For far too often we have been told, and indeed made to believe, there is no paucity of developmental funds for the Northeast. The North Eastern Council, NEC, with its headquarters in Shillong and the relatively recent Department of North East Region, DoNER ministry in New Delhi, are supposed to be the nodal instruments by which these development funds are to be disbursed for the purpose, and whatever funds not utilised is also supposed not to lapse but go into a separate coffer of non-lapsable pool of fund to be carried over to subsequent years and remain basically a Northeast developmental fund. Although we do not have the exact figure, understandably this non-lapsable pool of NE developmental fund would have built up quite sizeably in the years that have gone by. The question is, why is this fund not translating into any tangible and visible developmental projects? There are developmental activities no doubt, but hardly at the pace of magnitude that could or should have been.
A sense of urgency is what is primarily missing in any government activities in the regard. For the last five or six years, consumers in the state have been fed the excuse that electricity is scarce in the state because transmission lines available currently are outdated and not broad enough to bring in the state’s greatly increased requirement from the Northeast power grid and that these transmission lines were being upgraded to make them fit for the purpose. What is taking the government so long to do the needful? Why is it not taking up this matter on a war footing? The injuries this acute power shortage has caused and is still causing are immediate and desperate for it is stunting the growth of the state’s fledgling private sector, the health of which nobody will doubt will prove to be the ultimate solution to the employment problem above all else, the government’s direct employment capacity being limited and already super-saturated. This is a matter which cannot wait unlike say the rail line being constructed. The rail line is important but it is a long term need. Electricity is a daily necessity for any modern economy and indeed household.
In the midst of the monsoon, we also find treated municipal piped water is still scarce. One can only imagine what the situation would be even a month after the wet season is over. Why is this issue also not being taken up on a war footing? There are many more similar cases that need urgent government attention and with it remedial action. None however is forthcoming. There are also many ongoing projects, such as the Imphal sewerage project, which have been overshooting deadlines continually. What is worse, there are also no indications whatsoever so far that this project would come to a fitting closure in the near future. Meanwhile, the citizenry are expected to keep tolerating the fiasco created by these projects in perpetual states of incompleteness. It is atrocious that the old argument that it is insurgency which is keeping all these work at bay is still sought to be the balm to keep public outrage at bay. Development must happen despite all barriers. If the government acknowledges extortion cannot be curbed then let it factor in this extraordinary cost into its project estimates so that the projects themselves do not suffer.
What is also noticeable in recent times is that the military suddenly seems to have become flushed with developmental money. It is now thinking in terms of undertaking small and mid level developmental projects as part of its civic action programmes. Is this money coming from the non-lapsable pool with the DoNER ministry? The military can now donate community halls, sports complex etc to villages. Has there been a shift in the developmental funding pattern of the Government of India? The military adamantly refuses to be brought under civil law when it come to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA, which incidentally is 54 years old now, but would readily be given civil responsibilities in matters of implementing civil developmental projects. Is this an amplified version of what has often been referred to quite disparagingly as “donor agenda” (meaning donors would directly or indirectly dictate the terms and directions of development) when it came to funds availed to various Non Government Organisations, NGO, especially by foreign funding agencies? Is this a way of silently militarising civil space both literally and metaphorically? India is a thriving democracy. How then is it that in backwater states like Manipur, governance seems to tend towards conditions that resemble that of a military junta.