So the Modi Government wants the North East to have a separate NITI Aayog called the NITI Forum for North East, for better delivery. Tripura was chosen as the destination for the first meeting of this newly constituted body perhaps because the state has given the biggest thumbs up to the BJP than the other two states of Meghalaya and Nagaland that went to the polls at the same time. NITI Aayog Vice Chairperson, Dr Rajiv Kumar has correctly pointed out that the North Eastern states suffer from reverse outflow of resources such as in tourism and human and private investment. The credit-deposit ratio in the region hovers around 30% and much of the credit availed by companies set up in the North East are invested outside the region. That is not surprising since the North East has low manufacturing capacity. Value addition for natural resources such as tea and petroleum and minerals like coal and limestone and niche products such as turmeric and ginger all happen outside the region. This is one of the reasons for the high unemployment rate with Tripura leading the pack. Communication as pointed out by nearly all the chief ministers present at the meeting is a huge bottleneck and prevents the outflow of products from the region such as flowers, fruits and vegetables. Hence inter-state connectivity and also connecting the seven states with the metros of the country would help enhance trade and movement of goods and people and facilitate better tourism.
The human resources of the North East are today adding value to the hospitality industry across India. While this is a good portend the region too needs skilled human resource to scale up its economy. It is good to learn that the NITI Forum for North East will focus on three key areas – education, health and skill development. These are important pivots for the growth of the region and they have long been neglected sectors of human development.
Union Minister for development of North East (MDoNER), Dr Jitendra Singh’s assurance that all projects in the region will henceforth receive 100 % funding as against 90:10 funding model of the past should boost the development trajectory of the region. Earlier the states could not cough up the 10% matching grant and projects could not take off. Now that handicap has been removed. Hopefully the NITI Forum will turn the North East economy around.