Shah rules out change in Article 371 on Assam visit
Guwahati: Dismissing apprehensions after abrogation of Article 370, Union Home Minister Amit Shah here on Sunday assured the people of northeast that there would be no change in the Article 371 as it was a “special” provision.
He said there was a difference between Article 371 and Article 370, which was revoked by the Centre on August 5 leading to loss of special status for Jammu and Kashmir.
“Article 370 was the temporary provision. But Article 371 is a special provision. I want to clarify the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Narendra Modi government is committed to Article 371 — from A to J. There is no question of any alteration to it,” Shah said while addressing the 68th plenary session of the North Eastern Council (NEC).
The Home Minister’s remark came during his first visit to Assam after the release of final National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Recalling the moment when he tabled in Parliament last month the Bill to scrap Article 370, Shah said it was unfortunate that it was turned into “today 370, tomorrow 371”. “I don’t have any problem if opposition expresses its objections to the government decision. But there was an attempt to spread a message that Article 371 will also be scrapped like Article 370,” he said.
Stating that he had clarified it on the floor of Parliament, Shah said, “I want to clarify it (here too).”
Shah said it was necessary to clarify the point because “some people does not want the people of northeast to join the mainstream and become the part of India’s development. They don’t want the peace to prevail in the region.”
Ever since the Centre moved a presidential order on August 5, scrapping Article 370 and divided the state into two Union Territories, Article 371 has invited attention as it allows special provisions for northeast states.
Most states that have been accorded special provisions under Article 371 are in the northeast and the special status aims to preserve their tribal culture. Article 371B deals with special provision with respect to Assam.
Allaying apprehensions, Nagaland Governor R.N Ravi, who was the Centre’s interlocutor for the Naga peace process, last month said the people need not worry about Article 371(A) following developments related to J&K.
Starting his address by paying tribute to Bharat Ratna Late Bhupen Hazarika, Shah referred to the Prime Minister’s remark that northeast could be the new engine for India’s growth.
Dubbing northeast as “mini India”, Shah said the region had great potential as it accounted for around 9 per cent of the country’s area and 3.78 per cent of population.
Noting the diverse culture of northeast, Shah said there were around 270 ethnic groups and around 150 dialects in the region. All development activities and initiative should be directed towards preserving and enriching the rich heritage of the region, he added.
Quoting substantially from the Mahabharata, the Home Minister said the northeast and the rest of India were connected since mythological era.
As the northeast’s growth during the last 5 years has been much more than that achieved in 70 years, Shah said the development process started in 2014 would be accomplished in 2022.
“The eight N-E states are like Astalakhmi and they will play a vital role in the country’s development,” he said and added, the NEC would earmark 30 per cent of funds for the deprived sections.
“Every state will identify backward villages or regions and will work to bring them at par with the rest of the country. The growth story shall never be complete until the entire state progresses.”
On the Bangladesh land boundary agreement, Shah said it would enable re-establishment of link between Kolkata and Dhaka Ports. “With the opening of this trade route, the region can again become the leading contributor to the country’s GDP. The government has set targets to bring all the eight N-E states on rail and air maps by 2022.”
On Centre’s commitment to the development of northeast, Shah said the NEC’s budget had been increased 1.5 times from Rs 3,376 crore to Rs 5,053 crore between 13th and 14th Finance Commission.
On NRC in Assam, Shah expressed satisfaction over the timely completion of the process and said the government would not allow a single illegal immigrant to stay in the country.
Shah appealed N-E states to end boundary disputes and invest more in the Bamboo Mission. If developed to its full potential, it can stop Rs 1 lakh crore imports, he added.