Central sops and restive NE
WITH the exception of Assam, where the impact of secessionist movement seems to be negligible, thereby facilitating the largest state in the north east to make steady progress in terms of economic development, most of the other states in the region either continue to be plagued by insurgency or are struggling to get back on the track after years of unrest. For many in mainland India, there is a mind-set that the entire region is deeply mired in insurgency and NE continues to be a forbidden land, regardless of the fact that there are some states, which are not only free from insurgency but have natural beauty and historical places in abundance to explore. The assumption that the entire region has been remaining in the grip of armed movement could be comprehended from successive governments at the centre making it a point to highlight policy programmes for accelerating development in the north eastern states. One such recent example was the reiteration by President Pranab Mukherjee, during his address to a joint sitting of Parliament on the opening day of the budget session, that the Union government is taking special initiatives to develop the North East region, including opening up new road and rail routes to neighbouring countries for boosting the economic development of the region. The President’s announcement for special financial assistance pattern of 90:10 Centre-State ratio for Centrally-sponsored schemes and 80:20 for non-Central projects in the NE region will also give huge boost to many of the cash-strapped state governments.
Though the likely amount of NE-specific budgetary allocation was not reflected in the President’s speech, it was clear that the Centre’s emphasis in the coming years would be on rail and road connectivity to facilitate people-to-people contact for holistic progress of the region. Considering the fact that the on-going Imphal-Tupul rail project is yet to move at the expected pace owing to various reasons, one of them being frequent disruptions caused to transportation of construction materials, the President’s assertion that all meter-gauge tracks in the north-eastern states will be converted to broad gauge lines by the end of the year sounds unconvincing, as it would be infeasible to set the target for completing the project, on account of the unfriendly terrain and presence of hostile elements in the project areas. However, objective of the Centre for opening up road and rail routes to the neighbouring countries to boost the economic development of the region would be a breather for people of the NE states, Manipur in particular, as it is a well-known fact that ensuring regular transportation of essential goods has been dependent on impulses of those organisations, which do not hesitate to lay siege on the two lifelines that connect the state with the rest of the country, in pursuit of any demand that suits the interest of a particular community or group of people. Thus, ensuring easy connectivity with the neighbouring nations for further access to the south-east Asian countries should be the area of priority for the Centre.