North East India:
Our Gateway to a
Team Vishnu (IIT Roorkee)
Flanked by hills and with mighty Brahmaputra slashing a central path between its north
and south, the North East is bounded by the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur,
Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.
North East Region (NER) is quite peculiar in nature due to its distinct topography, extreme
climatic conditions, inaccessibility and remoteness of the places, dense forest cover.
The region is witnessing a series of insurgencies and is alienated from the economic
resurgence that the rest of the country is facing. This is because the region, connected to
the rest of the country by a narrow stretch of land called the ‘chicken’s neck’ needs
significant investments and development aids.
The large hydro potential in the NER could be used for exporting to the power deficit
northern and western regions of the country. The power generation will itself attract large
industries, annulling large transportation costs. While the spill over benefits for the region
will be development of infrastructure such as roads, communications, and electricity
supply to remote hilly areas, thus resulting in better quality of life.
Also opening up and augmenting trade with the neighboring countries such as Bangladesh,
Myanmar and through Myanmar to South East Asia will also help in realizing the full
potential of the region.
Though we fully realize that development of any kind may lead to socio-political issues such
as displacement of people, the policy and aids of the central and state governments should
address these issues to accelerate the completion of development projects. Strongly
focusing on roads, airports and hydropower developments are some of the key steps in this
Using this framework we are trying to analyze and hence suggest possible future
opportunities based on regional comparative advantage, that can lead to the growth and
prosperity of north eastern states while maintaining their unique ethnicity and diversity.
-Vast ecological and water resources
-Natural Resources (Oil and Gas Hydrocarbons)
-Large Pool of Technical Resources: A high literacy rate of 65% provides a good
pool of educated human resources.
-Though North Eastern Region is blessed with abundant resources for industrial
and social development, they have not been used to their fullest potential.
-Policy level initiatives like formation of separate ministry (Ministry for
development of NER)
-Lack of physical Infrastructure.
-Inclement weather and difficult terrain.
-Poor Connectivity and isolation from the mainland.
-Subsistence Society (70% dependence on agriculture)
-Tense International Relations.
-Lack of Proper Grievance Redressal Mechanism that has lead to belligerent
-Highly prone to natural disasters which gets exacerbated by lack of coordination
between different disaster management groups.
-Problems in land acquisition and clearances.
-Power: The north eastern region is endowed with perennial rivers providing a
huge hydroelectricity potential. Tapping this potential will upshot the
infrastructure such as roads, communication, electricity, etc.
-Infrastructure: The deficient in infrastructure provides ample opportunities for
fast paced development aimed at increasing the institutional capacity of the
North East. Micro, Small and Medium Industries need to be encouraged.
-Tourism: Local Tourism and medical and educational tourism needs to be
promoted to give a fillip to the economic aspirations of the locals.
-Inland Water Navigation: It can be a cost effective, viable alternative
-Encouraging response of private sector players
-Insurgency: The greatest threat is extortion carried out by various insurgent
groups. Extortion has become an organized activity and is a major source of fund
for the militants.
-Border issues: International boundaries in the North East have not crystalized
into lines separating sovereign countries on the ground. China has constantly
been encroaching upon Indian territory especially in the Arunachal Pradesh
region. Intelligence is the key in securing border areas.
-Threat to the Integrity of the Nation: demand for smaller states
International Trade Corridor
Connectivity is important because it promotes trade, brings people closer, and integrates the
economies. Improving connectivity is essential for a region’s prosperity, continued growth, and,
most importantly, for poverty reduction. Improved connectivity lowers costs and increases
reliability. In the absence of adequate connectivity, these enormous opportunities may stop at
their international borders.
-Poor physical infrastructure.
-Inadequate railways, roadways, maritime and aviation networks.
-Strained international relationships.
We wish to create a functional single market in Asia to overcome the missing links in
transportation, the lack of interoperability and infrastructure gaps reducing the efficiency and
weakening the global competitiveness of the Asian industry. As a major step in this direction
India initiated the Look East policy in 1991.
International Trade Corridor
• To boost cooperation with its eastern neighbors India signed Free Trade Agreements
(FTA’s) with the ASEAN countries which are essential to India’s growing engagement
with them and will lead to better integrated markets.
• To further develop the cross border trade and investment flow it is necessary to restore
NER’s traditional route corridors through Bangladesh which will help overcome adverse
geographical condition and ensure speedy development of NER.
• Development of these corridors will require huge funding investment which is expected
to come from the private players. The government also needs to step in and support
expanding the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPP’s).
• Cross border trade and investment flow will eventually open up new avenues for growth
and development and lead to a deeper intra-regional economic interaction between
India and ASEAN countries and hence contribute towards the integration of an
integrated Asian community.
Obtaining MoEF clearance has become a
major issue in the recent past and this
particularly applies to NER with its rich
State government/ Ministry of Power
should see to it that genuine cases are
getting faster clearance from MoEF
Power projects require massive infrastructure
backing especially roads to transport heavy
equipment and helicopters to transport
smaller sized equipment, particularly for Small
Hydro Plants. In the prioritization of roads and
highway development in NER, and in the
deployment of helicopters, power sector
requirements need further prioritization.
Due to scattered demand in the region, per unit cost
of transmission is higher compared to other parts of
the country. For example, the associated
transmission system for evacuation of Kameng (600
MW) power is estimated at Rs. 11 billion, about 50%
of the cost of the generation project. Further, difficult
terrain and hostile weather coupled with lack of
qualified manpower is delaying execution of the
projects. This has lead to inadequate development of
transmission and distribution (T&D) system facilities
in the States of NER, adversely affecting the
reliability of power supply to the consumers.
To overcome this issue, Union Government can
provide a centrally sponsored scheme to support
inter-state and intra-state transmission and
distribution projects. Further, State governments
may provide incentives to developT&D system.
Most of the river systems of NER are
transnational. For example, the Brahmaputra
River originates in Tibet, flows into India and
empties into the Bay of Bengal after traversing
Bangladesh. Lack of proper agreements, and
disputes on water sharing, inhibits from
utilizing the full potential. Also, state border
issues, like in the case of Subansiri are delaying
the project development.
The Central Government, in consultation with
the State Governments could put in place a
mechanism to sort out outstanding border and
share allocation issues. International Riparian
disputes would have to be discussed between
the governments for resolution in a spirit of
cooperation for mutual benefit and satisfactory
utilization of the waters of the river system.
• Integrated and sustainable development at the economic and social level requires
economic incentives supported by political will.
• With India moving into a new era of economic liberation, the region needs to be
brought into the mainframe.
• It is evident from the presentation that while the north-eastern states have an
excellent scope of development, they need to be provided with much needed help,
support, infrastructure and facilities.
• A proper framework should be set up that could support the north east in its
endeavour to contribute to the economic resurgence of the rest of the country.
• Such a framework must include mechanisms for
equitable sharing of benefits along with an impact on poverty reduction at the
Collaborations between the government and the private sector
Transparent, accountable and an open governance
• All these changes need to be brought about right from the grassroots level.
• As multiple avenues for growth and development emerge, it is of paramount
importance that the region, as a collective identity, embarks on a vibrant journey to
realise the dreams of a better future. This vision can be realised only through the
combined effort of all stakeholders.