Infrastructure and North-East
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
In News: For decades, poor infrastructure and limited connectivity have acted as roadblocks hindering the socio-economic development of these states. 16 years after the commencement of work, the Bogibeel bridge over the river Brahmaputra was finally inaugurated.
- The Bogibeel Bridge, which was a part of the Assam Accord and sanctioned in 1997-98, is expected to play a significant role in the troop’s movement along the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh.
- With a length of 4.94 km long this is now the longest rail-cum-road bridge in India and comes as a big breather for the people of northeast.
- The five-kilometre structure spans the waters of the mighty Brahmaputra River. The Bridge is of strategic importance for India and for the armed forces.
With this bridge becoming operational distance from Dibrugarh to Rangiya will be reduced by 170 km and a train journey from Itangar, capital of Arunachal Pradesh to Dibrugarh will be only 180 km. People from Dhemaji, Jonai and North Lakhimpur who had to earlier travel the whole day to cross the Brahmaputra to reach Dibrugarh, will now cross the river within minutes.
Focus on Infrastructure
The north-eastern region (NER) has been placed on a pedestal for the purposes of central assistance, subsidies and exemptions. Connectivity has been the proverbial Achilles’ Heel for the Northeast. On this front, there are visible signs of change, with the rapid construction of national highways, bridges, rail and air linkages.
The recently-commissioned airports at Pakyong in Sikkim and Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh have given wings to economic possibilities. Rural infrastructure and connectivity have seen a significant improvement under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and Border Area Development Programme, though the quality of road infrastructure, especially state highways and rural roads remains quite pathetic. Torrential monsoon rains and mudslides make the task of road maintenance even more challenging.
Transformation by Transportation
The NE region lies on the wrong side of the narrow Siliguri corridor and comprises of eight and half states and nearly 5 cr people supported by a single road axis prone to disruptions. The isolation and neglect in mainstreaming the people mainly due to lack of connectivity and infrastructure has contributed to the various insurgencies.
There is an imperative to ensure peace, stability and development in the region by providing the people the much-needed connectivity to ensure the benefits of education, health care and economic growth. This will also give a push to tourism as the NE is by far one of the most scenic and serene places in India.
At the strategic level the 3488 km long India- China border remains the longest though most peaceful disputed border in the world, with the last shot in anger fired in October of 1975. However, the disputed border does remain a potential driver for conflict and given the emerging geostrategic construct with China asserting itself as a global power, it is an imperative that India build capabilities and enhance capacities, to protect its interests in all domains especially so along the disputed border.
The Way Ahead
It is time the government takes immediate and urgent measures to give additional impetus to build the requisite infrastructure to address the security needs as also facilitate mainstreaming of the border people and ensure development of the region.
- The government should amend the land acquisition bill 2014 to exclude 100 kms along our Northern Borders and 50 kms along our Western borders, required for defence needs i.e. national security.
- There is also a need to evolve an integrated infrastructure development plan where in the NHAI is responsible for constructing the main arteries, a revamped Border Road Organisation mandated to construct the feeder roads and the army to ensure last mile connectivity through its integral resources of operational works.
- In addition to the plan the government should constitute a National Infrastructure Development Board under the Niti Aayog comprising of all relevant ministries including the representatives from the Army and Indian Air Force, fully empowered and accountable to execute and monitor time bound development.
- China respects strength and exploits the weak. It is imperative that India build capabilities and enhances existing capacities.
- While India looks at these mega-bridges, roads and hydropower projects for strategic reasons, it needs to develop an inclusive model for the local inhabitants too. They lack the knowledge, the education and the formal training of engineers or semi-skilled technicians needed for these infrastructure projects. They also lack the information to take a stance over majority decisions that are eventually imposed upon them. Often, they are consulted only when there is a problem due to land acquisition aspects of such infrastructure development.
District Infrastructure Index (DII): In order to reduce intra-regional disparity and better targeting of schemes and projects in North Eastern States. The DII is based on seven broad indicators — transport facilities in terms of road density and road quality, energy, water supply, education, health facilities, communication infrastructure and banking facilities.
North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESIDS): The funds under the scheme, will be distributed among eight North Eastern States on the basis of well-defined criteria on certain parameters e.g. Area, Population, Human Development Index, Road density, etc. The scheme, inter alia, aims to cover the social sectors namely health and education in North Eastern Region.
Connecting the Dots:
- Inaccessibility in far-flung areas would be a deterrent to the enemies. Do you agree? Examine this statement in terms of the issues prevalent in the north-east part of our country.