'We can create a million jobs in the North-east'

The North-east Council (NEC) has highlighted the possibility of the creation of more than a million jobs in agriculture, animal husbandry and related sectors, provided the council received the requisite amount of funds from the Centre. That, however, has not been the case in a region where there are more than 2.5 million youths say its members. "In 2002-2003 the released funds was Rs 20 crore as against the allotted Rs 54.70 crore,” said Okram Ibobi Singh, chief minister of Manipur, seconding the views of Mizoram Governor AR Kohli, who observed that these primary sectors had simply not been given the attention they deserved. ”For 2003-2004 no funds have been released so far, though proposals worth Rs 119 crore have been submitted," Singh said. Meghalaya Chief Minister DD Lapang, for his part, pointed out that more than 97 per cent of the region’s hydro-electric power still remains untapped.
In a lacklustre meet that ended in Gangtok on Thursday, discussions revolved around financial matters largely. What, however, stood out in the course of the proceedings was a lack of co-ordination between the NEC and the Department for Development of North eastern Region (DONER), the two central organisations responsible for the development of the region. Not to mention the ineffectiveness of demands that member states made at both the regional level and the Centre, Assam’s flood problem being the most prominent among them. In what increasingly seems like a routine exercise, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi once again demanded that the annual floods in the state that cause damages worth hundreds of crores of rupees be declared a national problem, a “key to development” mantra that has been periodically chanted by Bijoya Chakraborty, state BJP MP and, in this case, the Union minister of state for water resources. Gogoi also said that DONER should inform the states about the quantum of funds credited to the pool and release the full amount for the implementation of the approved schemes. He said states’ participation in projects funded by the Centre should be brought down from the present 25 per cent to 10 per cent.
As predictable as the list was, as in any other NEC meet, demands this time round included a Rs 9.13 crore for a special economic zone for Mizoram, a regional tourism promotion centre for Assam, and a regional institute of management on the lines of the country’s IIMs in Meghalaya for the development of human resources in the region. What, however, didn’t seem to generate any interest among the representatives of member states is the utilisation of funds, including the lakhs of rupees that the council spends on full-page display advertisements highlighting its achievements. That in a situation where the members of the council have perennially complained about the lack of funds and that the region has not been given its due by the Centre.

By David Thangliana(newsfiledelhi@sify.com)