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Special financial aid for Northeast India

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has assured the cash-strapped northeast states that his ministry and the Planning Commission would soon work out strategy to provide special financial aid. The Tripura Finance Minister Badal Choudhury said on June 7 that Mukherjee has reassured that the central government intended to involve the north-east region in a big way in India's much talked about Look East Policy.

"Pranab Mukherjee has assured the north-eastern states that officials of his ministry and the Planning Commission would soon sit together to work out a policy to grant special financial package to these states," Choudhury told reporters.

Mukherjee's assurance for more central aid came during a meeting of chief ministers from the eight north-eastern states in New Delhi on June 5. The meeting was also attended by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Choudhury, who represented Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar at the meeting, quoted Mukherjee as saying that the 'central government would absorb north-eastern states to achieve the second green revolution in eastern India during the 12th Five Year Plan period'.

"The Union Finance Minister has also assured in the meeting that the fiscal crisis of the north-eastern states would get special attention in the terms and conditions of the proposed 14th Finance Commission (2015-16 to 2019-20) to be constituted in 2012," he added.

The Union Finance Minister and other central leaders admitted that uneven development of the north-eastern region was the root cause of backwardness in the region and other problems.

Mukherjee and Ahluwalia assured the states that loopholes of the North-east Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP) 2007 would be plugged 'to attract more investment, boost industrialisation and develop infrastructure of the region', Choudhury said.

"It is high time that positive bias is shown towards the region by the central government to bring externally aided projects to these states for generating employment," he added.

Stating that the grave problem of terrorism in the northeastern states had been 'tamed', he said: "Almost all states of the region had been a victim of long spells of insurgency. While the north-eastern states are taking steps to combat militancy, underlying causes like high level of unemployment amongst youth cannot be overlooked."

"Incentives should be unique to the north-east. In addition, a proactive policy should be put in place for the recruitment of unemployed youths from the north-east in central government services, autonomous bodies, public sector undertakings and central paramilitary forces."