AIR Discussions (December 3rd Week)
GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES AND SCHEMES FOR THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF NORTH EAST
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Regional disparities especially in socio-economic development are a ubiquitous phenomenon across India. India’s North Eastern Region (NER) comprising the states of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura is not yet well developed. The eight states are connected through land to the rest of the country by a narrow 26 km wide “chicken neck” or “Siliguri corridor” running on the top of Bengal, squeezed between Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Sharp differences exist in the status of socioeconomic development of NER.
Socio-Economic scenario in North-East region of India
Disparities whether inter-regional or intra-regional are partly due to resource endowments and partly due to policy frameworks and execution. NER though blessed with abundant natural resources for industrial and social development but have not been utilized to its full potential.
The region is also a vantage entry point for the South East-Asian markets. The resource rich North East with its expanses of fertile farmland and huge talent pool could turn into one of India’s most prosperous regions. But due to poor infrastructure and connectivity, unemployment, and low economic development, law and order problems market-based solutions may not work here.
If we throw light on the HDI estimates across the state it becomes more evident. Among the low ranked states of our country, the cluster of states in North East India (NEI) is the main considering issue. The socio-economic status of the seven states of NE India is as diverse and as heterogeneous as the varieties of tribes found in this region. The region stands way below in comparison with rest of India in socioeconomic indicators.
The demographic profile of the region is characterized by high birth rate, high level of population growth induced by migration and the young age structure of the population composition. The other less typical demographic characters are low level of urbanization, the prevalence of agricultural occupations and the plurality of languages and vernaculars.
Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI)
Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) value is highest in Assam but, inequality among the MPI Poor is high in Meghalaya. In 2011- 12, BPL population was highest in Manipur (46.7 %) followed by Assam (40.9 %) and Arunachal Pradesh (37.4 %) exceeding the all-India level (29.5).
Inequality is high in growth rate of population (%) (among demographic indicators), Sanitation Facilities (among the indicators of economic conditions), Rail Density (among indicators of infrastructure), Average Years of Education, Per Capita Monthly Expenditure (Rs) and Population Below Poverty Line.
Analysis of access to basic amenities, namely, drinking water, toilet facility and electricity reveals the existence of wide state-level variations. Inequality in access to electricity is highest in urban sector as compared to the rural sector among the three basic services.
Among the states of NER, the maximum average deprivation in the basic facilities is located in Meghalaya and the most Socio-Economic deprived state is Nagaland.
Sanitation Facilities are high in Mizoram (91.91) followed by Manipur (89.30); but, lowest in Arunachal Pradesh (61.97). Similarly, Sources of Drinking Water in rural (Tap and Tube well) records highest in Arunachal Pradesh (91.0) followed by Assam (71.7) and Tripura (71.1), but lowest in Mizoram (19.4).
The basic services are unequally distributed, particularly in the rural sector as compared to urban areas.
As per 2011 census, Sex ratio is highest in Manipur (992) followed by Meghalaya (989) and Mizoram (976). Percentage of population live in rural area is highest in Assam (85.92) and lowest in Mizoram (48.49).
Infant Mortality rate (Total) recorded highest in Assam (54) followed by Meghalaya (47) and Mizoram (35). It is lowest in Manipur (10).
Mizoram is the state with highest literacy rate (91.33). Literacy rate of all north eastern states overcomes the all India level (74.04) except Arunachal Pradesh (65.38) and Assam (72.19).
In a nutshell, there is a wide disparity in different levels of Demography, Health, Economic conditions, Infrastructures, Education, and Standard of living in NE India.
In the entire NER, the most Socio-Economic deprived state is Nagaland. Thus, it is recommended for a consistent and balanced development approach across the eight states.
‘Human development’ (that is, well-being of people as an ends of development) should be focused in place of ‘human resource development’ (where human beings merely are considered as a means to a greater output and treats people as "human capital“). Initiatives should be taken to expand capabilities (opportunity freedoms) and to support people’s agencies (process freedom) among weaker sections of backward regions. Government should focus on economic infrastructure (transport, communication and energy), social infrastructure (education, health, housing, water supply, sanitation), and diversification of agriculture, such as diversification of crops (shifting from single cropping system to multiple cropping) and diversification of productive activity (divert resources from farm to non-farming activities like livestock, fisheries etc.)
GOI has launched many schemes and initiatives for the betterment and development of the North-Eastern region of India.
Some of the Major Government Initiatives and Schemes for the North-eastern region of India:
The Government of India has formed a special ministry that looks after the development work in the Northeast region of India. It is referred to as the Ministry of Development of the North-Eastern Region (DoNER). It is responsible for carrying out all kinds of planning, execution, and monitoring of government schemes. The DoNER works with a vision of elevating the socio-economic development in the North-Eastern region so that, the national citizen living there can also enjoy the same facilities as the rest of the country enjoys.
The Ministry of Development of the North-Eastern Region (DoNER) has launched many different schemes for the development of the North-Eastern region.
North-East Venture Fund (NEVF)
The Ministry of Development of the North-Eastern Region (DoNER) along with the North-Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd. (NEDFi) has set up North-East Venture Fund (NEVF). The main aim of collecting this fund is to use it in certain development projects in the North-East. The collected fund is to be invested in different sectors by a committee of experts including bankers, financial advisors, and investors. A lot of investment is being done in start-ups in various sectors from health, technology, tourism, media, etc.
North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESIDS):
North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESIDS), is a 100% centrally funded scheme launched in December 2017. The scheme is to be implemented by the Ministry of Development of the North-Eastern Region (DoNER). A fund of Rs 1600 crore has been allotted by the Central Government of India for the development of the power, water supply, tourism, health, education, and improving the infrastructure of all the 8 North-Eastern states of India.
Science & Technology Interventions in the North East Region (STINER)
The main objective of Science & Technology Interventions in the North East Region (STINER) is to bring in the latest and advanced technologies to the North-Eastern region to help the women farmers and other artisans living there. National research institutes and technological institutions such as IITs are assigned to develop new technology for the people living in the North-Eastern region which can help them in agriculture.
The Government has sanctioned funds to disseminate some identified technologies developed by IITs such as Feed block machine; Eri-Cocoon opener; Hank to bobbin winding machine; Chaff Cutter; Dryer; Potter’s wheel; Puffed Rice making machine and Fish cage structure.
North East Road Sector Development Scheme (NERSDS) and Schemes of North Eastern Council (NEC)
The North Eastern Council or the NEC acts as a nodal officer for monitoring all economic development works going on in the 8 North-Eastern states of India. And under the NEC the GOI announced funds for the North East Road Sector Development Scheme (NERSDS). The scheme was launched to improve the road infrastructure in the North-Eastern states.
Digital North East Vision 2022 released
Union Minister for Electronics & IT, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad released the ‘Digital North East Vision 2022’ in Guwahati on 11th August. The Vision Document emphasizes leveraging digital technologies to transform lives of people of the north east and enhance the ease of living.
The Vision Document identifies eight digital thrust areas – Digital Infrastructure, Digital services, Digital empowerment, Promotion of Electronics Manufacturing, Promotion of IT and ITes including BPOs, Digital Payments, Innovation & Startups and Cyber security.
India’s first National Sports University
The Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of the National Sports University, 1,000 Anganwadi Centres and several other important development projects.
National Bamboo Mission
Union Finance Ministry announced the “National Bamboo Mission” as a continuation of commitment to the development of the region.
Sikkim arrived on India’s air link map
This is the first airport in the Himalayan State, and the 100th airport in the country. In order to ensure that Pakyong Airport is affordable to the common man, this airport is part of the UDAN scheme.
PM-DevINE was announced in the Union Budget 2022-23, to address development gaps in the North Eastern Region (NER).
It is a Central Sector Scheme with 100% central funding and implementation by the Ministry of Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER). It will be implemented through North Eastern Council or Central Ministries/ agencies.
The Scheme will have an outlay of Rs.6, 600 crore for the four years from 2022-23 to 2025-26.
It will create infrastructure, support industries, social development projects and create livelihood activities for youth and women, thus leading to employment generation and socio-economic development in the North-East region.
Developing the region also falls in line with the country’s ‘Act East Policy’, a rejig of the ‘Look East Policy’ aimed at better connectivity and cooperation between South Asian nations. In recent years, there has been a push to develop the entire NER as a gateway for South East Asia to the northeast. Last year, India called for the speeding up of regional connectivity projects with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including the trilateral highway with Myanmar and Thailand and the Kaladan transit transport project. The highway will connect Manipur to Thailand via road.
The government is also developing the NW-1 on the Ganges, NW-2 on Brahmaputra and NW-16 on Barak and a multimodal hub on the Brahmaputra in Guwahati, which includes a ship repairing port at Pandu, four tourist jetties as well as 11 floating terminals.
The Eastern Waterways Connectivity Transport Grid project, which is currently underway, is projected to offer seamless connectivity not only between the Northeast and rest of the country but also in the sub-continent, upon completion, offering nearly 5,000 kilometres of navigable waterways to and from the region.
In 2020, the World Bank-funded Meghalaya Integrated Transport Project was initiated to “improve and modernize the transport sector and help Meghalaya to harness its vast growth potential for high-value agriculture and tourism”.
In 2021, Sikkim Governor Ganga Prasad unveiled a road linking Tsomgo lake and Nathula border pass with Gangtok.
Nagaland got its second railway station after a gap of more than 100 years with the commissioning of new terminal at Shokhuvi. The Donyi Polo Express was extended up to Shokhuvi Railway station, connecting Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh via Guwahati, Assam. The train will reduce the dependence on road transportation to reach Nagaland.
Work is also underway on a new broad gauge railway line project connecting Dimapur to Kohima. Manipur got freight train connectivity for the first time in 75 years.
North-East is at the heart of the Union Government’s Act East Policy.
The Act East Policy envisions increased people to people contact, trade ties and other relations with ASEAN countries. The schemes of the Government are oriented towards bringing about a qualitative change in the lives of the people.
Contribution of the North Eastern Region to the Economic Development of India:
Despite its extreme geographical location, the North-Eastern states of India contribute significantly to the economic development of India.
- The North-Eastern States of India have around 3% contribution to the total GDP of India
- Tourism:The main source of revenue for the North-Eastern states is its tourism sector, every year numerous tourists across the world visit North-East India to explore the scenic beauty and experience one of the richest cultures in the world. Before COVID-19, in 2016-17 more than 77 lakh domestic and 1.6 lakh foreign tourists visited the Northeast region of India.
- Tea Production:Tea plantation is one of the major sources of income for the North-eastern states, only Assam satisfies more than 50% need of the total tea consumption of the nation. And yearly India exports more than 190 million Kg of tea globally.
- Natural Resources:The North-east region of India has a decent reserve of natural resources like oil, natural gas, and other forest reserves thus significantly contributing to power generation. Almost one-third of India’s hydropower is generated by the northeast sector of India.
Strengths of the region
1) Education: Education and literacy rate of the region higher than national average of 74%. In 2013, Tripura has become the most literate state with literacy rate of 94.65 percent (Kerala 93.91)
2) Sports: Some of the finest sports persons hail from the region like Mary Kom and Bhaichung Bhutia.
3) Natural Resources: The region is blessed with the richest natural resources in the country.
4) Culture and Heritage: The region has given us finest & the most unique forms of dance, art, handicraft, martial art and culture.
Key sectors in India’s northeastern states with huge potential
State and economic facts
1) Unemployment: Despite of higher education and literacy rate, the staggering unemployment rate is worrisome. For instance: Nagaland has 27% and Tripura has 15% unemployment rate in 2013.
2) Poor Infrastructure: Development of infrastructure ranks below the national average.
3) China: Defence interest of China. China has repeatedly shown parts of the region as disputed territory, resulting in constant tension in the region.
4) Insurgency: Separatist movements like ULFA, AVNC, NSCN, KYKL, PLAM keeps the life on the edge in the eight states.
Key Focus Areas
No doubt the region needs substantial focus. The region has suffered repeatedly due to negligence and lack-of-focus.
The government has to divide its priorities – near-term (within next five years) and long-term (between fifteen to twenty years). The key focus areas for the government in the ‘near-term’ should be health, education, infrastructure and implementation (I would name ministers in the government to address these concerns).
Due to the rough terrain and underdeveloped infrastructure, it won’t be easy for the minister to implement the health programs. The region needs thousands of hospitals, nurses, doctors and health workers. In the near-term, it would be challenging to train these thousands of medicos to service the region. The minister should find new mechanisms like eHealth and dedicated Remote Diagnosis Centres (RDCs) to spread health programs in the region.
The region needs a special provision in the new education Policy to promote technical and entrepreneurial education. The students from the region should be encouraged to start their own ventures after college/university education. The minister could invite leading industrialists to setup the vocational/technical universities (like applied sciences universities in Germany). These ‘corporate-sponsored institutions would train students in necessary technical skills and assist them in setting up new businesses. Each new entrepreneurial venture will provide jobs to the youth and reverse the brain drain from the region.
Infrastructure development for the country is the major agenda for the government. The railways, power, surface transport, civil aviation and urban/rural development ministries have to develop collective master plan for the region. The first step should be to create seamless connectivity between the eight state capitals. The ‘connected’ capitals can share resources among themselves to reduce dependency on bigger cities. The second step should be to overhaul the infrastructure of the region by 2025. If the government can ‘connect’ state capitals, it would be a sizeable achievement during the current term of the government. The PMO along with DoNER should mandate ministries to start working on the plan.
Coordination and Implementation
The DoNER minister should cultivate ‘brand’ north east to woo investment and tourism from India & abroad. The mantra of self-sustainability shall be imbibed in the region for uniform growth and development. Integrating northeast with rest of India is our collective responsibility towards our country and we should fulfil it well.
India’s most immediate neighbors, Bangladesh and Myanmar, have played key roles in expanding and developing trade with the North-Eastern states. However, the region is geographically cut off from the rest of the country and is thus plagued with logistical problems—these hamper trade with the neighboring countries. To a large extent, these problems can be resolved by utilizing the opportunities made available by India’s participation in some of the key subregional economic forums, such as BIMSTEC and ASEAN, and by exploiting the social, physical, human, and natural capital of the region.
Collaboration with foreign investors, such as Japan, can also help boost economic growth in the region. With Bangladesh emerging as one of India’s most important trade partners, Tripura’s role in improving foreign relations cannot be ignored, especially since the state has made strides in the economic front by developing SEZs and constructing essential infrastructure. Finally, policymakers ought to ensure that economic development does not come at the expense of the environment or the social and cultural fabric of the region. It is imperative to ascertain the consent of the people of the region and implement policies that consider their needs and welfare.
At a time when the world economies are struggling to overcome the pandemic-induced global recession, India should tackle the supply-chain disruptions and contain China’s belligerent expansion in the region.
The strategic location of India’s North Eastern Region (NER) offers ample opportunities for enhancing the country’s economic ties. However, supply-chain constraints at the regional level hamper the trade-growth linkages, as do trade barriers, social unrest, and inadequate infrastructure. Enhancing and improving commercial exchanges with neighbouring countries, such as Bangladesh and Myanmar, will strengthen bilateral and regional networks. This is turn will lead to socio-economic development of the region.
The NER can emerge as a catalyst in shaping India’s foreign policy vis-à-vis its immediate Southeast Asian neighbours. This will, however, require addressing the social, political and security challenges concomitant with the NER’s unique geostrategic identity.
Digital Health Incentive Scheme
- The National Health Authority, NHA has announced a Digital Health Incentive Scheme, DHIS for the stakeholders of the digital health ecosystem.
- The scheme aims to give a further boost to digital health transactions in the country under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM).
- The incentives under this scheme would be provided to hospitals and diagnostic labs and also to the providers of digital health solutions such as Hospital/ Health Management Information Systems and Laboratory Management Information Systems.
- Under the DHIS, the eligible health facilities and digital solutions companies shall be able to earn financial incentives of up to Four crore rupees based on the number of digital health records they create and link to Ayushman Bharat Health Account, ABHA.
- This incentive can be availed by the hospitals and diagnostic labs registered with Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission's Health Facility Registry and fulfilling the eligibility criterion specified under the scheme.
- This scheme will encourage more and more healthcare facilities and digital software companies to come forward and join Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission for providing patient-centric healthcare.
'Dance to Decarbonise'
- The Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry is organizing a day-long one of its kind musical event Dance to Decarbonise at National Stadium in New Delhi.
- The Ministry has informed that the renewable energy generated through dance will be used to charge electric vehicles.
- The event aims at showcasing India’s target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2070 weighing against the country's growing economy, rising energy requirements, and the implementation of responsible energy sources over transformational energy systems for the future.
Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX)
- Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX), has reached a milestone with the signing of its 150th contract in New Delhi on December 21, 2022.
- The iDEX initiative was launched in April 2018. iDEX aims to achieve self - reliance and foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging Industries including MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes and academia.
- iDEX has partnered with leading incubators in the country to provide handholding, technical support and guidance to the winners of iDEX challenges.
- Defence India Start-up Challenge (DISC) are launched with Problem Statements (PS) from Armed Forces and OFB/DPSUs for resolution by innovators.