Guwahati: Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually flagged off North East's first Vande Bharat Express from Guwahati to New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal on Monday.
The prime minister symbolically waved a green flag on screen, to launch the train from Guwahati station where Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, Assam Governor Gulab Chand Kataria and Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma were present.
The Vande Bharat Express will boost tourism, education, trade and employment opportunities in the North East, the prime minister said on the occasion.
The semi-high-speed train between Guwahati and New Jalpaiguri will further strengthen connectivity and age-old relation between Assam and West Bengal, he said.
The train will also boost tourism potential for Kamakhya temple, Kaziranga and Manas National Park and Pobitora in Assam along with Shillong and Cherrapunji in Meghalaya and Tawang and Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh, the pm said.
The NDA government has completed nine years in office this week and ''the last nine years have been an extraordinary journey of new development'', he said.
The country has got a new and grand Parliament building on Sunday which will bond the country's rich democratic heritage with its modern democratic values, Modi said.
''There are many such achievements which could not have been imagined before 2014,'' he said.
The BJP government has given maximum priority to the welfare of the poor by providing them homes, toilets, hospitals, and roads among other infrastructure which forms the foundation of speedy development, Modi said.
"It is infrastructural facilities that strengthen the poor, Dalits and backward section of society. Infrastructure is for all without any discrimination, reflecting true social justice and secularism", the prime minister said.
During the last nine years, the North East has witnessed unprecedented infrastructural development, he claimed.
The people of North East have paid a heavy price for earlier negligence, Modi said.
The region suffered due to lack of rail, road and airport facilities, he added.
The expansion of rail connectivity in the region is an example of how "unprecedented development can take place when it is done with the intent of serving people", he said.
The prime minister also said that he has given top priority to the development of the region.
There has been a four-fold increase in the budget allocation for expansion of railways in the region and work is on to connect all the state capitals of the North East with the rest of the country, he added.
He also mentioned that Guwahati railway station is the first in the country to have a tea stall managed by a transgender person which he termed as a step towards giving dignity and respect to hitherto neglected section of society.
"It is a big day for Assam, Meghalaya and the entire NE along with West Bengal in the area of rail connectivity," he said.
The state-of-the-art train will provide the people of the region the means to travel with speed and comfort besides boosting tourism in the region.
The Guwahati- New Jalpaiguri Vande Bharat Express will cover the journey in 5 hours 30 minutes, while the current fastest train takes 6 hours 30 minutes to cover the same distance.
The prime minister also dedicated a 182-km route of newly electrified sections to the nation and inaugurated a DEMU/MEMU shed at Lumding in Assam.