PM Modi’s vision and dedicated efforts have brought about remarkable positive changes, writes Baijayant Panda in this excerpt from ‘Modi’s Northeast Story’
GN Bureau | February 7, 2024
Modi’s Northeast Story
Edited by Tuhin A. Sinha and Aditya Pittie
Rupa, 22 pages, Rs 595
The Northeast bore the brunt of the 1962 war with China, which resulted in many problems. While losing territory to China was one of them, the deep-rooted emotional scars and alienation of the Northeast due to repeated neglect by successive central governments was tougher to heal.
After prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had made an earnest attempt to bridge the divide between the Northeast and the rest of India during his tenure, PM Narendra Modi was the first to take the task of uplifting the Northeast with a rare visionary zeal with his Act East Policy. Ten years later, the results are all too visible.
Seamless road connectivity, umpteen new airports and vast swathes of new railway tracks across hitherto unconnected areas have changed the way one travels across the Northeast. The massive dip in insurgency and resolution of inter-state conflicts have created an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity, resulting in unprecedented tourist footfall and an upswing in the local economy. This transformation ought to be witnessed personally to understand what political willpower can achieve.
‘Modi’s Northeast Story’ brings together contributors who have been at the forefront of ushering in this change or have witnessed it unfolding from very close quarters, including Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu, union minister of earth sciences Kiren Rijiju, union minister of state for road transport & highways and civil aviation General V.K. Singh (Retd); MPs S. Phangnon Konyak and Tejasvi Surya; author and anthropologist Rami Desai; among others.
With a foreword by BJP president J.P. Nadda, ‘Modi’s Northeast Story’ is a one-of-a-kind anthology that documents the transformation of India’s northeastern states since 2014.
One of the editors, Tuhin A. Sinha is a best-selling author, columnist, and currently a national spokesperson of the BJP. The other editor, Aditya Pittie, is an experienced entrepreneur, angel investor, and the past president of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and Convenor (Western Maharashtra) of the BJP Intellectual Cell.
Here is an essay from this collection:
A RESURGENT NORTHEAST
By Baijayant Panda
The Northeast region of India has historically faced various challenges, including under-representation in the central government. However, under the leadership of Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi, the region has seen a significant increase in its representation in the central government, with the highest-ever number of ministers from the Northeast. This is a testament to the central government’s commitment in ensuring inclusivity and regional diversity in decision-making. Their presence is a sign that the region is finally being given the attention it deserves, reflecting the government’s commitment to recognize the deserving talents emerging from the Northeast.
India’s Northeast region boasts of a rich cultural heritage and has produced numerous national icons who have made significant contributions to the nation. Lachit Borphukan, an Ahom general from Assam, is revered for his leadership during the Battle of Saraighat against the Mughals. Rani Gaidinliu, a Naga freedom fighter, played a pivotal role in the fight against British colonial rule. Bir Tikendrajit Singh led the Manipur army against the British Empire. Kanaklata Barua from Assam, was a prominent freedom fighter who sacrificed her life during the Quit India Movement. In recognition of their immense contributions to the nation, the central government has elevated these icons to national status. This acknowledgement not only celebrates their bravery and sacrifices but also highlights the rich cultural tapestry of Northeast India.
The Northeast is known for its vibrant festivals that showcase its diverse cultural heritage. Two prominent festivals, the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland and the Sangai Festival in Manipur, have gained popularity across the country. The Hornbill Festival, held annually in Nagaland, is a 10-day extravaganza that attracts visitors from all parts of the country. It showcases the vibrant traditions, art, music and dance forms of the Naga tribes. Prime Minister Modi created history by becoming the first-ever PM to inaugurate this tribal festival in Nagaland.
Similarly, the Sangai Festival of Manipur celebrates its rich cultural heritage. It highlights the indigenous dance forms, traditional sports, handicrafts and culinary delights of Manipur. These festivals not only promote tourism in the region but also provide a platform for cultural exchange and strengthen national integration.
Fertile lands and rich biodiversity are important assets of the Northeast. In recent years, the central government has taken several initiatives to promote natural farming practices in the region. One such initiative is the Krishi UDAN scheme, which enables farmers to send their agricultural products to various parts of the country.
As a result of these efforts, the region has witnessed an impressive 85 per cent growth in the export of agricultural products over the past six years. [Anand, Saurav, ‘Northeast India Sees over 85% Agricultural Product Export Growth in Last 6 Years’, Livemint, 2 December 2022, https://tinyurl.com/3rwvakzn. Accessed on 12 September 2023.] The promotion of natural farming practices not only ensures sustainable agricultural practices but also provides economic opportunities to the farmers of the Northeast.
Significant strides have been made in the realm of infrastructure development in the Northeast over the past few years. The number of airports has increased from nine to 16 within the last nine years, bolstering air connectivity and giving a substantial boost to tourism and trade. Moreover, after a staggering 75-year wait, Manipur and Meghalaya have finally been connected by the first-ever goods train in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Additionally, the length of national highways in the region has surged by 50 per cent since 2014, leading to better road connectivity and fostering economic growth. The government’s dedicated investment of over '95,000 crore in 21 railway projects, aimed at connecting Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya by the end of 2023, and the capital of Nagaland by 2026, is yet another milestone in enhancing rail connectivity, accessibility and overall development in the region.
Furthermore, the government has been unwavering in its focus on infrastructure development, with 4,016 km of road projects currently underway. The completion of the Bogibeel Bridge, after a 16-year delay, stands as a testament to the commitment to overcome challenges and fulfil the aspirations of the people. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarkable dedication to the Northeast is evident in his record-breaking 60 visits to the region since 2014, the highest number of visits by any PM till date. These visits underscore his vision for inclusive growth and development, firmly believing in the Northeast’s potential as an integral part of India’s growth narrative.
Under PM Modi’s leadership, several initiatives have been undertaken to promote tourism, improve education and medical infrastructure and provide skill-based training to women. The establishment of the first All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the Northeast at Guwahati is a major milestone in the region’s healthcare journey. This world-class medical institution will not only provide quality healthcare to the people of Assam but will also benefit other Northeastern states. The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) has been instrumental in providing skill training to women in sectors such as information technology (IT), hospitality and manufacturing. This initiative has helped to empower women and create new opportunities for them in the workforce.
Towards Peace and Prosperity
The Northeast region has grappled with the complex issue of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) for a considerable period of time. However, commendable progress has been achieved in reducing the areas under the AFSPA in recent years. Notably, insurgency in the region has witnessed a significant decline of 76 per cent in 2022 from 2014, creating an environment of peace and progress. Various peace accords with different insurgent groups have further bolstered the government’s efforts to establish lasting peace. These include the historic Framework Agreement (FA) with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim–Issak and Muivah (NSCN-IM) in 2015, the Tripura Peace Accord with the National Liberation Front of Twipra led by Sabir Kumar Debbarma (NLFT-SD) in 2019, the Bodo Peace Accord in 2020, the Bru Rehabilitation Agreement in 2020, the Karbi-Anglong Peace Accord in 2021, the Assam-Meghalaya boundary agreement in 2022 and the Assam Adivasi Peace Accord in 2022. The successful implementation of these accords has led to a substantial reduction in insurgency and civilian casualties in the region.
The increased representation of the Northeast in PM Modi’s Cabinet, the recognition of national icons, the promotion of cultural festivals, the focus on natural farming and infrastructure development, the reduction of AFSPA and the successful peace accords have collectively transformed the Northeast region of India. Prime Minister Modi’s vision and dedicated efforts have brought about remarkable positive changes, fostering connectivity, driving economic growth and ensuring a peaceful and inclusive future for the region. These initiatives reflect the resolute commitment of the government to development and progress of the Northeast, further cementing its rightful place in India’s growth story.
[The excerpt reproduced with the permission of the publishers.]
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