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North-East Needs More Infra Fund For Development

If government focuses upon providing the acceleration of infrastructure creation in North-eastern region (NER) then automatically spillover effect can be witnessed in boosting trade, commerce and untapped tourism potential

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It is often said that to develop North-Eastern region of India, 3C's are required which are commerce, connectivity and culture. In order to develop these 3C's, infrastructure development is of the foremost importance. If government focuses upon providing the acceleration of infrastructure creation in North-eastern region (NER) then automatically spillover effect can be witnessed in boosting trade, commerce and untapped tourism potential.

After the Budget speech last year, few comments had come up on allocation of budget on north-east and was said that it is a quantum jump for North-East. In the year 2016-17, Rs. 33,097 crore had been allocated across 56 ministries over last year's Rs. 29,087 crore which couldn't be termed as quantum jump. A mere improvement of Rs. 4010 crore for 8 states of North-east is not enough to bring about the required and aspired socio-economic and infrastructural restructuring of the North-Eastern region.

The NEC (North-Eastern Council) is the nodal Agency for the development of NER which reviews implementation of the schemes and projects included in the regional plan and recommend measures for effective coordination among NER States. The budget allocation for North East Council schemes had been increased from Rs 700 crore to Rs 795 cores last year, which is very just a rise of Rs. 95 crore against the demands made by North-East council of Rs. 2000 crore increase annually. Then how could the Government ensure that projects be planned, formulated, implemented and executed in NE region?

Even the budget allocation of Ministry of DoNER (Developemnt of North-East Region) was increased from Rs. 2334.50 crore (2015016) to Rs. 2400 crore for the year 2016-17. A mere increase of Rs. 65 crore couldn't bear much fruits for the 8 states of North-Eastern region?

Under Non-Lapsable Central Pool Reserve (NLCPR) which is to ensure speedy development of infrastructure by way of filling the existing infrastructural gaps (economic and social) in the region by making funds available from the pool. Under NLCPR, budget in 2016-17 was just Rs. 200 crore for the whole financial year for 8 states. With such lesser amount, it was surely defeating the purpose of NLCPR which was meant to strengthen the infrastructure of NER. And with Rs. 200 crore, not even one good infrastructure project can be undertaken in any of the hilly state.

Rs. 150 crore had been provided for the newly launched NE Road Sector Development Scheme last year which was a welcoming step but it is really tough that how this little sum will achieve any significant aim?

Under Act East Policy, Rs 597 crore to link Railways between India and Bangladesh were provided last year. It was a good move but to fully connect this region, sufficient funds and efforts should be provided. Then only the North- Eastern region will play the role of gateways to South-East Asian region.

Hence the budget expectations for NER from the prism of infrastructure are to provide more funds to North-East meeting the requirements of 8 states. Overall budget should witness a quantum jump this year. NEC and NLCPR should be given due care and the Government must pay heed to their requirements and estimates. Even to boost connectivity in the region via roads, railways, airways and waterways a separate NER connectivity budget should be allocated on the lines of Government's ambitious Look-East Policy. It is through only infrastructure development in NER that we can look east via North-East. It is time to provide the North-Eastern region their due share in the budget allocation to bring more inclusive, sustainable and faster growth.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Abhishek Ranjan

The author is Research and Policy Analyst, Ex-LAMP Fellow

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