is our commitment to provide food security to the people and due to the successful implementation of our efficient Public Distribution System, there is no report of starvation and shortage of food supplies anywhere in the state. We have taken all possible steps to ensure sufficient supply of filled LPG cylinders to the consumers in the state. I am happy to say that construction of LPG Bottling Plant at Bairabi is likely to begin soon and this IOCL bottling plant will play a major role in catering to the massive increase in demand of LPG in the state. Due to the tireless efforts of the government, home delivery of LPG has also been successfully implemented in selected areas in Aizawl and Kolasib on a pilot project basis.
In conclusion, I express my deep gratitude to all those in service under the State Government and the Central Government and other organizations, who are working in the State for their dedicated and selfless service. I also commend the public representatives, our village and local council representatives, the church body, NGOs, youths, students, friends from the media and all the people of Mizoram for their respective roles in promoting integrated development in the State.
I congratulate all the exemplary individuals who have been honoured with State Medals today in recognition of the meritorious services put in by them in the discharge of their duties. Our armed contingents, NCC and school contingents and the Band parties today demonstrated a very high standard of drill during the parade: My appreciation to each and every one of them.
Once again, best wishes and greetings to all my brothers and sisters of the State and the country. Let each one of us be conscious of the fact that we are the citizens of a great nation with a remarkable past and a glorious future. This country belongs to all of us – every group and community, every religion and every identity. On this auspicious day, let us resolve to preserve and strengthen the unity and integrity of this great country, and to work concertedly towards making Mizoram a place where all can live with dignity, peace, prosperity and happiness.