Visions sans missions and North East India
It was on August 11, 2018 that Union Minister for Communication, Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad released the Digital North East Vision 2022 in Guwahati. The Vision Document emphasizes leveraging digital technologies to transform lives of people of the North East and enhance the ease of living by 2022. Now it has been over 17 months since the vision document for digital North East was launched. Setting a vision and pursuing it are totally different. Here, one would certainly like to ask how successful is the Government of India in digitising the North East region, how far the lives of people have been transformed and by how much the ease of living has been enhanced. To put it in a nutshell, it is pertinent to question how much progress has the Digital North East Vision 2022 achieved during the past 17 months. In fact, a world without internet and mobile connectivity is simply unthinkable these days. Banking, insurance, health and many, many sectors of everyday life have been digitized to a great extent over the last couple of decades. In fact, the Government of India has been working to digitize all its machinery including payment and collection of different taxes. The Vision Document complements with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s earlier announcement, at least theoretically. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “NE will not be known as North East anymore, but New Engine — a new engine which will drive India’s economy forward.” At that point of time, the Prime Minister seemed committed to put the backward North East on a new trajectory of development and progress. Although it has been more than two years since the catchy sobriquet was coined, very little has changed on the ground. A critical analysis of the ground reality would render the Prime Minister’s sobriquet bombastic. The North East region still remains quite backward in all aspects of socio-economic development parameters.
Again way back in 2014, DoNER Minister Dr Jitendra Singh stated in the Lok Sabha that the Central Government was focusing on expeditious and time bound completion of major infrastructure projects of Rail, Road, Telecom, Inland Water Transport, Airports and Power in the North Eastern region. But after five years, the region’s infrastructure has seen little improvement. We are not questioning the commitment of the Government of India or for that matter the Prime Minister but something is amiss somewhere. Just compare the per capita power consumption of the North East region with the rest of the country. Per capita power consumption figure is one of the key elements for determining human development index of a particular state or region. This would clearly reveal the pathetic position of the North region in terms of power and other social infrastructure. Yes, many development projects including construction and expansion of roads are being implemented across the region but they are too little and too late. It is a bitter but hard truth that a lot more needs to be done, that too expeditiously without bureaucratic or political hassles in order to tap the potential and opportunities provided by the region’s geographical location. Notwithstanding whatever claims or reports the Government of India and the respective State Governments made about the region’s economic and social infrastructure, the ground reality tells a very different story, and we don’t like the elected representatives to be misled by official statistics nor do we like the elected representatives to befool the mass based on official statistics. After all, if there is a vision, there must be a mission to accomplish it and also a non-lapsable timeframe.