Integration of North-Eastern India and its Significance

  • IASbaba
  • December 21, 2022
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Context: Recently, in  the North East Council (NEC) meeting, the Prime Minister of India has said that red cards have been shown to challenges in the Northeast region, including corruption, political nepotism and unrest in the region.

About North – Eastern India:

  • Northeast Region or The ‘seven sisters’ of Northeast India comprise Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura.
  • Sikkim is also a part of the Northeast but is not included in the Seven Sisters because while the other seven states are contiguous, Sikkim is sort of a neighbour, divided by the Siliguri Corridor.
  • Sikkim is also referred to as the ‘Brother’ of the Seven Sisters.

Significance of North – Eastern India:

  • Strategic Location: North Eastern Region of India is a landlocked region, with no access to seas. This is complicated by the presence of the Siliguri Corridor, called chicken’s neck for India.
    • Siliguri Corridor is a mere 21 km wide corridor that connects India with its North Eastern Region.
    • In the event of a war, India would need to safeguard the corridor, so that any potential advances by the Chinese in the Northern part of the North-East region can be suitably repelled by the Indian armed forces.
  • Act East Policy: The North Eastern Region is geographically contiguous to Myanmar, which is a part of South-East Asia. Therefore, it has the potential to act as the Indian ‘Gateway to South East Asia’.
    • This is important in the context of the Indian relationship with countries like Thailand and Singapore, with which we share a good rapport. They are high-income countries and can help India in the alleviation of poverty in the region.
  • Energy Resources: Due to the presence of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries, the North-Eastern region has immense potential as far as hydroelectric energy is concerned.
    • Similarly, it has been a source of crude oil and natural gas in the form of Digboi oil fields. Potential oil and natural gas reserves have been found at the Arakan Basin.
  • Carbon Sink: India has vowed to create an additional 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon sink per year under its Nationally Determined Contributions as a part of the Paris Summit.
    • North-Eastern India with its dense forest cover can play a huge role in such endeavour. Mizoram is the best state in India in terms of forest cover.
  • Agricultural Resources: The North Eastern region is blessed with natural resources which are important for the economic growth of the country.
    • For e.g. the tea plantations of Assam earn a significant value of foreign exchange for the country.
    • Similarly, Bamboo is useful in the cane and furniture industry. Bird’s Eye Chilli from Mizoram has the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.
  • Ecotourism and Environment: The North Eastern region can be a hub for tourist activity due to its lush green landscape, unique tribal culture, fresh air, comfortable climate and distinct topography.
    • It can be harnessed as a source of eco-tourism and rural tourism.
    • The North Eastern Region is ideal for both passive and adventure forms of Ecotourism with wildlife sanctuary/parks, good scenic beauty, waterfalls, forests etc.

Challenges to the development of the North Eastern Region (NER):

  • Difficult Terrain: North Eastern Region is majorly a mountainous region, except the state of Assam, which has plains as a major part of its area.
    • This makes it difficult for the government schemes to be implemented in the area, because of the problem of access to the remote areas.
  • Limited Connectivity: The North Eastern Region is a landlocked region. Therefore, it has limited access to the sea.
    • Similarly, it has a difficult terrain that renders expressways and wider roads infeasible.
  • Lack of Physical and Social Infrastructure: NER has complained of step motherly treatment from the mainland, especially in the context of development projects in the region.
    • This is complicated by the absence of railway infrastructure in the region.
  • Insurgency: One of the major regions for the lack of development in the region is the lack of political and social stability in the country.
    • The region is still caught in the vicious circle of violence due to political reasons and the diversion of youth towards the insurgent groups, which leads to a lack of skill enhancement and consequent lack of opportunity.
  • Backward Areas: Unlike the mainland, people of the North East Region are still content with a simple lifestyle and lack of technology in their day-to-day lives.
    • The standard of living continues to be low, due to the absence of high-income generation opportunities.
    • For e.g., the farmers practice primitive methods of agriculture, with the tribals still practising Shifting agriculture in the country.

Government of India Initiatives for the sustainable development of NER:

  • North Eastern Council (NEC): It is a statutory body constituted under the North Eastern Council Act 1971.
    • It is chaired by the Union Home Minister, while its Vice-chairman is the Minister of Development of the North Eastern Region.
    • All the Governors and Chief Ministers of the states are its members.
  • Peace Efforts: The government of India has tried its best to accommodate the demands of the tribal groups and other inhabitants in the region, within the framework of the Indian Constitution.
    • The outcomes are visible in the form of the Nagaland Peace Accord and Bodo Peace Accord, which have decreased the prevalence of violence and insurgency in the region, bringing the focus back to the development of the region.
    • Earlier initiatives like Mizo insurgency, Bru or Reang resettlement are good efforts in this regard.

Connectivity Projects: To create alternate routes to the region and decrease its dependence on the Chicken’s Neck, the Indian government has planned additional routes through South East Asia:

  • Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Project: It is a massive connectivity project to connect the Haldia port to Mizoram through Myanmar. The route envisages a marine journey from Haldia to Sittwe port in Myanmar. Sittwe would be connected to Lawngthai in Mizoram, through a combination of inland water transport and highway.

  • Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Corridor: The project has been envisaged to enhance economic connectivity between China and India while benefiting Myanmar and Bangladesh, which lie on the route.
    • India is less enthusiastic for the projects like Kolkata to Kunming Bullet Train (K2K Project), which China has mooted as a part of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
    • However, India has kept the BCIM corridor alive, claiming that the idea predated the BRI project.

Mission Organic Value Chain Development (MOVCD-NER):

  • The program has been implemented in the North-Eastern states since 2017.
  • Aim to promote organic farming in the region.
  • It seeks to replace traditional subsistence farming with a cluster-based approach.

Sub Mission on Seeds and Planting Material (SMSP):

  • Aim to increase the availability of seeds of the High Yielding Varieties of crops.
  • The overall objective is to double farmers’ income by 2022, as envisioned by the Government.
  • The scheme is run alongside other support programs like Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), integrated farming systems

North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESIDS):

  • Aim to enhance the physical infrastructure related to power, connectivity and water supply, and social infrastructure in the form of health infrastructure.
  • It is a Central Sector Scheme.

National Bamboo Mission:

  • Aim to increase the area under bamboo cultivation and marketing.
  • The Mission envisages promoting holistic growth of the bamboo sector by adopting an area-based, regionally differentiated strategy.

Way Forward:

Thus the government at the Centre must be vigilant about the developments in the region and take steps towards integrating North East India into the mainstream. Various stakeholders, the political parties, the citizens’ organizations, student groups, civil society etc. must work synergistically towards nation building activities.

There needs to be a comprehensive stock-taking of the internal challenges and an identification of regions and sectors where there is potential. Development of socio economic infrastructure, maximum utilization of natural resources, development of entrepreneurial culture and above all extending transnational ties will determine the future of Northeast in the near future is need of the hour.

Source:  Indian Express

Q.1) In which one of the following states is Pakhui wildlife sanctuary located? (2018)

  1. Arunachal Pradesh
  2. Manipur
  3. Meghalaya
  4. Nagaland


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