Transforming Socio-cultural ethos of the North Eastern Region: Balancing the regional imbalance in the first tenure of the Modi governance.
Source :NewsBharati   Date :30-Oct-2018

Shri Guruji on ‘ shadows of fear’ in the North East Region:

In his speech, on the occasion of the Makar Sankranti function of the Sangh in 1951, Shri Golwalkar Guruji had warned the people and the government that it was necessary to pay special attention to the North East Region where a lot of anti-national activities were reported. Several decades later since the early 18th century in the north east region, Christian missionaries were preoccupied with social-cultural activities which led to the proselytization of the tribes in the region who were the original residents for several centuries following religiously their customs and traditions. It is believed that the history of the region dates back to as early as Maha Bharat period. The foreign missionaries had clever plans of not indulging too much in the sovereign traditional beliefs of the tribes , at the same time undermining their patterns and belittle these in their eyes. Shri Golwalkar’s warning to the people of the region as well people from rest of India, indicates the highest level of patriotism he had. The missionaries of all kinds, did worth mentioning humane service to the most backward people in the region esp. in the field of public health services and educational services. Theirs was great humane service, and yet the fact of figures of proselytization had tarnished their intentions. The common boundary with neighbouring countries like Bangla Desh , Myanmar , Nepal threw several problems of managing inter-state trade and human movement. The ‘jan-Jatis’, the original residents of the region, were unaware of their origin and the DNA.

Special attention to the NER.

The new Union government since 2014 , made special efforts to launch new schemes and development projects in the NER ,a proactive policy , the first of its kind on the part of the ‘administration ‘to instil confidence in the minds of the citizens in the NER. The foreign missionaries with the advent of the East India Company’s trading era in India since the 17th century, did offer social service to the tribal people in the NER for a very long time and introduced a flair of the urban life style to these almost primitives-like people. However, their social service led the tribes to a sort of alienated psyche, and a sense of indifference. The plans and programmes of the foreign missionaries while preaching the tribes the art of worshipping Lord Jesus certainly introduced personal discipline and led these people to a better urban life. The foreign missionaries taught these people the relevance of the organised life and the value of ‘education’ as several schools were founded enabling these to become literate groups. The missionaries forced these people out of animism. It is interesting to note that the new values of life and the strength of educated urban organised life of the tribes, emboldened the newly proselytised Christians to question the sanctity of the new faith riding a silent revolting movement. The foreign missionaries soon realised that the renegades were on their way back to their original traditions. The first casualty was the (withdrawal of) political patronage to these foreign missionaries which was showered on these outsiders and their hitherto safe citadels of wealth and power which emanated from the multi-sectorial holy chapels and churches in the region were belittled. The process had already begun during the Vajpayee regime. The All India network of these educational and health services had been thriving with the support of the financial veins quietly nurtured by International funds allegedly routed through these citadels. The legal framework in the country had been perfectly manipulated and used to push ahead their ‘service’ programmes. It was all in accordance with the declarations of the periodically held ‘Eucharist’ Congresses which aimed at changing the Asia’s regional maps into a vast Catholic land.

The new Modi governance had something else in its programmes. The new regime found the silent rebellion as a grave threat to the national integration and therefore plugged the loopholes restricting the manipulative designs of the foreign missionaries. The focus did not seem to be against the social service schemes of the missionaries, focus was on the deliberate clandestine proselytization of the backward and uneducated tribes. The concern was about their alienation from the mainstream of the national current.

It will be important to know a brief background of what is known as North East Region. The following table must give a brief about the region. It will be known that there are now 8 States in the North East Region . The State with the largest population is Assam with a population of 3,11,69,727 and the smallest one is Sikkim with a population of 6,07,688. Assam has 27 districts whereas Tripura and Sikkim have the smallest number i.e. 4 each. The State with the largest Legislative Assembly is Assam with 126 Members of the Legislative Assembly whereas the smallest Assembly is that of Sikkim with 31 Members. Arunachal Pradesh is the State with the largest geographical area i.e. 83743 sq.kimt. whereas Sikkim is spread in a small area i.e. 7096 sq.kmts . Assam is the State which is represented by 14 Members of Parliament in Lok Sabha and 7 in the Rajya Sabha whereas Sikkim elects one each to Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

Fact File of the North Eastern Region of India.

The North East Indian region has a special status in the Indian Republic. There are quite a few Parts and Articles in the Constitution of India which provide for special privileges, concessions and status to the people in those States of the Region.

1.Constitutional Provisions for the North East India :

The above mentioned features are to be found for immediate reference in the Part IX , Part X , Part XXI and the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India.

Part IX deals with the functioning of the Panchayati Raj system , however , the Part does not apply to the NER. The Articles of the Constitution which need to be referred to in this regard are Article 243M and Article 243 ZC. Part X deals with the Scheduled and Tribal Areas : The provision is made under Article 244 and 244 A . Under the provision of this Article a Local Legislature or Council of Ministers are created for the administration of the Scheduled Area. Part XXI provides special provision for each State of the Region viz., Nagaland , Assam ,Manipur, Sikkim , Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. The provision is made under Article 371 A, 371 B , 371 C , 371 F , 371 G and 371 H. Sixth Schedule : Proviso under Article 244 (2 ) and Article 275 (1 ) as to the Administration of Tribal Areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

2. North Eastern Region :

Except for the State of Arunachal Pradesh which used to be a Centrally-administered territory known as North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), Sikkim which used to be a protectorate of India and later joined the Indian Union and Manipur as well as Tripura which were princely States which acceded into the Indian Union in October 1949, became Union Territories in 1956 and full-fledged States in 1972, all other States were part of the erstwhile composite State of Assam. Nagaland was the first to get separate statehood and the rest became separate States consequent upon the implementation of the States Re-organization Act, 1971. These North Eastern States were re-organized mainly on linguistic basis and due to political exigencies emanating from so much of diversity in ethnicity, culture and levels of underdevelopment. Hence, they were not economically viable and had to depend heavily on the Central Government for financial assistance, especially Plan assistance, which continues to be given on a 90:10 basis, i.e. 90% is central assistance while the States themselves raise only 10% of the budget. The States are thus known as Special Category States. Even after more than four decades of their existence, these States continue to be in the backwaters of economic development and still need a great deal of concerted effort to bring them at par with the more developed States of the country. The North Eastern Council which was created to complement and supplement the developmental efforts of the States has already contributed immensely in terms of institution building, transport and communication, power generation and transmission and creation of different kinds of infrastructural facilities with a view to positioning the States to launch themselves into a self-sustaining growth trajectory.

3. North Eastern Council Act 1971 :

There is an Act passed by the Parliament called North Eastern Council Act 1971 which substituted the earlier Act titled North Eastern Council Act 1970 ( 26 of the 1970 ) which was repealed in 1971. North Eastern Council is constituted under its Section 3 as an advisory body to prepare plans for all round development of Region as well as the States. The NEC Act 1971 was further amended in 2002 providing for admitting a few more new members.

The Department of Development of North Eastern Region was created in 2001, and subsequently elevated to the level of a full-fledged Ministry in 2004 to synergise the process of development of the region so that it enjoys growth parity with the rest of the country.

4. Mineral Resources in NER :

NER is bountifully endowed with different kinds of mineral resources. The more important ones are petroleum, coal, limestone, chromite, dolomite, sillimanite, graphite, fire-clay and clay for the manufacture of white-ware, feldspar and glass-sand. Occurrences of some base metals, ferrous-alloy metals, rare metals and other minerals including semiprecious stones have also been detected. However, more detailed prospecting and exploration work has to be undertaken to determine the potential reserves before economic exploitation can be taken up. As far as petroleum is concerned, the NER has the distinction of being the first part of the country where oil was successfully drilled and produced. Coal is found mainly in Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. While the reserves in Meghalaya was estimated to be about 200 million tonnes, the reserves in Upper Assam and the adjoining parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland was estimated to be around 500 million tonnes. Limestone deposits are found extensively throughout the NE Region. In some places, the chemical composition is of such a high grade that the limestone is considered usable even for pharmaceutical preparations. A good number of lime kilns and some cement factories have come up in the region due to the abundant availability of high quality limestone. It is inferred that the total reserves of limestone in the region is of the order of 900 million tonnes. However, the region is yet to fully exploit its mineral resource potential and develop the secondary sector of the economy to the optimal level that is achievable.

5. Topography of the region :

Topographically, the region falls into three main divisions – (1) the young fold mountainous chain in the north bordering China known as the Eastern Himalayas which turns southward at the north eastern most corner of Arunachal Pradesh and extends towards the southernmost tip of Mizoram where they are known as the Patkai-Naga Hills and Lushai Hills, (2) the Brahmaputra basin, the Barak basin and the Imphal Valley, and (3) the Meghalaya plateau which extends into Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao (erstwhile Mikir and North Cachar Hills). While the first and the second physiographic divisions are of recent geological age, the eghalaya Plateau is said to be more than 600 million years old. It is considered to be an outcrop of the Deccan Plateau which is separated by the Rajmahal-Garo Hills gap or trough. Even then, the whole region is considered to be highly active seismically and, coupled with the frequent recurrence of floods, needs to be accorded top priority from the natural disaster management point of view. Environmental activists have; therefore, been highly critical of mega government projects especially in the hydro power sector and the implementation of many projects had been adversely affected. Such fears have to be effectively dispelled through adoption of advanced technology incorporating safety measures of the highest level so that the region does not remain perpetually underdeveloped.

6. Roads and Bridges :

In the NE Region, the total population of a little over 47 million covering an area of 2, 62, 00 sq.km and the total length of different types of road is 3,76,819 km. out of which the length of National Highway around 13,500 km (as per the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways data published in August 2012) and the average road density per 100 Sq Km of area is 143.72Km against the national average of 115.30 Km. The cost of maintenance of these roads is also much more than the national average due to the terrain, soil types, high rainfall, long duration of monsoon and shorter working season of maximum five months or so. The region is prone to landslides and earthquakes which further add to the cost of maintenance.

7. Airports and Air Connectivity :

Due to difficult and hilly terrain in almost two thirds of the NE Region and inadequacy of road and rail communication there is need for more airports and air services especially using small aircrafts carrying 30-40 passengers in the region. By using the existing airports at Guwahati, Silchar, Agartala, Imphal and Dimapur there also should be regular services to places like Dhubri, Bongaigaon, Siliguri, Gangtok, Tura, Tezpur, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Aizawl,Itanagar and Diphu etc. This will make it easier for people travelling from Dhubri to Imphal and from Aizawl to Dibrugarh. Of course, even for flying small commercial aircraft within the NE region proper traffic survey has to be done for different routes to ensure that the occupancy ratio is sufficient to make flying such aircrafts economically viable. To make the Act East Policy into a reality it is necessary the air services like the ones mentioned below are started for easy travel between the NE region and some of the South and South East Asian Countries :-

 Guwahati - Imphal – Yangon #//  Guwahati - Mandalay – Kumming # //  Guwahati - Yangon – Bangkok #//  Imphal - Mandalay – Bangkok #//  Guwahati - Shillong – Dhaka// #  Agartala – Dhaka #//  Kolkata - Guwahati – Kumming #// Agartala - Dimapur – Yangon #//  Silchar - Imphal – Mamdalay #// Kolkata –Dimapur—Bankok #//

8 . NEC Citizen Charter -an assurance of growth:

A : Vision

“To plan and support development projects in the North Eastern states, promote research and innovation and provide strategic policy vision for the Region.”

B : Mission

 Preparation of integrated and holistic regional perspective plans to achieve specific short-term and long-term objectives, by taking into account the aspirations, needs and sensitivities of the people of the region.  Identifying the strengths of the region and focusing on the opportunities for accelerating the pace of socio-economic development in the NER through participatory planning and implementation.  Synergizing and building convergence in the efforts of Central/State Governments/ other stakeholders for balanced development of the region.  Evolving a coordinated common approach for all agencies working for the development, public order and security in the region. Evolving and aiding in the formulation of innovative and appropriate policies and strategies suited for the region for its all round rapid development.

9. NER Data Bank : There is a DATA BANK with threefold objectives, first--to make the data available at a single source and on the internet , secondly, to encourage research on the North Eastern Region and thirdly, to classify and organise data uniformity in the region. NEDFI publishes a Databank journal useful for students , policy makers , and prospective entrepreneurs. ( Contact : Mob. 9854028233 ).

10. NEC Secretariat Library : The library was set up by the Regional Documentation and Information Centre ( RDIC ) in 1974. The RDIC was set up by the NEC. The library has a large collection of several titles , research reports , journals, NEC Publications , Computer facility , Magazines, other periodicals for the benefit of all library users. ( Contact : e.ID : [email protected] ) NEC Secretariat is situated at Shillong PIN : 793003.

11. Prime Minister Narenrendra Modi’s address to the N E C Plenary :

In his address to the NEC Plenary in May 2016, the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi said "You may like to consider developing the North Eastern Council as a state-of-the-art resource centre for the North Eastern states with the necessary resources, knowledge and skills. The resource centre may enable the states and the implementing agencies to properly plan and execute projects, promote research and innovations and provide strategic policy vision for the region. The North Eastern Council may look into developing a specialised domain expertise either by itself or through an agency model to assist states and central ministries in their development planning as also problem solving needs. This will enable the imbibing of good governance and best practices in the region". (Source : Portion of para no. 1 to 11 is drawn ditto from the NEC Govt. of India publications ).





 

The proportion of the population of the States in the North East Region is as following:



(Source : Ministry of Development of North East Region. Annual Report 2017-18, Govt of India) It has to be noted that Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland are the three state where the population of the Scheduled Tribes is more than 85 percent. In Arunachal Pradesh 68 per cent of the population are S.T. Sikkim and Tripura are the two State where the S.T. population is much lower in proportion i.e. less than 33 per cent. It is interesting to note that the Scheduled Caste population too is on a small scale .Tripura is the State where the S.C. population is close to 13 per cent. Whereas in Assam it is hardly around 7 percent whereas in other States it is negligible , in Nagaland it is 0 %, Mizoram 0.11%,Meghalaya 0.58% , Manipur it is around 3%.

The N E R is also characterised by sporadic population. i.e. in small percentage. The population of Assam constitutes 68 percent of the NER total, next higher is Tripura with 8% to the NER total.



(Source : Ministry of Development of North East Region. Annual Report 2017-18, Govt of India)

The N E R is a hilly track and the terrain is not very conducive to industrialisation. The uneven terrain, rough and unpredictable weather with higher rainfall , these are the factors against any investment in terms of finance or material. Table 4 indicates the preferential treatment accorded by the States for business and industry.



(Source : Ministry of Development of North East Region. Annual Report 2017-18, Govt of India)

It is interesting to note that the people in this mountainous region , most of the people seem to have civic sense when it is found that the use of toilets is almost a matter of every household. Table 5 indicates that Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya are the two States where every household i.e. 100% is equipped with the provision of toilet. Except Tripura ,the other four States , the provision of toilets is higher than 81% , whereas in Tripura it is around 74%. However , it is not known whether this civic sense is age old in the region or it was the effect of the Swacch Bharat mission. Whatever be the reason ,the fact is that these people have a better sense of civil life.



(Source : Ministry of Development of North East Region. Annual Report 2017-18, Govt of India)

The people in the region seem to have another aspect of social life with reference to their awareness of health care. It is important to note that most of the people in the region were conscious with regard to health care, where despite staying in the adverse conditions , which are not favourable to the health care , these citizens did morally a convincing job by taking care of the children. It is found that the child-immunisation programme had been a big success. Table 6 explains the theme more precisely.



(Source : Ministry of Development of North East Region. Annual Report 2017-18, Govt of India)

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The North East Council was enacted to prepare plans of economic development of the region, essentially as collective efforts , as it was not possible for individual State to undertake the task. The reason was obvious , the States were small in terms of population and resources. Therefore whatever was to be done was required to be done in a collective manner. Table 7 indicates the expenditure made in different sectors in the region during 2017-18.



(Source: Ministry of Development of North East Region. Annual Report 2017-18, Govt of India)

It has to be noted that the four sectors which found a priority deal were Agriculture, Power , Transport and communication and Human Resources Development and Employment. The other areas where expenditure was made were Irrigation, Flood control , Water management ,, Industries, Tourism , Medical and Health , Science and Technology , Information and Public Relations , and Evaluation and Monitoring.



 

Note. (a) Some of the projects mentioned above were started during the earlier regime, remained incomplete without much progress; Modi government acceleratedits implementation and completed these projects. (b) The completed projects were in the field of Agricultural and allied activities, Education, sports, industries, science and technology, tourism, transport and communication, power, IFC & WSM, information and public relations, medical and health etc.

(Source: Ministry of Development of North East Region. Annual Report 2017-18, Govt of India)

Table 8 indicates the number of projects completed in the region State wise figures. Nagaland , Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram are three States where 13 plus , projects were completed by the end of the year 2017. In Assam ,the number of projects completed was 11 , in Meghalaya it was 10 , in Tripura it was 8 , in Sikkim it was 5 and in Manipur it was 3. The total cost of the projects completed in the three States in the region viz., Arunachal Pradesh , Mizoram and Nagaland was to the tune of Rs.28923.44 lakhs. The total cost of all the 78 projects completed in the region was to the tune of Rs.47666.25 lakhs.

Table 9 indicates the Report on the performance appraisal of the “Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana” ( PMMY ) . Assam , Meghalaya , Sikkim and Tripura were the four States in the region where the total number of 35,95,684 accounts accounted for a total amount of Rs.2,52,344.35 lakhs which was sanctioned in these four States. The amount that was actually disbursed was Rs. 14241.88 lakhs in these four States in the region. The other details of the Mudra Yojana could found in the following Table 9. The performance was for the period between 2015 and 2018 .




 

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( Source : Annual Report 2017-18 )

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Table 10 indicates the Report on the performance and appraisal of the scheme of opening of the accounts in the rural and urban branches as well as the RuPay debit cards issued to the beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana . The table will explain the details in that behalf.




 

Source : Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana ( PMJDY ) website.

It is interesting to note that the scheme seems to have been very popular as there appeared a an overwhelming response to the scheme in almost all the States in the region. It can be seen that there were a total of 1,55,35,006 beneficiaries whose accounts accounted for a saving of Rs. 4172.39 crores . A step towards digitalisation was the issuance of a total number of 1,20,95,540 RuPay debit cards which were distributed.

NITI Aayog and the North Eastern Region :

Emphasising the important role the NITI Aayog is expected to perform , the NITI Aayog clarified that , “ it would act as a "facilitator and catalyst" for the north eastern states in implementing the Centre's Act East Policy. We will provide full support in providing advocacy to the north eastern states in the implementation of the policy and the Aayog's role will be primarily to act as a facilitator and catalyst,".

Prime Minister’s vision and mission of North Eastern Region :

It is important to refer to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s insistence on prioritising the focus on the development of the North East Region aiming at the integration of the North Eastern Region with the main stream of the Indian ethos.

“The northeast is at the heart of India’s Act East Policy for connecting with Southeast Asia and build trade and people-to-people ties with the Asean bloc.

“The tagline of the meet “Advantage Assam: India’s expressway to ASEAN” was very appropriate and not just a statement but it is a “comprehensive vision”.

“We created the Act East Policy and the northeast is at the heart of it. The Act East Policy requires increased people to people contact, trade ties and other relations with countries on India’s east, particularly Asean countries.”

“Our vision is development of the eastern part of India, as the country’s fast pace of development will only be effective when the people living in the northeast develop.”

“Roads and railways are being constructed at a faster pace in the northeast and electricity is being generated at a similar pace.”

My vision for North-East region is ‘transformation by transportation’.

“I can see the picture of ‘Ek Bharat Shreshth Bharat’ in front of my eyes here in Tuensang and I will tell you that my vision for the North-East region is transformation by transportation. Connectivity is a huge challenge in Nagaland and we are working relentlessly towards eliminating it ”.

“ In less than four years, the Centre has added 500 km of National Highways (NH). “We have also planned to invest more than Rs 10,000 crore in the roads of Nagaland. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is giving special priority to the North-East. We are making efforts to further prosperity in this region”.

“India is well known for its diversity, but its unity is witnessed once you put your foot down in Nagaland. “You people have given a fitting reply to those who play vote bank politics and divide the society by coming to this rally in large numbers”.

“ Talented people of Nagaland, be it in the field of sports, art, culture or music, have always enhanced the value of the nation. There is a need for a strong and stable government in Nagaland which will work for the development of the state. We would ensure that the funds released for your state reaches you. With the help of technology, we will plug the loopholes which are causing wastage of public money. Our government respects every single voice that speaks for the betterment of Nagaland. We have always kept the door open for dialogue.The Centre has brought the ‘Saubhagya Yojana’, which will provide electricity to all homes in Nagaland.” “Till date, more than 10 lakh LED bulbs have been distributed in Nagaland, reducing consumption of power. Also, our government will spend around Rs 1,800 crore to transform Kohima into a ‘smart city’. We have approved the construction of 8,500 houses in Nagaland. For this and for the completion of old schemes for houses, we have decided to provide Rs 160 crore to Nagaland. Under National Health Mission, the state has been provided Rs 400 crore”.

Look North East India policy frame :

Prime Minister Modi is very keen on uniting the NE psyche with the rest of the country’s psyche. It is a powerful step towards the national integration. Indian culture is well known for its high level competence of assimilating anything into the Indian ethos. Shri Golwalkar Guruji’s warning is heard after 70 years and now taken care of. Anyway, the North Eastern Indian Region was never alien to the mainstream of the Indian undercurrent, the Mahabharata period is the citation in this regard. We cannot ignore that once upon a time the Assam imperial dynastic power extended up to the north eastern Bihar region as well as to the south east up to Burma. Narendra Modi is reminding the forgotten memories of the citizens of India there, and invoking their assembly with the rest of India reiterating his mantra “Nation first”.