Far flung from the rest of India yet unique in its own way the Northeast comprises of seven sister states namely Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. The region is connected to the rest of India via a narrow strip sandwiched between Bhutan and Bangladesh. It is a potpourri of various faith, religion, ethinicity, languages and culture united by a common thread -India. Over the period of time the region has been overlooked with regard to development and has not managed to match its pace with mainstream India. We will analyse the challenges that the region has and why the country needs to give special attention to it.
As the region has been laggard in development it has contributed to discontent among the locals for the government and fuelled agitation and separatist movements. Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Assam and Tripura have separatist tendencies. At the political and governmental level there is a need to reach out to these states and bring them to mainstream politics. This can be done if national political parties strengthen their field base there and give priority to their needs and demands. Also the local self government and panchayati raj should be introduced and strengthened. The administration should be people centric and inclusive in nature. Revocation of outdated laws like AFSPA can garner confidence of the people for the government. Giving representation to elected representatives from this region in central cabinet will also help in bringing issues to fore and help in speeding up the development process.
The region is landlocked and has five international boundaries making it a highly vulnerable region in aspects of security. Bangladesh and Myanmar have always been a hotbed of various movements and agitation and thus these two countries contribute maximum infiltrators to the Indian region. A nexus cannot be denied between the separatist groups of India and foreign entities. Also it is seen that after committing their operations the separatists make their way to countries like Myanmar and Bangladesh due to unresolved and well maintained boundaries. There is a need to resolve boundary issue, strengthen infrastructure and keep a strict vigilance. A healthy relationship and greater participation of the centre with states and bordering countries is a must in this regard. Land swap agreement with Bangladesh and Cross border operations in Myanmar are healthy signs and should be carried forward.
Infrastructure is a major constraint which the region faces. Hilly and Rugged Terrain, Intensive Forest Cover, Climatic and Political Conditions make it difficult to carry construction activities there with the rate being very slow. Also there is a conflict with the interests of native population of tribes who have their own way of living and encroaching upon their issue disturbs the entire social fabric. Taking these aspects in to consider the government should devise a special development plan. The Ministry of development of North East region is a step in this direction. The centre decision to construct 10000 km of roads in five year span with approximate cost of 1 lakh crore is a welcome step. Border roads construction especially in adjoining regions of China is vital in security aspects. Railways is only limited to the flat Brahmaputra plains of Assam and adjoining regions. There is a need to extend the rail line to connect other states through offshoots.
The aesthetics and panorama of this serene region gives a great opportunity of Tourism which is currently running in shackles. The revenue from tourism can bolster the economy of these states and can bridge the deficit. People to people contact and connectivity with rest of country can also be ensured.
Due to remoteness and insurgency the region has not managed to garner investments and industrial penetration. Most of the Industrial projects in Mining and Manufacturing are government owned. Establishment of industries can only happen if the government manages resources properly and gives a sound security cover to private entities which if done can generate huge employment opportunities for the domestic population especially the misguided youth and can set the insurgency graph in downward direction.
In all the North East India has its own problems of Remoteness, Security, Infrastructure which can be addressed by an inclusive and unique development plan, increasing public participation, infrastructure development, filling security gaps and strengthening its economy through tourism industry.
- KUMAR GAURAV