The briefing of the Governors of North Eastern states by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj about various cross-border connectivity projects aimed at linking it to the wider region of the South-East Asian countries including Myanmar and Thailand as part India’s ‘Act East Policy’ (AEP) should be taken as a positive step towards improving the socio-economic prospects of the country, especially the North-Eastern region and appreciated as such. The shift in focus, or more precisely, the increasing importance given to the North-eastern region of India by the centre bodes well for the people as the cultural, social and dietary affinity with the neighboring countries is evidently greater than with those of mainland India- a fact which risk being misconstrued by those with vested interest. Talks of hidden agenda aside, the North-East serves as the land bridge to ASEAN countries, and the Act East Policy is being touted as a means to strengthen the stability, economy and prospects of the country, especially the North Eastern region. While the whole exercise is laudable, concerns still remains on whether the implementation and execution of the plans and decisions will eventually match the expectations and objectives. Going by previous experiences, there has always been a slip between the lip and the cup when it comes to actually getting down to doing the deed. Examples abound at this very moment all over the state, from the Sanjenthong bridge to the repairing and construction of bridges and roads along the national highways, to the innumerable abandoned construction projects taken up by the Manipur Development Society (MDS). It goes without saying that the infrastructures and connectivity of the NE states should be made to develop and be maintained properly for any project to commence. Unfortunately, things are not looking very promising at the moment with the state and the Border Roads Organisation getting into loggerheads at the slightest instance, every single time. If any effort on this front has to have any significant impact, there is the pressing need for the monitoring process to make radical changes. The present work-culture prevailing in the state, deeply ingrained and institutionalized, if not remedied, will prove to be the undoing for the much hyped and highly expectant grand scheme. But such a change, as drastic as suggested here will be easier said than achieve. A conscious, sustained and concerted effort need to be made by all concern to bring about a changed mindset. We need to learn and take pride in the successful completion of any given task and enjoy the sense of achievement as a cohesive group. The mad scramble for credit and undue benefits needs to be contained. It may be said with a fair degree of accuracy that the state, and indeed the North Eastern region of the country would have been much better and developed had the funds and assistances been utilized properly. Blaming the centre for negligence and inadequate funds just does not cut ice with anyone, especially in this time and age of instant information and connectivity. Meanwhile, by the look of it, we still have a long way to go before things change for the better and our expectations delivered.
- Published in Editorial