NE’s Rs 8,000 cr

The allocation for the development of the northeast region has been doubled to Rs 8,000 crore, as per Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s announcement while presenting the Union Budget for fiscal 2011-12. Rs 8000 crore is a big amount although the seven northeastern States may feel that they could have got more given that this amount will have to be shared among the States. However, for a State like Nagaland with resource constraints, whatever assistance is on offer will be of great help. So we should have no room for complaining. Coming back to the grant, it has been clearly mentioned that the amount is for boosting “development in the northeastern region and special category states”. This special assistance will include Rs 5400 crore, which has been allocated as “untied Special Central Assistance”. Then off course there is another Rs 800 crore as grant from the Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR). This means that a bulk of this special assistance will be in the form of a free award or grant. Going by past record of fund misuse in the region, our politicians will consider this largesse as good news as they will be looking to divert such free flow cash into their personal account. But then such huge money for people’s development should not be used as pocket money of the privileged and powerful few. The Centre is already aware of how massive development funds in the NE region have been siphoned off. So what measure/s has been put in place to allocate such an amount of Rs 8000 crores? This is a very valid question. Let us hope that better ways are found to ensure proper utilization of funds. 
Although the NE region has been bemoaned as undeveloped and in need of special assistance, yet as evident from the latest fund allocation it is clear that there are enough funds available to drive development in the Northeastern States including Nagaland and the backward regions thereof. And it is not that development funds are available only now—they have been flowing in since the last so many decades. But it is sad that even after all these years; nothing has changed much in terms of economic progress. And if the decades of fund allocations had been used in a judicious manner the NE region should have reached a higher level of economic growth that is at par with some of the more developed States in the country. But all of us know that this is not the case. The ground reality of ‘development’ in the NE region is not commensurate with the generous funding from Delhi. How well the present and future development funds are utilized will remain the determining factor—to ensure real development on the ground as well. We have to learn from the past and make sure that such funds are not merely hijacked by the politicians and their coterie. The public of the region should act as a watchdog making sure that there is transparency and accountability. Otherwise the tall claims of a developed NE region will remain a utopia.