A vision for prosperity'

Published : Feb 25, 2011 00:00 IST

Dorjee Khandu: "Health care will get top priority." -

Dorjee Khandu: "Health care will get top priority." -

Interview with Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu.

DORJEE KHANDU of the Congress party replaced Gegong Apang as Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh in April 2007. He was sworn in for a second consecutive term after the Congress got a majority in the 2009 Assembly elections. Before becoming Chief Minister, he served as Cabinet Minister handling various portfolios Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Services, Dairy Development, Mines, Relief & Rehabilitation, Power, and Disaster Management. In an e-mail interview to Frontline, Khandu spoke of the power potential of Arunachal Pradesh, and the extent of connectivity in the State and the important development projects that are being planned. Excerpts:

Arunachal Pradesh, with its enormous potential for hydel power, is often referred to as the future powerhouse of India. What are your government's plans for the power sector?

Arunachal Pradesh is a land of mountains, forests and rivers inhabited mostly by tribal people. The mountainous topography coupled with an abundance of gushing rivers presents an ideal condition for setting up hydel power projects. The hydel power potential of our State is estimated to be about 57,000 MW, which is undoubtedly the highest for any State in the country. Unfortunately, less than 1 per cent of the potential has been harnessed so far. In the last 35 years, that is, from 1971 to 2006, we could hardly add 1 MW a year to our total installed capacity. My government had aimed at adding 80.45 MW in 2007-2011. We have been fairly successful in our endeavour by adding 35.92 MW of additional capacity in the last three years. Besides, we are planning mini hydel projects of 50 KW to 2 MW capacities worth Rs.85 crore in the border areas to illuminate the far-flung, inaccessible villages under the Border Villages Illumination Programme.We have undertaken policy initiatives for the holistic development of the State's resources. In a span of a few months, my government formulated important policies for sustainable development such as the Hydro Power Policy, 2008, the Relief and Resettlement Policy, 2008, and the Industrial Policy, 2009. In fact, we are one of the few States to have a Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, which mainly aims at providing the benefit of development to the people. These benefits are much wider, liberal and pro-people than those laid down in the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007. Our power policy has attracted investors and to date, power projects of 41,618.40 MW have been allotted to various Central public sector undertakings and private power developers. The State has earned revenue of Rs.1,320 crore in the form of upfront premium and processing fees up to September 2010. While the setting up of power projects will provide job opportunities to our people, the revenue generated through free power will make our State self-sufficient. Infrastructure development is the other inalienable aspect of power projects. As most of these projects are located in the interior areas of the State, there will be a fast and unparalleled development in this sector, too. Once these power projects are commissioned, Arunachal Pradesh will become one of the leading States both economically and socially, and my dream of making the State self-reliant will become a reality.

The environmental impact will be negligible compared with the ecological gains on account of reduction of carbon emissions by the development of hydroelectric projects. Our motto shall be to produce renewable and environment-friendly energy to meet the power demands of the nation.

Could you tell us about some of the ongoing development projects?

Arunachal Pradesh is one of the most economically backward States in the country. It started its development works from a very low base owing to various reasons. However, the United Progressive Alliance government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Madame Sonia Gandhiji, has started giving special personal attention to the developmental needs of Arunachal Pradesh. The announcement of a Rs.20,000-crore package for various important developmental programmes by the Prime Minister during his visit to the State in 2008 will be remembered by the people as a development watershed in our history.

The major component of the package is for road connectivity. Construction of a state-of-the-art Secretariat building, a State Legislative Assembly building and apartments for MLAs in Itanagar has already begun and will be completed within two years.

While we started from a very low base, we have made rapid progress to promote electrification in all areas of the State, particularly in rural areas. More than 1,300 border villages are covered under the Border Village Illumination Programme and 909 villages are covered under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana. Sixty per cent of the habitations have been provided potable water and the remaining 40 per cent will be covered at the cost of Rs.460 crore by 2011-12.

Education for all is our goal. My State is one of the model States for implementing the Right to Education Act.

We have come out with a new education policy and enacted the Arunachal Pradesh Education Act, 2010. With the implementation of SSA [Sarva Siksha Abhiyan], there is a notable 46.76 per cent increase in enrolment in primary schools and 88.34 per cent in upper primary schools in 2009-10. The National Institute of Technology, which has been set up at Yupia, has been made operational from the current academic session. Work on the establishment of law and medical colleges is under way.

Health care is one of my highest priority areas. My government has successfully set up 464 medical sub-centres, 117 primary health centres and 49 community health centres under the National Rural Health Mission. We will continue to encourage public-private partnership in primary and community health centres. The benefits of the supplementary nutrition programme are being provided through 6,028 Anganwadi centres. The coverage of the old-age pension scheme has increased to more than 45 per cent over the last year.

Agriculture and horticulture continue to be the mainstay of the State's economy. They are accorded high priority. Our agricultural growth rate in 2008-09 was 2.47 per cent, higher than the national average of 1.6 per cent. Cash crops registered a growth rate of 4.14 per cent in 2009-10.

Inadequate connectivity has been considered a major hindrance to the development of many of the States in the northeastern region. What is your government doing to overcome this problem?

You are right. You may note that against the national road density of 73 km per 100 sq km, Arunachal Pradesh has only 22 km per 100 sq km, which is among the lowest in the country. There is no airport or railway connectivity in my State. However, we have initiated massive infrastructure development programmes under the Prime Minister's package, such as a 1,554-km Trans-Arunachal Highway from Tawang to Tirap, a two-lane highway to link all the district headquarters, the four-lane highway to link Itanagar with Guwahati, 32 km of railway line from Harmuti to Itanagar and a greenfield Airport in Itanagar. Rural road connectivity is crucial to sustainable rural development, and under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, we have so far connected 438 habitations to the main arteries. Another 513 small villages in remote border blocks are being taken up for road connectivity under the Prime Minister's package. The Ministry of Defence has already started taking over advanced landing grounds at eight locations from the State government for upgradation. Helicopter services have been provided to district headquarters.

Please share with us your vision for the future of Arunachal Pradesh.

I want Arunachal to be self-sufficient in food production and a brisk exporter of horticulture produces such as tea and medicinal plant products. People of my State should be gainfully employed, and the State should march ahead prosperously. I am optimistic about achieving these goals within a short time frame. Many investors have started coming to Arunachal to set up hydroelectric power projects and industries. I feel that by 2020-23, when the hydroelectric potential of the State is fully harnessed, the State will witness a quantum leap in all fields as the annual inflow of revenue from power sale will be huge and handsome. At the same time, we must ensure that prosperity is shared by all equitably. Above all, Arunachal should maintain its identity of being the Island of Peace, and contribute to nation-building as a progressive State. I look forward to Arunachal Pradesh becoming a front-ranking State.

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