Governance

Solitude Of The Seven Sister States

The north east belt of our country being poorly connected to the rest of the states by a small corridor is in turn surrounded by many other countries like Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and China which have a greater influence on them. These states are known less by their names and more by the insurgencies which arise out of the extremism that prevails which is borne out of social, economic and political exclusion. Some of the uprisings owing to the physical isolation include United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland, National Socialist Council of Nagalim, Garo Liberation Front, National Liberation Front of Tripura, Revolutionary Army of Arunachal Pradesh and many more.[1] Their demands usually range from autonomy to sovereignty which is the outcome of the neglect by central government experienced by them over a period of time.   Professor Ted Gurr[2] has viewed that such extremism is often a tactic adopted by a group of individuals to achieve their goals which are not reflected or achieved through normal channels of a liberal democracy. They find their roots on the basis of exclusion based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion or caste. The Nagas were the first one who foresaw the possibility of exclusion in post independent India and have been ever since mobilizing their people to demand for a separate state while the rest of the uprisings follow their suit. These groups on the basis of ethnicity have given rise to ethnic politics.

With respect to infrastructural and economic backwardness it’s no news that this region receives the least amount of attention. The North eastern states are often referred to as the “spoilt and pampered child”[3] of the country which in spite of receiving a grant of 90% from plan assistance and just 10% as loan incurs improper and untimely utilization of the allocated funds.  This is the reason why capitals like Itanagar, Kohima and Shillong do not have proper airports and five of the seven states are not connected by rail. Nearly 55% of the tea production and 60% of the plywood production takes place in these states but only a tiny percentage of profits are re-invested here. Sectors like hospitality, education and communication still take a backseat.[4] A study published earlier in 2013 by the Indian Chamber of Commerce estimated that between 2011 and 2021 the region would create a mere 2.6 million jobs, while the number of job-seekers is likely to be eight times that number.[5]

Due to the lack of internal revenue generation, the north eastern states are wholly dependent of the central government’s administration. But the educated elite class of the states has become “willing partner” with the “exploiter” class of the centre. This collaboration termed as “Contractor Raj”, insurgency and unending violence has kept the region in a perpetual volatile state. This greatly affects the employment of these states which is in an all time low. The discrimination suffered has hampered their job opportunities which in turn have led to the existence of over 20 lakh unemployed youth. Earlier the government was their sole employer. But now with time the jobs in the government are becoming far and few. This leaves them with the one option of picking up the gun because that certainly ensures easy and fast money.  With regards to the failure of the centre, with the introduction of 6th schedule Autonomous Councils, there is a creation of multiple power centres instead of bringing in a genuine process of democratization or autonomy in the region. Also, the AFSPA[6] has failed in terms of bringing stability and has rather ended up exploiting its position.

During the partition, if the north was hit by the loss of lives the north east suffered a blow in terms of infrastructure and links to the mainland. Hence today it’s clear that the people of this region are bound by a vicious cycle with insurgents on one hand and corrupt MLAs, bureaucracy and police on the other who ensure that the allocated funds do not trickle down to the masses. One of the ironical facts is that the north eastern states are ahead of states like Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand in terms of poverty and literacy ratios. Take the natural resources available with the region. Arunachal Pradesh has so much of water resources available that it can produce about 30,000 MW of electricity through hydel power projects. This energy is not only sufficient to feed the region’s states but also to export to the neighbouring countries as well. But all this manpower needs is a proper direction. It’s high time the centre should acknowledge the seven sister states as an integral part of the country rather than considering it an exotic burden.

About the Author

488193_10151046148269135_1144721317_nShweta Rath

Shweta rath is a student of Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She enjoys reading up on various important issues and is a keen learner who wants to work on enhancing her research skills. She is a big movie buff and loves interacting with new people.

 

 

Endnotes

[1] V. BIJUKUMAR; The NEHU Journal, Vol XI, No. 2, July 2013, pp. 19-35 19; Social Exclusion and Ethnicity in Northeast India

[2] He is an authority on political conflict and instability.  His book Why Men Rebel (1970) emphasized the importance of social psychological factors (relative deprivation) and ideology as root sources of political violence.

[3]Gokhale, Nitin; Neglected, Deprived North-east:  Is it the Whole Truth? ;

[4] ibid

[5] “Look North East”; December 3 2013; The Hindu;

[6] Armed Force Special Power Act

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