The Northeastern region of India is of immense scenic beauty. The seven sisters of the region are considered to the ‘paradise unexplored’ of India. Not only that, it has a favorable climatic condition to produce spices, fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs. Moreover, out of the 925 varieties of orchids available in India, over 600 can be grown in the Northeast (Goswami and Gogoi 2005). If transport and communications facilities are better-developed, the region would be transformed into a global tourist spot complete with bio-diversities and heritages (Goswami and Gogoi 2005). It will not only benefit the region but also benefit India as a whole.
But unfortunately we have lost the paradise. Almost everyday we find news of the smuggling of Narcotics and Light Weapons, Insurgency, HIV/AIDS, Rape etc. which are prevalent in the paradise. Moreover, the region is overwhelmed by poverty and economic backwardness.
The Government of India’s per capita expenditure for Northeast India is among the highest of all the states. Most of the Prime Ministers of India declared their own development plans for Northeast India. In 2008 the Government of India introduced the North Eastern Region Vision 2020 (NER 2020). According to Duncan McDuie-Ra (2009), ‘It brings together the usual promises to increase the connectivity of the region and create employment through state investments in infrastructure, encourage private investment especially in natural resources and agriculture, increase border trade, promote tourism in the ‘paradise unexplored’, and continue the process of political and economic engagement with surrounding countries. It also contains provisions for people-to-people contact between India and its eastern neighbours such as joint tourism development, trade fairs, direct flights, sporting events, and ‘cultural exchanges’ ’.
But the question still remains — will government policies and programmes be able to secure peace and prosperity in the region. The government should consider issues like re-building its education system, incorporating vocational trainings in the education system, ensuring security for the citizens, improving health services, organizing confidence building measures with the neighbouring countries in order to bring economic growth and social cohesion in the region. But the most important action would be to ensure people’s participation in the development process with a holistic view. Without the people’s involvement in the development process, it would not be possible for the government of India to benefit them through its efforts. For example, Nagaland Communitisation of Public Institutions and Services Act 2002 (Act No. 2 of 2002 notified on April 15, 2002) was an initiative taken by the state government of Nagaland to create a sense of ownership of public institutions and better management of limited resources. This programme mainly covered power, water supply and the education sector. The outcomes of this programme were extremely impressive- in the education sector it increased enrollment, improved academic performance of the students, reduced Drop Out rate, increased students’ and teachers’ attendance and increased community contribution in terms of cash, labour or kind (http://mdoner.gov.in).
The essence of mass participation in government programmes is the capacity of the local public administrators to reach out to the common people. Therefore, the time has come when we should replace the traditional service delivery mode with the modern community ownership mode at least in some sectors, if not in all spheres.
The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.