Team India needed for progress: Modi
- Observing that eastern States have remained neglected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the second day of his visit to West Bengal on May 10, said these States have to be strengthened if India is to progress.
- “There is now talk of cooperative federalism and cooperative competitive federalism,” Mr Modi said.
- He also emphasised that “without Team India, Hindustan cannot progress.”
- Mr. Modi inaugurated the Rs. 16,408-crore modernised and expanded IISCO Steel Plant of the Steel Authority of India Ltd.
- He said though the Western regions of India had made good economic progress, the eastern States — Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam, the North East — despite being rich in natural resources, were lagging, he said. Stating that these States would have to be strengthened, he said, “Your sweat will not go waste. West Bengal will be strengthened.”
- Speaking at Burnpur after the inauguration of the modernised IISCO steel plant, Mr Modi made a strong case for the dissolution of tensions between the Centre and the States. “I know what it is, as I have been the Chief Minister of a State for long. It is unfortunate that this continues so long after Independence… this is not good for the country,” Mr. Modi said during the inauguration which was also attended by with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
- Making a pitch for Team India, he said: “Prime Minister and Chief Minister together make a team… without Team India, Hindustan cannot make progress… country is above any [political] party. Whether it is Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha, all opinions can be amalgamated for the sake of Team India.”
- Recalling his visit to the State last year amid electioneering, he said in jest that those were combative days and he too had engaged in some rhetoric, but since then his government had taken many policy decisions and even changed policies to, which help the State.Ms. Banerjee, in her short speech also talked about working together for India, saying that while politics will play out in its own way, development too has to take place. “United we gain, divided we fall,” she said.
- She said land had been allotted for the expansion of the Durgapur Steel Plant close by and these two projects would resuscitate the twin industrial cities of Durgapur and Asansol. Another project -- the new airport at Andal -- got a fillip with the Prime Minister returning to Delhi from there.
Lions’ roar grows louder in Gir
- There is more good news for wildlife enthusiasts in India. After a tiger census earlier this year found a jump in the numbers of the big cat, the population of Asiatic lions too has been found to have increased considerably in the Gir wildlife sanctuary — from 411 during the last census in 2010 to 523 in 2015.
- Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel released the much-awaited census data at a function held at Sasan in Gujarat on May 10. Ms. Patel said that all measures would be taken to conserve the forests in Gir and ensure that the habitat of the pride of Gujarat is undisturbed. The Gir forest is the only place in the whole of Asia where the Asiatic lion is now found.
- The lion census, conducted by over 100 enumerators(meaning of enumerator - a person employed in taking a census of the population) over five days, concluded on May 5. The enumerators found 109 adult males 109, 201adult females, and 213 cubs and sub-adults distributed across four districts — Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli, and Bhavanagar.
Pat(meaning - clap) for Maldharis
- C.N. Pandey, Principal Conservator of Forests, Gujarat, said that the members of the Maldhari community living next to the forest area had been of great assistance to the Forest Department in their conservation efforts. He said under a government programme, some 300 Vanya prani saathis (friends of the forest animals) had been recruited to ensure that lions were not attacked if they strayed into any nearby villages. He said in order to avoid the danger of overestimation, new methods were adopted. The enumerators were GPS enabled and only recorded lions when they saw them physically and not through pugmarks or any other signs like hearing a roar.
Breakthrogh in India-Bangladesh ties
- The passage of the Bill ratifying the 1974 India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) is a sign that India’s ‘neighbourhood-first’ policy is beginning to work. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s deftness in reversing course on this issue within his party and winning support from all others enabled him to fulfil the assurance he had extended to his Bangladeshi counterpart last September in New York.
- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina hailed the event as a new milestone in bilateral relations. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), in the name of its Chairperson, Khaleda Zia, described the passage of the Amendment “an important day in our national life.”
- With Bangladesh’s growing prosperity, trade with India has grown. Indian exports more than doubled over the past five years, from $2.7 billion to $6.1 billion in 2013-14. Bangladeshi exports last year were at $462 million. A World Bank estimate places illegal trade at three-fourths of regular trade, mostly constituted by Indian exports of consumables. The barbed wire fence constructed by India is permeable to all manner of goods, including live animals.
- The transaction costs of trade remain extraordinarily high, with forced transshipment of goods at the border and the absence of coastal shipping. Customs and documentation requirements are not up to international standards. India could redress the trade imbalance with greater facilitation, further reducing non-tariff barriers, and promoting Bangladesh’s industrialisation. All these issues are now receiving attention.
- The three prime areas of economic cooperation and investment between India and Bangladesh are energy, infrastructure, and connectivity. The 71-kilometre Baharampur-Bheramara transmission grid now carries 500MW of electricity to Bangladesh. This supply will soon double.
- Partnership in energy has been a two-way process. Bangladesh facilitated the transportation, by the riverine route, of the two 300-tonne gas turbines for the Palatana power project in Tripura, along with 88 other packages of over-dimensional cargo — virtually impossible to carry through the serpentine, single-lane roads of northern Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura. Now, 100MW of power will flow to Bangladesh from Palatana.
- When additional hydropower becomes available from Bhutan and, later, from India’s northeast, Bangladesh will benefit from these, while wheeling electricity through its grid for supply to other Indian states.
- India is promoting Bangladesh’s energy security by encouraging investments in power generation. On the anvil are a 1,320MW coal-fired plant in Rampal, and a 130-kilometre long ‘Friendship Pipeline’ from Siliguri for supply of one million tonnes of diesel annually.
- For countries that share so much in common across densely populated frontiers, more people-to-people initiatives are needed to stoke shared memories, including revival of railway routes (such as between Kolkata and Khulna) and bus connections (between Shillong and Sylhet, effectively connecting Guwahati and Dhaka).
- India could strengthen Bangladesh’s short term liquidity by offering it a currency swap facility similar to the one provided to Sri Lanka. Fresh credit commitments will be needed for road, railways, and waterways connectivity projects. Bangladesh will require help to ensure navigable depth for the Inland Water Protocol routes, and to develop Ashuganj as a transshipment point, with a railway link from Akhaura to Agartala.
- Bangladeshi business and industry will gain from connectivity and infrastructure investments, as also India’s northeast. The linking of Nepal, Bhutan, and India’s northeast to Bangladeshi ports might help make Bangladesh the natural bridge between South and Southeast Asia.
- India and Bangladesh are seminal to each other’s progress and prosperity. By the smooth passage of the 119th Amendment Indian parliamentarians have conveyed to the people of Bangladesh that India wishes them well and is ready to work with them cooperatively as their preferred partner.