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FM Sitharaman in Sikkim to oversee scheme for northeastern border villages

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked all his ministers to keep a close watch on the execution of various government schemes and programmes which include the Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP).

The VVP aimed particularly at providing better connectivity and infrastructure to the northeast was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget speech last year.

Sitharaman who is currently touring Sikkin said today that while the programme covers 19 districts and 46 border blocks, she will oversee Lachen in Sikkim.

“I have chosen to go to Lachen, and I will definitely spend time to see the border villages there get all amenities,” she said while addressing a credit outreach programme in Gangtok.

Sitharaman also said that ministers have been asked to visit the villages located near the border to stop migration and also ensure that they do not remain isolated.

Sikkim borders China and hosts Nathu La pass which became a battleground in the 1962 war. After tensions eased following the peace and tranquility accords in the mid-nineties, limited border trade began between Sikkim and Tibet.

Sitharaman, who also held a post budget interaction with various stakeholders said that Sikkim, the first organic state in the country must have a roadmap to further expand organic farming.

“The state should have a clear progress chart on various stages of growth in organic farming and look for opportunities in exports as well because of better price realisation,” she said, adding that millets must be included in the plan as well.

The northeastern states in India are relatively smaller in size and have received little attention since independence but they are strategically located bordering several countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and even China. “With ASEAN engagement becoming a central pillar of India’s foreign policy direction, these states play an important role as the physical bridge between India and Southeast Asia,” Australian Institute of International Affairs noted. Tripura and coastal Bangladesh have a natural connectivity, while Manipur is the gateway to Myanmar and further to Thailand. India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand have been roped for the Asian Highway project, adding wings to New Delhi Act East policy.

“The northeast for years did not receive the kind of attention it deserves. However, the situation is changing now with the Act East policy,” Ashish Nath Professor, Department of Economics, Tripura University earlier said.

“The geographical location of the northeast is very critical as the states in this region share international borders and with the BJP’s Act East policy the region is developing rapidly,” Nath observed.

Also read: Northeast states get more flights, tourism expected to shoot up