POTENTIAL OF NORTH EAST
JAY NAYAK (Coordinator)
A Glimpse of North-East India
NEI which comprises of seven states of Indian Union
namely Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya,
Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura is a region with special
features like landlessness, poor expansion of economic
opportunities, immigration, ethnic turmoil, insurgency, etc.
The region has a population of 38,857,769 (as per 2011
census) comprising of 3.8 percent of India’s population
and geographically covers 8.05 percent of the country’s
total geographical area.
Projected population/sq.km of the 7 states is
shown in the table.
The North-Eastern India is the land of rising sun in the sub-
continent. Assam and other seven sisters including Sikkim consist
the whole landmass of the North-Eastern India. The green belt of
India, so called land of forest and tribals, the entire north-east
region is rich in its natural resources-oil, natural gas, minerals and
most importantly valuable forests. The worlds largest river Island
'Majuli' is situated in the heart of the river Brahmaputra. The
Kaziranga National Park in the Jorhat district of Assam is the home
for the world famous one-homed rhinoceros. The place of highest
rainfall in the world “Cherapoonji” is situated in Meghalaya.
Assam produces the largest share of tea that's nearly 53% of the all
India production. Besides Assam; Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh &
Tripura also contributing to the tea production, though output from
these states is yet to gain momentum.
Transportation Problems in hilly areas: The North East’s hilly terrain is
usually considered as a major impediment to boost transport
connectivity. Improvement of roads and transport continue to be the
thrust areas during successive five year plans. A good communication
network is the prerequisite for development of hill areas.
Insurgency: National security and local insurgency prevent investment
and trade. Paradoxically security concerns also arise due to absence of
Environmental Problems: Though the North-East is an industrially
backward region, the existing industries, deforestation and flood are
causing serious problem to the environment in the region.
Power Crisis: The peak hours demand of power in the northeast region
is around 2,300 MW. But less than a quarter has been developed. The
power crisis has affected irrigation and drinking water supply.
Poor Industrial Growth: Geographical remoteness, non-
availability of well connected road network, poor purchasing
power, lack of resources and skills are some of the major
impediments in the industrial growth of the hill areas. There is
also dearth of institutional credit. Hill areas have rich sources of
minerals but their potential has not been properly tapped.
Literacy: The region’s average literacy rate stands at 79.64% vs.
the national average of 74.04% according to the 2011 census.
Which results in non-awareness in people to take the advantage
of the resources available to them.
In today’s scenario, the rate of school dropouts is increasing
significantly which can be observed in the table for the region.
State Promotion Rate Dropout Rate
Boys Girls Total Boys Girls Total
68.6 68.6 68.6 30.4 30.3 30.4
Assam 70.1 69.5 69.8 30.6 31.7 31.1
Manipur 84.5 84.0 84.3 15.6 15.2 15.9
67.7 68.3 68.0 30.6 30.9 30.8
Mizoram 77.2 77.2 77.2 23.9 23.6 23.8
78.4 76.5 77.5 21.4 22.9 21.9
Tripura 66.0 66.2 66.1 32.0 32.1 32.1
India 74.8 74.3 74.6 25.6 26.0 25.8
Indicators of Efficiency:
Conflicts in Northeast India: Issues,
Insurgency in India’s Northeast has been very much a product, if not
an outgrowth of the historical, economic and political circumstances
of society in the region.
The Institute of Conflict Management estimates that 5283 people
have been killed due to insurgency related events in the North-East
For instance, the Naga insurgence, which started in the 1950s,
known as the mother of the Northeast insurgencies, is one of the
oldest unresolved armed conflicts in the world. In total, Manipur,
Assam, Nagaland and Tripura have witnessed scales of conflict that
could, at least between 1990 and 2000.
The reasons for the respective conflicts are wide
ranging from separatist movements, to inter-
community, communal and inter-ethnic conflicts.
Issues Of Governance
The Indian government’s past and ongoing processes of national
integration, state-building and democratic consolidation have
further aggravated the conflict scenario in the region. For instance,
the eight states comprising the Northeast is populated by nearly 40
million inhabitants who vary in language, race, tribe, caste,
religion, and regional heritage. Therefore, most often, the clubbing
of all these states under the tag of ‘northeast’ has tended to have a
homogenizing effect with its own set of implications for policy
formulation and implementation; not to mention local aversion to
such a construct.
The AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act) for instance, shows
the inability and reluctance of the government to solve the conflict
with adequate political measures. instead of resolving the problem,
it led to an ongoing escalation of the conflict by bringing it on a
The Government of India has tried many things in order to resolve
issues in the Northeast in terms of the conflict there. It has tried
throwing the army in the security forces and heavily armed the
police giving them special training in counter insurgency to deal
with the insurgents but all this hasn’t worked. And the reason is
that you cannot deal with a political issue or problem by using
brute force, you have at some point come to a discussion or
negotiation that enables the resolution of the problem.
The government has also faced criticism in the way in which it has
been looking at the Northeast as an issue of territorial security
rather than development per say. The fear of a growing Chinese
influence, as well as, increasing cross-border terrorism (Myanmar,
Bangladesh) in the region are some of the factors cited as reasons
for limiting India in its attempt to open the region.
Seeking Solution for Conflicts
While we can understand the need to protect, the military in
times of operation cannot be above the law because we
ultimately work within a democratic framework. You have to,
at some point come to a discussion or negotiation that
enables the resolution of the problem. So, if the Naga issue or
the ULFA problem or any other concerns which have been
troubling the North-east for a very long time has to be solved
then there has to be some give and take, some opportunities
created for discussion and negotiation.
To deal with the issues of political alienation and conflict in
India's North-east, what we need is inclusive growth through
inclusive development, with focus on improved governance.
We need to do away with the draconian laws; and ensure that
communities are empowered to implement basic needs and
Possible solutions for transportation
The mountain ranges and hill areas of this region have a crucial role to play in
determining the climate and physiography of the country and are important
determinants of socio-economic development of plain areas as the rivers have
their genesis here and the protection and climatic control they provide have
enabled India to sustain its position as an economic power. Keeping in view
the increasing population pressure in the hill areas and the need to preserve
their fragile ecology, the Central Government has been allocating Special
Central Assistance to these areas through the Hill Areas Development
Programme/Western Ghats Development Programme which have been in
operation from the Fifth Five Year Plan in designated hill areas.
Improvement of roads and transport continue to be the thrust areas during
successive five year plans. A good communication network is the prerequisite
for development of hill areas. Special attention has been given to road
connectivity to rural and remote areas, which are not yet connected to the main
roads. There are 3600 kms. length of roads in Karbi Anglong. Similarly in
N.C. Hills, this figure is 1011 kms. Priority is being accorded to connect
additional villages by roads and building of RCC bridges during Tenth Plan
Solutions to improve literacy,
The literacy levels of the hill districts are low compared to the
rest of the state. The educational programme should be oriented
to provide free and compulsory education to all children up to
14 years of age and emphasis should be given to the schemes
like free textbooks, midday meal, free uniform to motivate
Out of the total area of 15222 Sq. Km. about 2711 Sq. Km. is
under state reserve forest and 2491 Sq. Km. is under council
reserve forest. The plan programme of Forest Department
should be oriented on increase of plantation and regeneration,
strengthening of protection forces, mobilization of forest
produce, creation of Ecological Park and Botanical Gardens.
Strategies will have to be aimed at setting up large mining and
agro based industry around available mineral and natural
resources and link support of small industrial units through
industrial loans, supply of improved tools, and other such
Steps to achieve inclusive growth of
It has to start by bringing accountability at the local level and by
ensuring that there is inclusive growth through inclusive
development. It means communities, village groups, all the
organisations and institutions - both traditional and constitutional -
at the local level are empowered to ensure basic needs.
North-east needs to grow at 8-12% over the next few years to
match up to the rest of India.
Communities must be better organised and build over the social
capital that is such a niche of the North-east. The whole issue of
social capital has been to a degree enabled in Nagaland through the
communitization programme where local communities are enabled
to handle issues such as power, tourism, education; they pay the
salaries etc. Basically if the Panchayati Raj effectively implements
this kind of approach, then there will be an improvement in the
Financial resource requirement
(Help and Funding)
To achieve the said targets, financial support is
also the essential part.
Improving the growth of the region may require
funding as it is consisting of some expensive
For improving the road and transport facilities in
the rural areas, considerable amount of financial
help is needed to accomplish the work.
There are some financial supporters namely,
IMF(International Monetary Fund),
IFC(International Finance Corporation), World
Bank which can provide such supports.
The other resource for it may be donation by the
public and private sectors so that it may fulfill
financial requirement for the implementation.
Innovation, Initiative, Ideas, and Implementation - the four I’s also
need to go together in the North-east if things have to change. You
can make a big picture, you can try and do big things but in the
final analysis, it’s what you do at the local level and how well you
do it, that’s going to make a difference.
Another solution here is the whole connectivity to Southeast Asia,
to the neighbouring countries - Bangladesh, Myanmar and so on.
The whole great quadrangle that is coming up is a very important
part of this whole process of connectivity and growth. That will
take time but it has to happen because North-east cannot keep
depending on Delhi to bail it out. It has to depend upon its own
resources - in terms of its advantages, resources and the
connectivity deals with the neighbours who are its natural trading