Indeed it was good news. The Union Budget 2017-18 raised the total allocation for the eight Northeastern States from Rs 32180 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 43245 crore. Correspondingly, the budget allocation for the Ministry of DoNER has also been hiked from Rs 2524.42 crore to Rs 2682.45 crore. While many have lauded the Union Budget 2017-18 as exemplary, some others went to the extent of hailing it as path-breaking specially for the backward Northeastern region. Yet, many others are sceptical that the Union Budget would be able to put the North East region on a new trajectory of economic development. Many observers also remarked that the Union Budget is aimed at influencing voters of five States namely; UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur in favour of BJP. Whatever may be the motive of the Union Budget, we cannot help asking whether increased budgetary allocation is enough to put the region in the development map of the country. In fact, the region started appearing in the economic development map of the country only in the 1990’s after the Government of India formulated the much hyped Look East Policy (now Act East Policy). The approach adopted by the Indian State as far as Northeast is concerned before the 1990s is popularly known as Nehruvian model which was based on two edifices, security and political-economy. From the security point of view, Northeast was regarded as a strategically important region by virtue of its proximity to many countries such as China, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. On the other hand, the political-economy approach dictated that the people of the Northeast need preservation as they are ‘primitive’ people. Fallout of this approach was that no financial institutions were allowed to be established or institutionalized. This approach underwent a dramatic transformation when India started its structural adjustment programme, which ultimately paved the path towards globalization, liberalization and privatization. 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.
Of course increased budgetary allocation is important but what is more crucial are planning, approach, appropriate policies and swift implementation. 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. 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 official statistics. It was reported that the unspent amount (sanctioned by different central ministries) accumulated under the Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources which is lying with the Ministry of Finance had reached the volume of around Rs 15,000 crore. This tells a very sordid tale when it comes to implementation of development projects and welfare schemes in the region. This is one area where corrective measures are needed on urgent basis.
Source: The Sangai Express