It was February 2018 when I and Maneesh Godbole decided to travel to North East India. The reason: “We dont know much about it.” Work-related travel commitments have always taken me to that part of our country but it was always with a specific agenda that too a serious one and then back to the same old daily grind in Pune.
What always stood out during my earlier visits was the fact that East India is a land of history and unexplored regions and rich culture. North East India has snow-capped mountains, rich and fertile plains envious green cover and a wide variety of rare and exotic flora and fauna coupled with amazing food and people. It was too good an idea to remain just an idea. Thus we went ahead with the planning and execution. ‘If we don’t know about it, let’s find out and help others like us’ was the central idea.
On Twitter, I spend most of my time commenting on government policies, its impact on the country and provide my comments on such issues. Other than this I bring forth my comments on core areas of my professional work and try to simplify things for the masses in the field of economics, finance and taxation related issues. I have always tried to back my opinions based on solidly researched data. Based on this, I and Maneesh decided to leverage our past experience and bring forth some different narrative for the readers via this expedition.
Maneesh being an avid lover of driving cars decided to chronicle his tales focusing only on the journey and focus on roads and highways and ancillary activities thereto. Meanwhile, I decided to study the efforts the present Modi government has undertaken in the North East region and its actual impact on the ground. It seemed to be a right mix for both of us. I will study the impact of governance, Maneesh will focus on the journey and jointly we both focus on the specific efforts of the Ministry of Roads and impact of road infrastructure on the people.
As it shaped up we realized that we are the first ones to undertake what can be termed as “Governance Tourism”. We joked amongst ourselves that people travel to see places, monuments and other stuff but we will be travelling to see the impact of governance. Sounded interesting. The other aspects of travel like the food, flora, fauna etc all took a backseat and we immersed ourselves into researching on the works undertaken by the present Government in North East Region since 2014.
We decided to cover as many states as possible and tentative dates were finalized according to our work commitments.
I personally used to feel that I have info and access to a lot of data and as informed earlier I collect, collate and analyze a lot of it for many years. However, while undertaking this expedition it dawned on me and Maneesh that what we considered as a good foundation was, in fact, a miniscule percentage of the overall issues. The North East regional governance issues are a legacy onto itself. Successive governments in Delhi seemed to have only made empty promises and failed to bring change in these. At least that was the case on paper. This only strengthened our resolve to dig a little deeper. Going ahead we even decided to call our “Team” “Puneri Arka”
That’s when I came across concepts like the “North East Council” the Non-lapsable Central Pool of Resources The Assam Accord and its historical significance etc. I shall be explaining these in my next article because it’s extremely important and central to study the development works in North East Region.
After completing my initial research and discussions with few friends and expedition teammate Maneesh it was time to finalize the objective of what we were planning to achieve. We aimed to keep it simple and very focused.
I will focus on:
- Legacy issues plaguing the North East Region
- Work undertaken by the current government since it took over the reins in 2014
- Impact of the efforts as undertaken in point (2) above on the people of the region.
Maneesh had the singular focus on the travel and documenting the journey itself.
With this background, our planning seemed to be done and we decided to touch upon all the 8 states comprising the North East Region namely Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.
The expedition was by car and the excitement had just begun…..The Road to New India lay ahead.