[The Indian Express] – 9/april/2014
Coalescing of domestic politics and foreign policy reforms contributing towards increasing connectivity and growing trade, tourism and movement of people are helping the region’s makeover, a new growth pole and of increasing importance electorally.During the 11th Plan period, the north-eastern states – Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Nagaland and Sikkim – recorded an average 9.95 percent growth compared to eight percent for the country as a whole. In spite of its strategic location, abundance of natural resources and great sporting potential, North-eastern regions are economically deprived not only because of its limited geographical access to markets and the mainland, but also due to decades of Central inattention and neglect. Further, the region has been in the public domain for all the wrong reasons: ethnic conflicts, separatist violence, cross-border terrorism, refugee infiltration and low economic development, which are the main reasons for the insurgencies.
Steps have been taken by the government to enhance the Northeast’s connectivity, and upgrade India’s border infrastructure (12th five year plan Highlights):
• Additional financial resources of Rs 314 crore were made available to allow completion of Rangiya-Rangpura (Tezpur), Rangpura- North Lakhimpur and North Lakhimpur- Murkongselek.
• Lumding – Silchar gauge conversion for main and branch lines. Additional resources of Rs 100 crore were provided in current year. Expected completion – March 2015 for main line and June 2016 for branch lines.
• Bogibeel Rail cum road bridge across Brahmaputra to be completed by Dec 2016.
• New broadgauge line Dudhnoi – Mendipathar to be completed by March 2014 will be the first rail connectivity to Meghalaya.
• New broad gauge line Harmuti-Naharlagun (already completed on – 07-04-2014).
• The following seven national projects will be completed in the Twelfth Plan: Rangiya-Murkongselek (Assam), Lumding- Silchar including branch lines (Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura), Tetelia- Byrnihat (Meghalaya), Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal (Manipur), Bogibeel bridge (Assam), Kumarghat-Agartala (Tripura), Agartala-Subroom (Tripura)
• The East West Corridor of the National Highways in the North East is 500 km. 81 % is complete and likely completion date is December 2014.
• The Special Accelerated Road Development Project involves development of 4099 km of roads in phase A. Of this, 2505 km have been sanctioned and 1215 km are complete. Various steps taken to improve implementation were reviewed.
• The Trans Arunachal Highway programme involves a length of 2319 km of which 58 percent is sanctioned. Additional six projects implementation units set up to speed up work.
Air connectivity has increased considerably and average departures per week have more than doubled from 226 in 2001 to 497 in 2012. However more needs to be done and is being planned.
• New Airport being developed at Pakyong.
- • New Airport at Itanagar is planned by state government has to resolve land acquisition issues, approach road and electricity and water.
• New Airport at Cheihu: an alternative site has to be selected by the state Government
• Several existing airports are being expanded/modernized: Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Shillong, Imphal, Agartala.
• Guwahati is being developed as a regional hub to improve connectivity.
• Intra regional network is weak. NEC is trying to develop through VGF support.
The government has evolved Look East Policy (LEP), thereby unlocking the huge potential and enlarging the developmental scope for the region. Issues like- the Teesta agreement and Land Boundary Agreement, Improving ties with Bangladesh, Security issues plaguing the North-East regions – need to be emphasised to bring connectivity, trade, tourism and linkages to all the states in the Northeast.