North East is plagued by insurgency, underdevelopment and resultant poverty that has proved to be the undoing of the region. Even the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (which was passed on September 11, 1958 by the Parliament of India) is viewed with lot of suspicion by the people of the region. It was passed to enable certain special powers to be conferred upon the armed forces in disturbed areas in these seven states. It was withdrawn by the Manipur government in some of the constituencies in August 2004 in spite of the Central government not favouring withdrawal of the act. According to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in an area that is proclaimed as “disturbed”, an officer of the armed forces has powers to: (a) fire upon or use other kinds of force even if it causes death; (b) to arrest without a warrant and with the use of “necessary” force anyone who has committed certain offences or is suspected of having done so; and (c) to enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests. Army officers have legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law. Nor is the government’s judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review.
All this makes the people of North East believe that they are an alienated land in their own country. There is also a feeling that the people of the region also exhibit a certain go slow attitude.
In 1950-51, the per capita income of
Shortage of funds is not the root cause of the poverty in the region. The total expenditure of the eight NE states is almost Rs. 30,000 cr a year. This translates to spending almost at the rate of Rs. 10,000 per person per year. About Rs. 20,000 cr of this comes as direct grant from the Centre.
The region faces floods very severely every year. 92.6% of the cultivated land is flood prone. As a result farmers do not apply costly inputs such as high yielding variety seeds, fertilizers etc., for fear of their being washed away by floods.
Insurgency alone cannot be blamed for the lack of flow of investments from outside the region. Improvements in infrastructure and the creation of a business-like environment by ensuring that the people of the region instead of looking only at government jobs take to employment generating or wealth creating economic activities are badly needed. In short infrastructure led industrialization in place of an incentive-driven industrialization is the need of the hour, feel some experts.
Healthy investment flow into the region, instead of mere economic sops by the Centre will surely make a change for the better. The risk-reward ratio should be made very attractive for attracting investments into the region. For eg., the already existing incentives in the North East Industrial Policy of 1997 (which is set to expire by March, 2007) perhaps need to be enhanced. In spite of its existence for a decade, as it has not been able to attract desirable level of investments into the region, it shows that the working of the scheme calls for a thorough review and revision.
The recent SEZ (Special Economic Zone) boom has left the North Eastern states of