Demonetisation, which has caused acute distress across the country, doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. Chief Minister Pema Khandu has described it as “good” for the nation, adding that connectivity needs to improve in the state before the move started to pinch.
“Our population is very less. We have hardly 1.4 million people. Initially, we panicked for our people, but later on they realised that demonetisation is overall good for the country,” Khandu
“As far as banks are concerned, we have fewer banks in Arunachal Pradesh. A few districts have hardly three or four banks. Since our population is hugely scattered in remote places, we need to come up with a mechanism so that in the coming days people don’t face any problem,” he added.
Khandu, who has been the Chief Minister since July, spoke on the sidelines of the just-concluded Orange Festival of Adventure & Music, which saw a performance by Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen and off-roaders fighting it out in the JK Tyre Orange 4×4 Fury championship.
It’s been quite an eventful year for Khandu, at 37 India’s youngest Chief Minister and the ninth since the state came into being in 1987. He had assumed office after the Supreme Court restored the Congress government to nullify the efforts of then Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa to install a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state. In September, Khandu and 42 of the 44 Congress legislators joined the Peoples Party of Arunachal, a BJP ally.
Khandu insisted his government was stable.
“Now there is no issue of stability. We have a very stable government,” said Khandu, the son of former Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, who died in a helicopter crash in 2011.
Talking about the fest, supported by the Arunachal Pradesh Tourism Department, Khandu said: “The basic idea is of a local native (Abu Tayeng). Our government has been supporting him, but our vision is that… slowly everything should be privatised. It (the festival) should become a sustainable activity for the local population so that more and more tourists come here and the economy also develops.”
For that to happen, the infrastructure needs to be given importance.
“In the year ahead, we are looking into the development of infrastructure of Arunachal Pradesh. As you can see, we need more roads and railways. Private people are investing in hotels and homestays,” said Khandu.
True to his words, a bridge in the Lower Dibang Valley district is in the works.
“I had a review meeting with the bridge construction company… Including the road, the stretch is around 18 km. They (the company) will finish the entire project by December 2017. Once this bridge and road are completed, it will give a huge boost to eastern Arunachal Pradesh.
“I’m also pushing for railway links to the foothills of the eastern side of Arunachal Pradesh starting from Pasighat. The project is government sponsored. Most of the pillars have been erected. The erection of pillars should be completed by March 2017.”
Pasighat is currently linked to New Delhi by a weekly air-conditioned express that completes the journey in some 38 hours.