Northeast has the potential to become India’s growth engine, said Prime Minister of India, while asserting that peace has now been established in the region. Speaking after laying the foundation stone for the Manipur Water Supply Project , through video conferencing, the Prime Minister highlighted that modern infrastructure is being built to improve connectivity. India’s Northeast, in a way, is the gateway to our ancient cultural relationships with East Asia and the future of trade, travel and tourism.
Why RSTV? RSTV assumes significance for UPSC Civil Services Examination as it touches the current happenings of all areas with relevant inputs. Here, we are providing Gist of Rajya Sabha TV discussion on ‘Northeast's Growth Potential’.
Topic relevance from RSTV Debate on ‘Northeast's Growth Potential’ for UPSC: Direct questions can be asked on:
Potential of North East Indian region to be India’s growth
Natural resources of the region and the potential for growth
Challenges in the region
Recent projects in the region
Excerpts from the debate
Why India’s North Eastern Region is so important?
It is amongst the most recent geographical territories that has become part of our general Indian polity. So there are a lot of expectations from rest of India.
This region is one of the mega bio-diverse hotspots in the world and among the most heavily forested area in the country. The region represents 25% of the country's forest coverage.
The social and educational attainments levels of people is very high in this region of the country.
The region represents 8% of the territory of the country and is home to large number of ethnic communities which represents a very diverse culture.
Before the partition, N-E was a vibrant region and it was connected through Kolkata, Chittagong and used to be a transportation hub.
Issues/Challenges with the N-E Region
There has been a sense of isolation owing to loss of identity and loss of geographical connectivity with the rest of the country, especially, post-partition.
There have been a general neglect from political as well as social point of view.
Loss of connectivity after the partition has led to a deepening of identity crisis which this region suffers from.
Despite having high levels of literacy, the region suffers from lack of employment opportunities.
The private sector and industrial investment was very low and the transaction cost in the region is much higherfor the investors as compared to other regions which is one of the major cause
What is being done to address the problems relating to N-E?
It was in 1996 when the first N-E Package was developed and that was the stepping stone when attention was focused on N-E.
Way back in 2005, we have N-E Vision 2020 which identified the potential rate of growth as well as the potential where we could focus upon to ensure that the region and its states reaches the national average.
Many policies like the Look East policy has expanded the perspective within the N-E as well as the adjoining areas.
The region has been highly troubled for the last 4-5 decades but the level of conflict is coming down not only because of security actions but also because the younger generation is much more integrated and mainstreamed into the rest of the country and they have different kinds of expectations form the society.
The situation appears to be improving particularly because form the policy perspective the focus on the East Asian countries have increased and improved relations with Bangladesh.
The government plan to connect all the capital cities of the region is good move in this direction.
What needs to be done?
There is a need to overcome the issue of connectivity and take N-E region into stride and develop this region as a tool for mainstreaming the entire N-E society and also using this region as a launchpad for our connection with the Southeast Asian region.
When we talk about N-E region, we cannot ignore Bangladesh. The better the relations with Bangladesh in terms of foreign policy, cultural exchange, social linkage, etc., the better will be the economic impact on the region.
We have observed in the last 10 years that N-E region can reach its potential provided that the security aspect is taken care of which indirectly is going to reduce the transactioncost.
There is a need to encourage younger generations, give them enough opportunities for growth and as much help as possible for bringing normalcy to the region.
We have to look at the possible areas where we can invest in this region and let it grow.
There may not be the need follow the industrial model of development just like the rest of the country, we have to look at the kind of natural resources like bamboo which can not only be used in making furniture but also for making biofuels which is a sunrise industry.
The rivers in this region are abundant with water and we need to have a proper flood and water management policy here which can not only help in mitigating its water needs but also stabilize the ecosystem of the rest of the country.
We have to take into account the development initiatives with younger people’s aspirations, taking care of the ecological aspects and the economic imperatives.
The political aspects have to be managed a little better to ensure that the outcome of these efforts lead to a stable environment.
Because of higher literacy and better English speaking skill of the younger generation, the service based activity like BPO can be future prospects. But along with this the ecological aspect must be taken care of, especially considering Sharp decline in the forest cover in the states of AP, Nagaland, Mizoram as per India state of forest report 2019.
The area is agro-based and the forest cover is quite large, so there need to be a focus on how to develop these elements keeping in mind the development of people and deriving the socio-economic benefit and opportunities.
There is a rational for implementing Inner Line Permit, but we have to look beyond without disturbing the ethnic and socio-economic fabric of the N-E.
While retaining the socio-economic framework of the N-E, we need to do certain innovative activities which attract investment and people’s opportunities without disturbing the biodiversity.
The environment and investment opportunities in the region are improving. With the younger generation acquiring higher skills, getting better educational opportunities outside the region can help in bringing up the investment opportunities in the region.
We need to emphasize the natural resource potential of the region and to be able to tap its full potential.
There should be an integrated approach which encompasses the surrounding areas of the countryand concentrate on the specialties of the region.
The growth should be people centric without disturbing the natural ecology of the region.
The ethnic aspirations of the people should be safeguarded and carried forward as well in a very positive manner and that as a whole will ensure that the entire region is far more integrated with mainland India.
This region has a lot of potential for growth in itself and to also take forward the Look East Policy which is very important from strategic as well as political point of view.
While we talk of N-E, we should see the bigger picture for not only development of the N-E but for the benefit of the country as a whole also.