The citizens from North Eastern Region (NER) have always felt the alienation from the so-called Mainland India, be it in terms of developmental works or media coverage in national channels and print. The inter-state boundary disputes and conflicts amongst the states have fragmented the region, but during the 67th plenary of the North Eastern Council (NEC), in one voice- Governors and Chief Ministers of the northeastern states have expressed their disapproval of the Central government’s decision to put on hold new schemes funded through NEC.
It may be reminded that Union Finance Ministry, through its Expenditure Finance Committee had last year decided to stop projects under Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources, following which the Union Cabinet gave its approval on March 28 this year to introduce a new scheme called “Northeast Special Infrastructure Development Schemes” in its place.
Under the new scheme, the Centre, through the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), has assured to fund 100 per cent for projects, not like the earlier funding pattern of 90:10 - 90 per cent by the Centre and 10 per cent by the respective states.
However, the NEC members aren’t happy with NESID as the Centre would earmark only around Rs 1,600 crore, whereas for projects sanctioned under NLCPR on 90:10 funding, the total amount would come to almost Rs 40,000 crore.
All Governors and Chief Ministers have expressed their concern as to why last year’s sanctions for projects were stopped or kept in abeyance. The plenary meeting is considered to be the highest decision making authority, chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who is also the ex-officio Chairman of NEC was attended by Governors and Chief Ministers of the northeastern states besides Union Development of North Eastern Region minister Jitendra Singh.
Chief Ministers Lal Thanhawla (Mizoram), Neiphiu Rio (Nagaland), Conrad K. Sangma (Meghalaya), and Pema Khandu (Arunachal Pradesh) had appealed to Rajnath Singh to review the decision to put on hold developmental projects sanctioned by the NEC to meet the development needs of the region.
This is not the first time this has been seen as in May 2015 that the states from the region had opposed a central move. One of the most exceptional political moves headed by the Former Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar had managed to cut across political lines amongst the eight states ruled by Congress, Left and regional parties to speak in one voice by urging Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi to retain the ‘special category status’ for the mountainous states.
It may be mentioned that currently, the eight northeastern states besides Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand have the special category tag. In these states, the funding pattern for central schemes was in the 90:10 ratio where 90 percent of the total expenditure is borne by the Centre while ten percent is contributed by the state.
According to Sarkar through the draft submitted to the Prime Minister stated that Northeastern states of India deserve a special dispensation despite the region having abundant human and natural resources. The resources remain untapped because of the faulty policies of the central government. He urged for that special status to be retained to ensure that these states continue to avail financial help and assistance from the central government to help bring these backward states get at par with the other states of the country.
On the other hand, Union Minister of State in charge DoNER, Jitendra Singh said that the Naredra Modi led government is giving a special focus to the North East region. He stressed that this is one of the best times for NE because the Prime Minister himself is totally giving focus on North East and is taking a personal interest besides keeping himself informed of day to day activities of various developments such as ‘DoNER at your doorstep’ .
According to Singh, this is a unique scheme that has come about because there is a government which is working for 20 hours a day and trying to experiment with the ideas. He informed that every month for a period of 5 or 6 days up to one week, officials, the secretaries and even the minister will be visiting Meghalaya by rotation.
But here in the region, every individual is so addicted to the Special status and subsidy, with cherry topping in the form of Reservation for practically every scheme and project which had actually turned the citizens of the region into malfunctioning human resources. The work culture in all government offices, execution all projects including many NEC projects for infrastructural development, power projects, medical institutions and others are all progressing at a snail’s pace because of reservation and quota even in allotment of job work.
The region is so accustomed to the pattern of simply submitting Utility Certificates to every project that many of these projects exist only on paper and not at ground zero.
The masses meanwhile remained mere spectators, even knowing that their Rights are being violated because the same public has authorized the representative, through the democratic process of election.
The demand of retaining the special status for the region is probably still justified looking at the ground realities. However, this time the centre needs a better mechanism to oversee the utility of funds and collect the progress reports at timely intervals. This will surely force the state to improve the work culture.
Also the fields of education and medicine should not be covered under reservation and quota. One can see the durability of infrastructure executed via all reservation, the output of human resources both in education and medicine are the same. These are two important sectors which deals with human life and should be handled by meritorious candidates and not through quotas. Hence, the Prime Minister Office needs to take these sectors into account as the drafted resolution by the heads of states from North Eastern region that Special status to continue is being reviewed.
No matter the reason, all the Heads-of-States in the region have come under one platform and should try their best to continue to remain united in the Parliament to battle for the development and progress of the region.