Before I share with you our observations during our travel, I feel its important to share some basics for the benefit of the readers. In fact, this is how we started our background research and data collection. Our intent and attempt was to concentrate on the smallest of information.
Introduction to the demographic profile of the North East Region
The pie-chart below details the geographical area of the North-Eastern region of India.
The following chart details the population distribution of the North-Eastern region.
If you observe on the left top the Macmahon line separates North East India from Tibet. This region is connected with the rest of India only through a narrow corridor in North Bengal, having an approximate width of 33 km on the eastern side and 21 km on the western side. This narrow corridor is popularly known as the “Siliguri neck” or the “Chicken’s neck”.
The North East Region shares border with Nepal, Bhutan and China in the north and Myanmar in the east and Bangladesh in the South West side of the region.
The North East Council
The North Eastern Council was formed by an Act of the Parliament of India. The intent behind this council was to have common and concentrated efforts with a single aim to ensure the development of the whole region. It consists of members from all 8 North East India states. Historically this large region and its people have suffered disturbances and low development of industries and jobs. Hence special efforts were needed to bring a dramatic change to the people. Due to the low level of industrial development, the overall progress was lagging. The region was unable to generate its own revenue for the time being to sustain developmental activities. Therefore North East Region (NER) has essentially depended on Central funding for development works. All the eight states in the NER are “Special Category States” whose Development Plans are centrally financed on the basis of 90% Grant and 10% Loan.
The land of interesting geography diversities was left at its own mercy despite the formation of such councils. All round and sustained efforts clearly lacked. I shall highlight how and why in the latter part of the series. Hardworking people, natural resources, tourism potential just remained potential and were never exploited.
There are special constitutional provisions governing this region. There are special provisions on fund allocation and use.
Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources:
In the year 1998 – 99 it was proposed that every Ministry should earmark a minimum of 10% of their budget for the North East region. It was decided that if the Ministry fails to utilize the funds then the amount will be transferred to a separate head called “Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources” and that ways the funds will remain earmarked for the North East region.
It is important to know how the projects are identified under Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources and then executed. The first step is that the specific states are asked to submit a priority list of projects with a short proposal or plan on each project. The focus area of the priority list is
- Projects of economic infrastructure is given priority;
- In the social sector, priority to drinking water supply and other health and sanitation projects;
- Projects in Autonomous district Council (VIth Schedule of the Constitution) is given priority;
- Past performance of a state in implementing projects in the particular sectors to which the projects belong is also considered;
- The overall utilisation and absorption of funds by a particular state in the past years also guide the overall quantum of projects to be undertaken for that state in a year.
What all this ensured for us was that we had to radically redefine the way we approached our study and the expedition. We spent a considerable time in understanding the regional requirements, the various tribes, cultures, the governance models, funding allocation, aspirations of the local population and how the district councils, agencies, state governments interact with the Central government and so on and so forth.
The first article in this series detailed how this journey began. In my next article, I will be sharing our observation day wise along with snippets of videos and interviews that we conducted during the travel.