NE needs more than ‘unprecedented’

“The last 8 years have seen unprecedented development in the Northeast. The focus is on infrastructure creation, ensuring better healthcare, education and popularising the rich cultures from the different Sates of the region.” These were the exact words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi quoted by media. The Prime Minister went on to claim that the Northeast witnessed ‘unprecedented’ development in the last eight years under the BJP-led NDA Government. Perhaps the Prime Minister was right when he used the word ‘unprecedented’ because whatever little done today is unprecedented if there is nothing prior to it. Notwithstanding the proud claim of the Prime Minister, the Northeast region still remains quite backward as compared to other regions of the country. A reality check tells a very different tale. No doubt, the region witnessed many changes during the last eight years and even before that and some of these changes can be definitely attributed to the BJP-led NDA Government but change is the order of nature. In spite of all these changes, the Northeast region is yet to achieve the desired momentum of development. More often than not, many Central leaders including the Prime Minister pledged that the Government of India is committed to bring rapid socio-economic development in the entire North East region but there has been little development till date. Again, it was the Prime Minister who went on record that his Government will build a network of highways and roads in the region under the Bharatmala Project and this would make the region a key player in the country’s Act East Policy but the Act East Policy is yet to take off, at least in the context of the Northeast.  Yes, highways and roads are being constructed in different parts of the region but at the present stage, they are too slow and too little to put the region on a higher trajectory of development.
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.  At the same time, it must be admitted that for too long, the Government of India neglected the region and blamed the region’s underdevelopment on its geographical features such as land-lockedness, hilly terrain, remoteness etc. But the whole notion about the North East region underwent a dramatic change once New Delhi mandarins realized the necessity to engage with ASEAN countries economically and politically. Suddenly, the region’s highly disadvantageous location became a hotspot of opportunities. In another word, there was a disconnect in New Delhi’s policy with regard to the North East region, and this policy disconnect is largely responsible for the vast disparity between the region and other parts of the country. But the bitter truth is, 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. 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 dubious official statistics. There is an urgent need to plug in whatever disconnect there is between the Government of India and the region in terms of policy matters.