Taking NE on board: Need of the hour
Just around 10 days back, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went on record stating that now policies for the North East are formed as per the needs of the region, and not only as per Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also candid enough to admit that “Earlier policies were formed behind closed doors in Delhi and then unsuccessful attempts were made to fit the Northeast in this”. As commented earlier on the same column, this is indeed a paradigm shift in New Delhi’s approach and treatment of the Northeast region as far as policy matters are concerned. Now let’s juxtapose this statement of the Prime Minister with the startling revelation made by former DoNER Minister VK Singh. Some years back, VK Singh revealed that funds amounting to over Rs 13,000 crore sanctioned by various central ministries for the North East never reached the region. This was ridiculous as well as outrageous. According to the military officer turned politician, the huge amount vanished in the finance ministry. He said, “The amount is nowhere now. It is just on papers”. The Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources or the NLCPR was created for the Northeastern States including Sikkim out of 10 per cent of funds allocated to different central ministries for utilization in the North East region. But almost all the central ministries could not utilize 10 per cent of their budgetary allocations in the troubled region. The accumulated fund from different central ministries earmarked for the North East is non-lapsable which means they must be utilized within a specific time period or within the particular financial year. However, in the absence of proper planning and political will, funds drawn from the NLCPR were never utilized. After the expiry of the specific time period, funds sanctioned from NLCPR either go back to the parent ministries or the ministry of finance because the funds are non-lapsable. Such is the irony of the North East and its socio-economic environment where everything is either lacking or lagging as compared to other parts of India. The DoNER ministry requires proper streamlining of its visions, objectives and functions. What is the point of creating an exclusive pool of resources when the funds drawn from it could not be utilized properly and fully? If DoNER ministry is at fault, none of the state governments have any moral right to claim themselves as holy cows. Why should people suffer because of red-tapism, inefficacy, indifference and insincerity on the part of the ruling elites sitting at New Delhi and the respective state capitals?
VK Singh was right in blaming the system for robbing such a huge amount off the beleaguered North East. Yes, there are systematic lapses and the Government of India’s approach to the region is doubtful. Cocooned and isolated for a long period under the Nehruvian model of political economy, the North East region was caught napping, quite unprepared as India started pushing vigorously for its Look East Policy, now Act East Policy. Entrepreneurship skill and the know-how of competitive business sense which are the highlight of any global business were never allowed to grow in the region. Then there are the institutional problems of institutions of finance and banking. The Northeast lacks them, and as such meticulous planning and vigorous execution of appropriate policies are needed to bring the region at par with other parts of the country before exposing the North East to the onslaught of global capital. Now Prime Minister Narendra Modi was saying that the Northeastern States are taken into confidence while framing policies and programmes for the region. This evokes an inevitable question whether the lapses seen in the ministry of DoNER have been effectively addressed and whether New Delhi’s approach to the North East region has underwent dramatic changes.