For the development of the North Eastern region, economical progress is a must and Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Damodardas Modi had on various fora stressed on inclusive national development, which is impossible if the North Eastern region is being ignored. Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Minister, Jitendra Singh also reiterated that India cannot develop without developing the northeast, hence the centre stressed on the governments of the eight northeastern states to prepare themselves for the benefits of India’s bilateral trade with neighbouring countries, especially in regard to production of goods and services.
The fact that the region is much closer to the neighbouring countries initiated the move, which comes in the wake of the successful operation of border ‘haats’ (markets) along India’s border with Bangladesh. Now Myanmar is keen to set up a border ‘haat’ on its border with India and an official team from the neighbouring country visited Kasba market in Tripura to study its functioning, an Indian official said.
A five-member team led by Myanmar’s Ministry of Labour Affairs Director Soe Paing Myint and Indian officials visited on May 10, 2017 the Kasba border ‘haat’ in western Tripura on the India-Bangladesh border,” a Tripura Industries and Commerce Department official informed.
It may be recalled that DoNER Minister also informed that eight northeastern states namely Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim share 5,437 km of India’s international boundaries with China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Amidst the hopes of the introduction of a flight between Delhi and Dimapur in Nagaland, he has initiated efforts to connect Mizoram capital Aizawl with Delhi.
Regarding Rail connectivity, the ministry informed that the broad gauge connectivity to Agartala will be completed by March 2016 and the rail line to Imphal by March 2019, Work on the Dimapur-Zubza rail line will commence shortly while survey on the rail line to Shillong was also on.
Understanding the poor connectivity within the North eastern region, discussions were held on various developmental activities in the region by the ministries of railways, road transport and highways, civil aviation, power, tourism, human resource development, skill development and entrepreneurship.
The topics of discussion itself make it clear that it is easier said than done when it comes to the development of the region as the connectivity, infrastructure and human resources development is in total disarray. While in the past the communities here have been accusing the Centre for having a Step-motherly treatment of the region, more than that, the work culture and lack of skill development and entrepreneurship interest have forced every indigenous tribal to focus on government job, which is considered as the security for life without labouring hard. This has pushed the developmental projects backwards as compared to other states in the nation.
The phobia of influx has led to many north eastern states demanding the implementation of Inner Line Permit, and Meghalaya even opposed the entry of railhead into the state fearing the same. It is clear that the mindset of the communities from this region is not ready to handle the pressure of even inter-state trade while the centre is calling the shots for bilateral trade with neighbouring countries!
Sikkim, where both the government and the citizens understand the tourism concept of Atithi Devo Bhava where the guest is equivalent to God has become one of the tourist hotspots in the region, here is where both production of traditional goods and services were successful and in high demands. While the frequent breakdown of Law and Order in the rest of the states has paralyzed the development of the tourism sector there.
Meghalaya too is no better than the other states in the region where the service industry, tourism and transport sectors are in bad shape here. The only occupations here comprise the government contracts and supplies because of the absence of industries, followed by real estate. The state practically has high purchasing power where all essential commodities are being imported but for the three consecutive quarters of the fiscal year of the government’s financial year, including the March 31 ending of 2015, the state treasury is said to have no money for any ‘Non Plan’ expenses which has caused a financial crisis in the state.
All government payments are now being pushed to the next quarter, sometime in the month of June, completing a full fiscal year without any payment. This is the first time that Meghalaya is facing such a crisis, where many small time contractors, suppliers and government dependant traders, due to the financial crunch are threatening to end their life, akin to the suicide of farmers in other parts of the nation.
The state government had for the first time acknowledged that this year Meghalaya is facing a huge revenue shortfall due to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on coal mining in the state. The ban had reduced the state’s own revenue by around Rs 600 crore, hence the government is forced to recover the same by curtailing the Non-Plan expenses to meet the shortfall. Above that with the change of guard in New Delhi, the Congress ruled states are the first to feel the heat. Meghalaya, which had been pampered in the past by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, is now forced to generate its own revenue.
In the last four years, about 13. 50 crore of rupees was spent by different departments for festivals. The state government claimed it has increased the flow of tourists but according to the collection of Revenue tax via hotel occupancy, there was an increase in the hotel occupancy on the basis of luxury tax only during 2010-13, but after that there is a steep decrease during 2013 -14. In spite of this, the state government is not giving up in organizing various festivals across the state.
It is time for the North Eastern states to shift from promoting tourism alone, it is time to have proper infrastructure, set up more production and producing industries to be self- sufficient, at the same to generate own revenue, all it needs is to change the work culture and stop being dependent to the central funding alone. Maintenance of peace and harmony is also a must if tourism is the main focus and not just dance and songs. Any successful venture needs three key components - Goals, Planning and execution. If any part of this is missing, the whole venture ultimately falls flat on its face. It is in this backdrop that these festivals need a holistic approach rather than being organized just for the sake of organizing them. Once such basic requirements are put in places, then only will the region be ready for India’s bilateral trade with neighbouring countries, especially in regard to production of goods and services, otherwise it will be misleading the tourists and traders especially hailing from our neighbouring countries.