Plenary sessions are not meant for increasing fund allocation or to undertake new projects. Plenary sessions are clearly meant for adopting policies and making roadmaps for implementation. But it seems while policies remain the same, the North Eastern Council (NEC) is yet to prepare a proper roadmap for speedy economic and social development of the Northeast. As a result, these days we do not hear anything new from plenary sessions. The recently concluded plenary session of the NEC was no different.
As usual the recent session has once again vowed to expedite economic development in the region. But there is a big question mark over this promise being fulfilled as the NEC member states have already protested the reduced fund allocation. The states have rightly pointed out that they were supposed to get Rs. 40, 000 crore from the Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources. But through the newly formed North-East Special Infrastructure Development Schemes, the states will get only Rs. 1, 600 crore. The Centre may argue on its part that it would bear the entire cost of the project under the new scheme discarding the earlier funding pattern from which the states have had to bear 10 per cent of the project cost. But the argument does not hold much water. Without going into mathematics, it can be concluded that development will continue to elude the Northeast forever with such a fund.
There is no argument that lack of a real will and of paucity of funds prevented development from making an entry to the Northeast. How the region faced neglect for a prolonged period since Independence can be judged from the fact that before 1947, the per capita income in undivided Assam was higher than the national average. But now it is well below the national average. This fact proves beyond doubt that the region did not get the required attention despite having enviable natural resources.
Lack of proper attention to the region is not only a loss for the Northeast and its population — it’s a great loss for the entire nation as well. As a matter of fact, it will not be an exaggeration to say that over the years no efforts were made to maximise the benefits of the rich natural resources abundant in the Northeast. Never a thought was spared to use the north-eastern manpower for nation building. The achievements of the north-easterners often went unnoticed. Efforts to bring the Northeast closer to the ‘mainstream’ were always missing.
To hide these plain truths, our leaders had often blamed the unrest in the region. But they never tried to understand that lack of development was the main reason for such a situation in this beautiful region. Thus, instead of ushering development, forces were sent on the pretext of maintaining peace in Northeast which only created a vicious cycle where lack of development led to unrest and unrest in turn affected development. The NEC was supposed to find a way out to break the cycle. But the planning body has failed to do so. One must have to hope that the situation would change in the coming days and the NEC would be able to play an effective and meaningful role in the socio-economic development of the region.