Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the country's longest rail-cum-road bridge over the Brahmaputra river in Assam's Bogibeel on Tuesday and said his government has changed the "dilly-dallying" work culture of the pervious dispensation to speed up stalled infrastructure projects.
Addressing a rally in Kareng Chapori, he said completion of projects within a given time frame is no longer confined to paper, but has become a reality, and because of this the infrastructure segment has got a new lease of life.
Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi, Chief Ministers of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh Sarbananda Sonowal and Pema Khandu respectively, Union Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain and Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma were present at the inauguration of the 4.94 km-long bridge.
Modi said, "If the earlier governments were known for their stalled projects, our government's identity is transportation to transformation and next generation infrastructure. We have found out hundreds of such projects worth Rs 12 lakh crore that were stalled for many years or work was very slow. If the same pace continued, the next century would have also passed."
"Today, on Good Governance Day, which is the birth anniversary of Atal (Bihari Vajpayee) ji, I can say with pride that we have completely changed that 'latkane-bhatkane' (dilly-dallying) work culture," he said in an apparent dig at the Congress-led UPA dispensation.
The Bogibeel Bridge, which was a part of the Assam Accord, is likely to play a crucial role in defence movement along the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh.
The foundation stone of the project was laid by former prime minister H D Deve Gowda on January 22, 1997, while work commenced on April 21, 2002, under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government. The Congress-led UPA government had declared it a national project in 2007.
According to a defence source, the bridge is expected to play a crucial role in movement of defence logistics, including landing of fighter jets, to India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh.
At the rally, Modi said, "Many projects, including a hydro power project at Tuirial in Mizoram and Sikkim airport, have been completed. In Assam too, many such stalled projects are either completed or work is going on in full swing."
"We are emphasising on completion of such projects. Such developments will change the picture of the northeast. If northeast develops, the whole country progresses."
Terming opening of the Bogibeel bridge "historic", he alleged that after the ruling NDA lost the 2004 Lok Sabha election, no attention was paid to completing the bridge on time.
"If Atal ji had got a second term in 2004, Bogibeel bridge would have been ready by 2008-09. But unfortunately, after 2004, like many other projects in the country, this project also languished," Modi said while calling the bridge a birthday gift for the former prime minister.
He said, "Corruption causes most damage to the poor and exploited segments. It (graft) is the biggest burden on the middle class. It breaks the spine of the country's development... That is why for the last four-and-half years, our government is fighting against corruption and blackmoney with full force."
Modi claimed that his government has seized Rs 5,000 crore worth of houses and cars of the corrupt, cancelled registration of over 3.25 doubtful companies, recovered Rs 3 lakh crore of banks loans that were given out by earlier governments and strict steps are being taken to end corruption in medical services.
"Four years ago, nobody could think that the biggest accused in the helicopter scam would land in Indian jail. Our government brought him to India and put in jail with courage. This is the style of working by our government, our work culture," he said in an apparent reference to Christian Michel, the alleged middleman arrested in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case.
Modi said all stalled infrastructure projects, including this bridge, were expedited and are being completed since 2014.
"In 70 years, only three bridges (over the Brahmaputra) were built by the previous government. But in four-and-half years of our government, work on three more bridges have begun to improve connectivity. This is good governance," Modi said.
Terming Bogibeel Bridge the "lifeline of crores of people in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, he said, it will cut the distance between the two states to below 200 km from 700 km now, while reducing travel time to five to six hours from 24 hours earlier".
The prime minister said the country's only fully steel-made bridge will strengthen India's defence prowess.
He also flagged off the Tinsukia-Naharlagun Intercity Express saying it will help people get shorter connectivity to Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai.
The 14-coach train will run five days a week and use the 4.9-km bridge to cut down the train-travel time between Tinsukia in Assam to Naharlagun town of Arunachal Pradesh by more than 10 hours.
Modi said around 5,500 km of national highways were being constructed in the northeast for Rs 70,000 crore, while work on around 2,500 km have been completed.
He said that every state capital in the northeast will be connected by broad-gauge lines.
"We are investing Rs 46,000 crore to lay 15 new lines. Earlier, only 100 km of rail lines were constructed annually. But now it has reached to 350 km per year in the last four-and-half years... Also, 19 waterways are being developed on the Brahmaputra and Barak rivers," Modi said.
Photographs: Press Information Bureau