Sunday, July 21, 2024
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A tête-à-tête with DoNER Secy Chanchal Kumar

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Secretary of Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Chanchal Kumar was interviewed by CK Nayak, Special Correspondent from New Delhi for The Shillong Times, in the former’s office in New Delhi on May 24.
In the first part of this interview, published on Monday (June 3), Kumar had answered questions pertaining to evolution of connectivity in the once-isolated and landlocked Northeastern region, besides Centre’s plans of improving and expanding the role of North Eastern Council (NEC), with headquarters in the Northeast (Shillong, Meghalaya) among other significant subjects of discussion.
It may be mentioned that Kumar, a 1992 batch senior IAS officer, has held important positions in Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Government of Bihar.
The second and conclusive part of this interview follows.

ST: Can you please elaborate on the role of NEDFi in the socio-economic development of Northeast?

Kumar: North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Limited (NEDFi) is a CPSE under Ministry of DoNER. NEDFi provides credit to micro finance institutions or MFIs and weaker sections of society. NEDFi also plays an important role in facilitating setting up of new industrial and service sector projects in the Northeastern region. In 2023, the corporation assisted 5,338 projects with total sanctions and disbursements of Rs 766 crore and Rs 547 crore respectively, in diverse sectors such as Education and training food processing, handlooms and handicrafts, healthcare, hotels and tourism, microfinance etc.
It is also facilitating creation of state-specific venture funds in NER (North Eastern Region). All this has helped in changing the entrepreneurial landscape in the region.
The Ministry of DoNER in collaboration with NEDFi also organised ‘The North East Bankers’ Conclave’ in 2023, which brought together various stakeholders from the banking and finance sector, policymakers, and regulators to brainstorm the challenges faced by the banking sector in Northeast India and to come up with some immediate and long-term actionable strategies to address issues at various levels.
ST: What steps is the Ministry of DoNER taking to promote tourism in NER?

Kumar: Promotion of tourism in the North Eastern Region (NER) is one of the focus sectors of Ministry of DoNER. So far, 123 projects worth Rs 1,660 crore have been sanctioned by the Ministry for strengthening tourism infrastructure in NER. It has also constituted a task force for development of tourism in NER, and to build strategies along with an action plan for the comprehensive and sustainable development of tourism in the NER.
The Ministry of DoNER has been proactively working to attract investments in NER, as a result of which in an MoU signing ceremony held on March 6, 2024, investment worth Rs 2,800 crore (approximately) could be signed between Northeastern states and investors for investment in tourism sector.
As on 30.04.2024, under schemes of Ministry of DoNER, 185 projects in Agriculture and Allied sectors of more than Rs 1,000 crore are ongoing in NER. This is in addition to the flagship programmes of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoA&FW) like PM-KISAN, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region, formation and promotion of 10,000 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs). The Ministry of DoNER had constituted a joint task force with MoA&FW to steer the growth of the agriculture sector in NER. The task force gave its recommendations, which included, inter alia, implementation of project on bamboo, have special provisions for enhanced outlays for NER under RKVY, capacity building and institutional strengthening, promotion of agarwood, expanded scope of Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD-NER) to allow for a non-organic component. The Ministry of DoNER is engaged with all stakeholders for implementation of these recommendations.

ST: What about outside investment in the region?

Kumar: The Ministry has been organising several investment promotion activities to showcase the region’s investment and trade potential. The focus sectors identified for the purpose are agriculture and allied sectors, handicrafts and handlooms, tourism and hospitality, IT&ITeS, sports and entertainment, education and skill development and healthcare.
Several state-level roundtables were also held which included workshops on investment readiness of states and interactions with potential investors, local entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders. An Ambassadors’ Meet, chaired with over 20 countries, was held in May 2023. A roundtable with foreign Chambers of Commerce with 12 chamber/associations and two embassies was also held last year.
Roadshows have so far been held in Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. The roadshows comprised structured B2B and B2G meetings, pitch presentations by states and panel discussions focusing on the investment opportunities. 82 MoUs worth more than Rs 30,000 crore were signed on March 6, 2024.

ST: Can you please mention some of the major MoUs signed by the Ministry of DoNER?

Kumar: The Ministry and UNDP entered into an MoU in 22.08.2023 for technical support on fast-tracking progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
An MoU was also signed with IIM-Shillong on 13.02.2024 for continued support to the APJ Abdul Kalam Centre for Policy Research and Analysis for the next five years.
Similarly, Ministry of DoNER, North Eastern Handicrafts and Handloom Development Corporation (NEHHDC) and Government of Haryana signed an MoU, whereby NER will be a theme state in the annual ‘Surajkund Mela’ for the next five years. This will enable cross-cultural exchange and promote handicrafts, handlooms, textiles, crafts, culture and cuisine of Northeast.

ST: Will you give some details of trade with neighbouring counties from the NE?

Kumar: To enhance foreign trade in the North Eastern Region (NER), an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) has been constituted under the Chairmanship of Secretary of NEC, with members from different ministries including MEA, MoCA, Railways, AAI, MSME etc. The primary objective of the IMG is to identify and mitigate bottlenecks that hinder foreign trade in the NER. Additionally, it is tasked with addressing issues related to the production, value addition, and challenges at the border. Some of the ministries have reported on the actions taken to fulfil their respective KPIs, reflecting a commitment to addressing challenges and promoting positive developments in foreign trade within the region.
Ministry of DoNER has also held meetings with Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, DPIIT, Land Ports Authority of India and Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways to discuss issues and bottlenecks hindering the trade and transshipment through Bangladesh aiming for a substantial increase in trade and transit between the Northeast States and the rest of the country through Bangladesh. I have visited and reviewed Sabroom Land Port (Tripura) and Dawki ICP (Meghalaya).

ST: What are the steps taken for North Eastern Handicrafts & Handlooms Development?

Kumar: NEHHDC has established Ashta Lakshmi Haat and Experience Centre at Guwahati which will provide market access to artisans of all Northeast states and will also have an artisan residency to provide accommodation to artisans.
It has set up an ERI silk spinning plant at Integrated Textile Park, Mushalpur, Baksa (Assam), which will provide direct employment to 375 individuals and provide indirect livelihood to approximately 25,000 households. The corporation helps in market development by way of digitalisation, authentication and traceability covering 10,000 weavers across seven states (less Sikkim) in the Northeast. It is estimated that through this intervention, there will be an increase in the income of weavers by 20-30% in the next 2-3 years. More than 10,000 active loom weavers have been identified and registered so far.
NEHHDC also has a Jewellery and Handicrafts Livelihood Business Incubator (LBI) set up under the ASPIRE Scheme of Ministry of MSME, Govt. of India.
All these steps by Ministry of DoNER will help achieve holistic growth in Ashta Lakshmi states of NER.

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