New Delhi/Shillong: The government aims to make the Northeast a gateway to Southeast Asia and was making huge investments for the overall development of the region, but lack of cleanliness could hamper this dream, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday.
"If such a beautiful gateway is unclean, diseased, illiterate or disbalanced, then it will fail to cross the gateway of the country's development. There is no reason why, with all our resources, we should remain backward or poor," the prime minister said.
Addressing the centenary celebrations of the prominent voluntary organisation, Bharat Sevashram Sangha, in Shillong through video conferencing, he lamented that "only Gangtok had found a place among the first 50 clean cities", out of the 12 cities from the Northeast surveyed as part of the recent nationwide cleanliness survey.
While four Northeastern cities found a place between 100 and 200 clean cities, seven were positioned between 200 and 300, with Shillong being the 276th, he said while stressing that 'Swachhata' or cleanliness was a major challenge for everyone in the region.
"We have to make the Northeast a gateway for Southeast Asia," Modi said, adding if this gateway is dirty, then the dream would not be fulfilled and asked the people and organisations like the Sangha to join hands with the state governments and their agencies in the cleanliness campaign.
Observing that there has been no balanced development in the entire Northeast so many years after Independence, Modi said his government, "with all its resources", had planned to bring about balanced development of the states here. He said the major thrust was to improve connectivity and develop the entire region for tourism purposes.
"All these initiatives will help to make the Northeast the gateway of Southeast Asia," he said. While an investment of Rs400 billion is being made to improve the road infrastructure in the entire Northeast, 19 big railway projects have also been started in the region, he said.
"We are also improving the electricity situation in the Northeast and trying to bring even more tourists to the region," Modi said. Announcing that the Northeast would soon be connected with UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagarik) scheme, he said small airports were also being developed in the region, while the extension of the runway at Shillong airport has been approved.
The Bharat Sevashram Sangha is a network of volunteers across the globe engaged in helping people in distress. The Sangha's social welfare activities include disaster relief, spreading education, providing healthcare facilities, vocational training and upliftment of the tribals.
Lauding the role of the Sangha in playing a critical role during natural calamities, the prime minister said a myth was sought to be created that spirituality and service cannot go together. "The Bharat Sevashram Sangha has been able to dispel this myth, through its work," he said, saying that societal development through 'Bhakti', 'Shakti' and 'Jan Shakti' was achieved by Swami Pranavananda, the Sangha's founder.
He said Sangha, with more than 100 branches and over 500 units, had rendered services during various calamities, starting from the Bengal famine in 1923 and Noakhali riots in 1946 to Bhogal gas leakage in 1980, the Tsunami in 2004 and 2013 Uttarakhand tragedy.