“I am indeed happy to be associated with this important workshop on the theme "Changing Role of North-Eastern Council in the Development of North-Eastern Region" which gives me an opportunity to learn from you about the key role played by the council in the development of the region and share some of my thoughts on its changing role.
The world is changing very fast in many ways and India is swiftly transforming itself to emerge as one of the major economies in the world.
We have put in place a number of robust, far-reaching, progressive policies.
We have initiated a number of programmes that are intended to improve the quality of life of our people.
We have committed ourselves to accelerate the Country’s progress towards sustainable, inclusive development. ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas and Sabka Prayas’ is our overall philosophy.
Dear Sisters and brothers,
India’s progress cannot be complete if there is uneven progress in various regions. If the northeast region progresses, India progresses. If the region lags behind, India lags behind.
We have big dreams for our country.
As we celebrate 75 years of our independence and plan for the next 25 years, we wish to see a distinct transformation in the way we govern ourselves, the way we wish to shape public policies and the way we empower people though citizen-centric programmes.
Eliminating extreme poverty, reducing disparities and narrowing rural-urban development gaps, revamping the education system and ramping up public health infrastructure, we are aiming at a healthy, educated, skilled India.
We are looking at building an India that is Atmanirbhar, self-reliant, capable of meeting its people’s needs and aspirations. We are looking at a well connected Shreshth Bharat where people commute and communicate easily, share knowledge, expertise, skills, cultural treasures and civilisational values. We want a Bharat that grows inclusively, celebrating its fascinatingly rich diversity in a spirit of mutual respect and encouragement.
Ours is an aspirational India. And the vibrant north east region, with a population of around 45 million, has its own dreams to be realized.
The North East Council can be an effective instrument to bring coherence to these dreams, strategize, plan, catalyze and coordinate the implementation in conjunction with the State governments.
To be abreast with changing times, effective planning and execution holds the key. The North-Eastern Council that came into being as a regional advisory body in 1971 was converted into a regional planning agency in 2002 to enable coordinated actions among all the eight member states for collective benefits.
Planning is all about the process of deciding what to do and how to do it based on certain key principles and practices. Effective planning requires imagination and anticipation.
A vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan with effective implementation transforms that dream into a tangible reality.
The journey so far of the North-Eastern Council may be evaluated against its vision, its plans and their implementation resulting in measurable outcomes.
I am happy to note that the Council deserves appreciation on several counts. The creation of the Council is a seminal landmark redefining the approach towards the development of the North-Eastern Region. Construction of more than 11,000 KMs of Roads; 10,340 KMs of power transmission and distribution lines; installation of 700 Megawatts of power general capacity; setting up of iconic institutions; a cohesive articulation of common issues are some of the creditable achievements of the Council. We are all proud of these accomplishments.
However, we cannot merely rest on our past laurels. We certainly have many miles to go.
This is the right time to revisit the approaches of the Council as it braces up to meet the challenges of the winds of change that need to be harnessed in the interest of the North-Eastern Region and its people.
The government led by Prime Minister Narendrabhai Modi has embarked on a path of reform in all spheres with a view to improve performance and productivity.
Ease of doing business and ease of living are key objectives. Working with a sense of urgency has become the norm.
From conceptualization of a policy or programme to its implementation, clear processes and timelines are drawn up for meeting the goals in time. This is also marked by higher levels of energy and intensity ensuring effective monitoring to ensure delivery of intended benefits to the targeted. This is quite evident in case of several initiatives like the Swachch Bharat Mission, the Housing for All Mission, the Smart Cities Mission, Financial Inclusion, digital transfer of entitlements to beneficiaries, building National Highways and various infrastructure projects. I am confident that the North-Eastern Council will also be guided by this new ethos and policy environment.
We cannot afford to go slow. We cannot be satisfied with poor quality. We have to constantly strive to be better than the best.
The North-Eastern Region has inherited historic and legacy issues that have been impeding its progress. We must now quickly resolve these outstanding issues and move ahead faster and with greater confidence, building upon the good work already done and capitalizing on the enormous strengths of the people of this region.
The region must enter an exciting resurgent phase of accelerated development and the Council must propel the region on to this path.
Recognition of the problems of this region and the need to move forward on its development has resulted in the 'Look East Policy' in the early years of the decade of 90s. This was further given a greater thrust by the 'Act East Policy' in recent times which is built upon improving the infrastructure within the region and connectivity with the East and South-East Asian nations for increased economic integration with the region for the development of the North-East and the country.
The North-Eastern Council should be guided by the principle of enabling realization of the objectives of ‘Act East Policy’ and take all necessary initiatives to fast track implementation.
North-Eastern Region is a repository of a diverse range of natural resources including vast tracts of forests, the Brahmaputra River and its tributaries, Coal, Petroleum and Natural Gas etc. But for a long time, the region lagged behind rest of India in terms of economic and social development indicators. We must take a comprehensive view on using the existing natural resources for the overall development of the region. At the same time, we should be careful not to upset the ecological balance and damage the environment.
I am very happy to note that during the last six-seven years, there has been a perceptible change in the economy of this region. The Per Capita Net State Domestic Product of all the states has grown significantly. The growth was as high as 87% in Mizoram and 75% in Tripura. The Per Capita Net State Domestic Products of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Sikkim were higher than that of Net National Income during the last two financial years and that of Nagaland and Tripura are close to the national average. While the Net National Income of the country increased by about 60% during 2018-20 over that of 2013-14, the increase in that of 6 of the 8 North-Eastern States was more than the national average.
It is indeed heartening to note that 7 of the 8 North-Eastern States have better human development indicators than the national average as per the National Human Development Index 2019. Only Assam scoring 0.613 was slightly below the Indian average of 0.645.
While there has been overall progress in the economic and human development profile, there are quite a few areas that need further attention.
The Council now needs to focus on identified gaps in respect of socio-economic development.
The North-Eastern Region Social Development Goals Index, 2021-22 released by the Niti Ayog provides clear direction in this regard. 108 districts of region have been ranked on their performance in respect of these goals. This Index is an effective tool for monitoring progress and identifying necessary interventions. 69 districts of the region are in the Front Runners category. The region as a whole did well in respect of Goal-15 which is about 'Life on Land' given the forest cover and Goal-16 which is about 'Clean Water and Sanitation'. But the region as a whole lags behind with respect to Goal-9 which is 'Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure'; Quality Education (Goal-14); Sustainable Communities and Cities (Goal-11) and others.
The latest data gives an idea as to where greater focus is required. The North-Eastern Council should analyze the data and recast its plans to address the current and emerging challenges.
Due to sustained efforts, the insurgency and the attendant violence that proved to be the bane of the region for a long time is on the decline.
The youth of the North-Eastern Region, like their counterparts in other parts of the country, are keen to write a new chapter in the history of our country.
They have to be given the opportunities and encouragement through concrete actions.
We now have to look at the future agenda.
The expert planners and brilliant academicians present here today should put their heads and hearts together and draw up an action-oriented plan keeping the latest available data and evidence.
In the 69th Plenary meeting of the Council held in January this year two key issues of resolving inter-state border disputes and attracting private investments in the region have been identified as thrust areas.
Private investment needs to be promoted through encouraging entrepreneurship, venture funds, start-ups and skill development etc. Private investment, so far has been crowded out of the region's economy due to heavy public sector intervention besides being stifled out by insurgency and violence. The NEC Guidelines - 2020 highlight the need to step up our efforts in this direction.
The Council needs to be a thinking body, a reflecting body, a facilitative, catalytic body and a forward looking planning body. It should be a repository of the state-of-the art information and knowledge about the region as the Prime Minister Shri Narendrabhai Modi had suggested in 2016.
Learning from the experience of the last five decades, I am confident that the North-Eastern Council under the able leadership of Union Home Minister Shri Amit Shah would redefine its role and approaches so as to enable the North-Eastern Region to march on the path of progress.
I wish the Council all success in its endeavours.