How prosperous NE India became backward: The need for clean governance

Mathiupuang Gonmei
Do you know that at the time of India’s independence the per capita economy of North East Region (NER) (Assam, Manipur and Tripura) was above the National average (NER Vision 2020). In fact, North East scholars noted that per capita income in undivided Assam was 4% above the National average in 1947. Per capita NSDP OF NER declined from National average of 89.29% to 79% around 2008-9 (Singh and Yumnam 2020). Growth rate in the NER gradually went below National standard and stagnated in the last 70 years. This means the people of the region have been deprived of their rights to freedom of equality with the rest of the country.
How did this happen ?
People attribute NER’s underdevelopment to war at the border, the closure of international border for trade and commerce, armed insurgency including drug menace. But these are not the sufficient causes. Let me show you how. Like the NER, many States in Northern India, for instance, Punjab also faced the same problems of border wars, realignment/closure of international border and armed conflict. Notwithstanding all these challenges, Punjab today is one of the richest States in India feeding the country with its grains and driving the Nation’s economy with its industries.
Whereas, in the case of the NER since independence the economy and growth rate has gradually stagnated. Among others, top-down incoherent planning and policy making processes for the NER turned the prosperous region into a backward region. Today NER is heavily dependent on New Delhi. NER State Governments seek to get developmental package from the Centre through a provision known as the Special Category States devised by the Planning Commission in the 6th Five-Year Plan (1980-85).
Making matters worse for the region, brain drain of young people freshly out of school and colleges to go for further study and career outside of the NER in terms of hundreds of thousands every year. This brain drain deeply hurts the NER economy further. For a small State like Manipur where majority of the people are dependent on the primary sectors this is a huge socio-economic burden.
Who let this happen ?
(i) Initial conditions viz. disruption of borders, population influx from across the borders, unharnessed resources, enclave economy, monopoly of traders, governance, infrastructure deficiency;
(ii) Insurgency;
(iii) Distortions in factor and commodity markets;
(iv) Indifferent Government (NER Vision 2020, Atul Sharma cited in Yumnam and Singh 2020).
How to revive North East Region ?
Good Governance is the need of the hour. The last more than 60 years have been marked by misgovernance, nepotism, corruption and dynastic politics. Because of all these reasons, the country particularly North East Region had seen a substantial decline in the per capita income throughout these years. North Eastern Region has become a begging region instead of being the producing States. To reverse this trend, North East India needs a Government which actually governs in the true sense of the term and for this the BJP seems to be the best bet in this present scenario to:
(i) Make NER, (including Manipur and Nungba) shine and prosper again by reversing the underdevelopment policy and process of the last 70 years;
(ii) Make NER a special growth center for industry, education, science and technology, trade and commerce and social justice;
(iii) Make NER an effective pivotal link to Act East Policy;
(iv) Help India emerge as a Great Power to secure the neighborhood and the world with international peace and security.
*Mathiupuang Gonmei is a BJP leader and an intending candidate for the upcoming Assembly Election from 54-Nungba (ST/AC).