NEW DELHI: BJP chief Amit Shah today heaped lavish praise at RSS for its effort to integrate North East with rest of India as he felicitated noted Gandhian Natwar Thakkar for his life-long contribution in connecting the NE people with the mainstream.
Giving away the "Karmyogi Award 2015" by My Home India, a Mumbai based NGO, working for the cause of national integration, Shah said that Mahatma Gandhi had inspired many youths to work for the country and exuded confidence that the youths will take inspiration from Natwar Bhai's life sketch.
Thakkar’s work in Nagaland includes vocational training for school dropouts and physically handicapped, opening primary schools in villages, medical centres, libraries and computer centre in the village and making the residents self-employed by engaging in agriculture and jaggery-making and by setting up oil mills, biogas plants, mechanised carpentry shops and khadi sales counters.
Octogenarian Thakkar, a dedicated Gandhian, who settled in Chuchuyimlang village in Mokokchung district of Nagaland and worked tirelessly for decades for the NE people recalled his association with India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and leaders of all other streams on this occasion.
Shah said that while many people sacrificed their lives to attain freedom, people like Thakkar dedicated their life for the nation.
Lauding the contribution of individuals and institutions to keep North East connected with the mainstream, Shah said that he wants to say it with pride that RSS had a great contribution in it.
"More than 272 full time RSS pracharaks, who worked in the region and 10 of them also lost their life, four of whom were killed in Tripura after being kept hostage for long. There are many institutions, which got inspiration from the RSS and worked for there.
"I honour all those individuals from the core of my heart on a day Natwar Bhaai is being honoured," he said.
The BJP chief also claimed that whenever his party came to power, it focused on North East and took a dig at the UPA dispensation without naming it for making the DONER ministry "dormant".
"Whenever a BJP government came to power, we brought the NE region in forefront. When Vajpayee ji was Prime Minister, he set up the DONER ministry. Then it became dormant after our government went out. Again when Modi government came to power, the DONER ministry is back to life," he said.
He rued that despite having the nature's bounty, the region could not develop into a tourist hub, which would have been the case in any other country.
Shah, however, stopped short of attacking the previous governments for this saying he does not want to do politics at the award ceremony, which is to honour the contribution of Thakkar.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also sent a message felicitating the Gandhian and noting that Thakkar has set an example, which will inspire many individuals to work in this direction.
Modi said that he was happy to know that the award has been conferred on Thakkar.
Recalling the relations between the NE region and the rest of India, Shah cited the example of the marriage between Arjuna, the hero of the epic 'Mahabharata' with princess Chitrangada in North East.
Shah said that after becoming the President of the BJP, he extensively visited the North East region and tried to understand it thoroughly.
He said that there was indeed a feeling for some time among the people of North East that their connect with the rest of India is only geo-political and cultural.
"But this misconception has been erased in a very little time and the connect is now more and more visible," he said crediting the Modi government for initiating a number of proposals to develop the NE region by providing making maximum budgetary allocation to promote agriculture and tourism in the region and make it part of the mainstream India.
"We are planning to open a film institute there, promote tourism. We want to take development there along with creating a sense of nationalism among the North East people to make India's security impregnable. Modi government has begun all efforts in this direction," he said.
Union Minister for DONER Jitendra Singh also listed the steps taken by the government to increase the connect with North East.
"We are going to tender for 18 FM channels. We are going to start 18 FM channels in different languages. We will also set up a film institute there," he said.
Singh said that Union Ministers have been asked by the Modi government to regularly visit the North East states as part of its efforts to take the government to the door step of North East people.
The 84-year-old social activist is a recipient of many awards including the prestigious Padma Shree.
The event was also attended by Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju
"We have been honouring people who have worked for welfare of people in the North Eastern region. During his over 40 years stay in Nagaland, Thakkar was attacked, received threats from insurgents to leave the state.
"...but he continued to walk Gandhiji's path of self-reliance, self-dependence. He ran skill development programs there and brought about a change in health, education and other areas. Hence, we will honour him," said Sunil Deodhar, founder of the NGO -- 'My Home India'.
Thakkar, who was awarded Padma Shree during previous NDA government tenure, runs Nagaland Gandhi Ashram in the state.