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ATAL BIHARI VAJPAYEE: (1924-2018)

Kingson Chingakham

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On August 16, the nation lost one of her most celebrated political figures- Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is also considered as one of the most successful Prime Ministers in the Indian history.His achievements in foreign policy,national security and educational development are well know but he was among the first PMs who saw immense potential in the development of the northeastern states. Through this article,NET wants to pay tribute to our former PM for his deep interest in the development of the nation and to the northeastern states.

Vajpayee was the first head of government from outside the congress party to serve full five year term(1999-2004).He was also elected to the lower house of the Parliament for 10 terms.In 1996,he became PM for 13 days.He again came back to power in 1998 but lasted for about 13 months only.

He will be remembered as an excellent orator,a politician who addressed through his poetry and as a leader who did not use personal vendetta to fight political opponents.He was one of the youngest freedom fighters who was also breifly jailed during his teen.Less people know that before aligning himself to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) and Jan Sangh,Vajpayee had a short stint as a communist.After the demise of two strong leaders Syama Prasad Mukherjee and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya,the responsibility to carry forward the party came into his hands.

Also called as the Bheeshma Pitamah of Indian politics,Vajpayee gathered remarkable achievements.He showed his strength and the prowess of India during the United Nations’ sanctions and sent a very strong message to the world.He was also the one who started a bus service to Lahore and led a delegation of the UN.His foreign policy has been praised by many leaders,even the oppositions.He established good relationships with the SAARC countries,south-east asian and east-asian countries.Former US President Bill Clinton’s visit also strengthened the ties between the two countries after straining the relationship due to the Pokhran Test.

Another achievement of Vajpayee was mapping India on the Nuclear map.The Pokhran-II has been considered as one of the landmark achievements to improve the security of the country and deter any kind of attack from the hostile neighbours.It also exposed the failure of the American Intelligence in the international fora.Though a nuclear power, ‘No-first use’ policy was agreed upon.

He did not compromise on the national security.The Kargil War,which happened aftermath the Pokhran Test,brought serious tensions across the sub-continent as both the countries were nuclear powers.But Vajpayee boosted the morals of our Army which ultimately defeated the Pakistanis.In the wake of terror attack in the Parliament,Prevention Of Terrorism Act(POTA) was introdued in 2002 in order to provide strict punishments to the terrorists.

When he became PM for the third time,the global economy was not in a good shape.There was already a crisis in the east asian countries.But he along with his Finance Minister and abled advisors maintained the economy to the GDP of 8 per cent and also controlled inflation below 4 per cent.The foreign reserves did not deteriorate.His economic polciy was such that it led to further privatisation and encouraged disinvestment.In fact,a separate disinvestment ministry was set during his third term.The growth of private businesses also compounded with the growth of telecom industries in the country.BSNL became the forefront to revolutionize telecom experience in the country.

He was one of the rare PMs who took interest in science and research.He encouraged ISRO to develop advanced level of space research.Chandrayan 1 project was a result of his strong political will to establish the country as a budding center for space research.He also allowed the cultivation of genetically modified Bt Cotton despite oppositions.

Relationship with the northeastern states

When Atal Bihari Vajpayee became PM for the third time,he started deliberating with various stakeholders on how the neglected northeatern states could be brought under the radar of development.In 2001, under his leadership,the Department of Northeastern Region (DoNER) was set up which was expected to function as the nodal Department of the Central Government to deal with matters related to the socio-economic development of the eight States of northeast-Arunachal Pradesh,Asssam,Manipur,Meghalaya,Mizoram,Nagaland,Tripura and Sikkim.The department was conferred full-fledged Ministry in May 2004.

Another significant contribution from the Vajpayee’s tenure was that he made it mandatory for all the union ministries to spend 10 per cent of their budget allocations for the development of North-Eastern region.However,if the ministries were unable to spend the mandatory 10 per cent in the development of the northeastern states,the unspent funds were diverted to a Non-Lapsable central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) which is continued till now.Therfore,NLCPR was the brainchild of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The Vajpayee government should also be credited for ending revolts in western Assam by signing an accord with the Bodo Liberation Tigers(BLC) in February, 2013.The deal between the government and BLC gave politico-adminsitrative structure called the Bodoland Territorial Council to about 2 millions Bodo tribe.

Vajpayee government also opened doors to Naga outfits for peace talks.The framework agreement signed between the NSCM(IM) and the center in 2015 transpired due to round of talks beginning from 2002 between the two parties.Both these two initiatives highlighted the importance accorded to the northeastern region for the cause of peace,development and integration.

Vajpayee also gave emphasis to the building of highways and increase the connectivity through roadways which was considered as an igredient for developing the underdeveloped regions.The National Highways Development Project  was launched by Vajpayee on January 2,1999.The objective of this project was to connect Srinagar to Kanyakumari (with Kochi to Salemspur) and Silchar to Porbandar with a length of about 7300 Kms as North-South and East-West corridors.This further built the foundation to enable Trans-Asian Highway running from Saurastra to Singapore via Silchar-Imphal-Moreh,Tamu to Thailand,Thailand to Kuala Lumpur-Malaysia-Singapore(which some has materialized now).

Educating the children

Children loved him and he loved children.He saw the importance of a quality elementary education and considered it as the fundamental right for all the children.Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan was pioneered by Vajpayee to provide free and compulsory education to children between the ages of 6 to 14.It was his dream to universalize elementary education in the country.Let the country progress and keep his dreams alive through his slogan ‘School Chale Hum’.

Personal Blog. For details please mail me at observersindia@gmail.com

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