Purvoday: The Rise of the Northeast

Ajay Pratap Singh*

The discourse around Northeast India has changed significantly under the PM Narendra Modi government, with a greater emphasis on development, more attention, and attempts to further integrate the region with the nation. The government under has made an effort to include Northeast Indian problems and concerns in the national discourse. This involves drawing attention to the region’s strategic significance, potential for economic growth, and cultural diversity in order to increase understanding of Northeast India’s relevance within the larger framework of India’s development. There has been a paradigm shift since 2014, efforts were made to make Northeast an inalienable part of the Indic Civilization. Often the region used to be in the news for ethnic disputes, rebellions, instability and the ensuing precarious situations of the people there. The current regime has ensured that this era of darkness which continued to linger for so long, is no more acceptable. All this came to fruition when Delhi went to the doorstep of NE under the current regime. Under the vision of ‘Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat’, the parochial identities took a backseat and the emotional integration of the region was made possible. This was earlier deemed as unthinkable and unachievable.

The government came up with the “Purvoday” framework, to bring the Northeast to centre-stage. Government envisions ensuring the rise of the Northeast by adopting a three-fold approach. This includes fast-tracking the development, underscoring the need to resolve the conflicts (which is prerequisite for long-term peace and stability in the region), and making sure that the sanctity of the cultural landscape remains unaltered amidst the economic development of the region.

The region has witnessed rapid and landmark transformation, and this has been made possible by ensuring peace and stability and simultaneously fostering development in the region. Stability and development go hand-in-hand, and one follows the other. PM often terms the NE states as ‘Asthlakshmi’, and is of the vision to make the region one of the frontrunners in India’s growth story.

Peace and StabilityIn a report published by the Ministry of Home Affairs, it has been stated that till 2022 (when compared to 2014) there has been a 76% reduction in insurgency incidents, the casualties among the security forces  and civilians have come down by 90% and 97% respectively. The region has also witnessed the mass surrender of members of various militant outfits. Improved security situation led to the removal of AFSPA from 24 districts and has been completely removed from Tripura and Meghlaya.

Instead of relying on hard measures, the current regime has tried to bring the insurgent groups on the negotiating table. Memorandum of Settlement and Ceasefire agreement were signed with various insurgent groups in the region. Bru Agreement(2020), Bodo Accord (2020) and  Karbi Accord (2022) are some of the Memorandum Agreements that the Government has been party to. Regarding Nagaland, on August 3, 2015, PM Modi’s administration was able to sign the “Framework Agreement” with the NSCN-IM, which would open the door to a resolution to the lingering Naga Crisis. Later ceasefire agreements have been signed with NSCN(NK), NSCN (R), NSCN(K-Khango) and Nagaland(K)Niki. Such efforts furthered progress toward a durable resolution to the longstanding Naga political conflict.

Longstanding Issues of inter-state border disputes were also resolved. MoU’s and mutual declarations were signed between the state governments of Assam- Meghalaya and Assam-Arunachal Pradesh. Contrary to the erstwhile belief that the Northeast is a disturbed region, the present regime has been successful in transforming it into an aspirational area.

Economic Upturn

PM Modi in his speeches earlier has piped North-east to become the ‘growth engine of India’ and ‘driver of India’s growth. Interestingly, recently he said that ‘Northeast has emerged as New India’s greatest success story with huge investment.  Thus what he believed and envisioned, has finally come to fruition. The investments and the infrastructural developments that improved connectivity have been at the core of things. In the current government, 10% of Union Ministries’ budget is mandatorily set aside for the Northeast. The nodal ministry responsible for tracking and monitoring the allocation made by other ministries is the Ministry of DoNER.  In 2024-25, Rs 96857.92 crore (budget estimates) has been allocated by all the Ministries for the North Eastern region.

Almost every one of the eight northeastern states in India is growing in double digits with enormous potential to expand in areas as diverse as organic food to renewable energy. With India committed to realizing its target of becoming a $5 trillion economy by 2024, accelerating the development and economic potential of the Northeast is critical. Over the last ten years, the region has had notable advancements in accessibility, infrastructural development, and per capita income growth. Interestingly, per capita income has increased significantly. Manipur has had a twofold increase in per capita income, whilst Mizoram has shown an exceptional 3.2 times gain. Even Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura performed well, their Net State Domestic Product (NSDP) per capita increased by 2.9 and 2.5 times respectively. Assam, Nagaland and Meghalaya also performed considerably well. These figures highlight the region’s expanding economy, with noticeable advancements in the living standards.

Infrastructure development was given utmost importance. The Union Budget 2022–2023 included the announcement of the ‘Prime Minister’s Development Initiative for North East Region (PM-DevINE)’, with all the funding coming from the Central Government. The goals of the PM-DevINE programme are to: finance infrastructure in the spirit of PM Gati Shakti; promote social development initiatives and facilitate livelihood opportunities for women and youth. Eventually, aimed at bridging the development gap in the region.

The North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESIDS) after being authorised in 2017–18, continued till March 2022. The scheme has now been reorganised into NESIDS (Roads) and NESIDS (Other than Road Infrastructure).The program’s goal is to fill in particular financing gaps for the building of roads (that fall beyond the purview of any other ministry or department of government) that are required to give access to markets, distant areas, and sites that are critical in terms of security.

Several other transformative projects like the Bharatmala Project and National Ropeway Developmnt Project (Parvatmala) is being implemented to increase the accessibility of the region. Till 2013-14, the total length of National Highways in the North-east region was 8,480 km, which increased to 15,735 km in 2022-23. Thus the road infrastructure development reached a new height under the PM Modi’s government. The bridges have contributed in the development of the region and also helped in military logistics. The Bogibeel bridge (largest road cum rail bridge) and Bhupen Hazarika Setu are the noteworthy developments in this regard.

Increasing connection between Northeast India and the rest of the nation and with neighbouring nations in South and Southeast Asia is a key component of PM Modi’s government. In addition to facilitating commerce and cross-cultural interactions, the goal of improving road, rail, air, and digital connections is to further integrate the area with India’s mainstream economy.
Northeast India now serves as a gateway to Southeast Asia as a result of the Act East Policy, which has reoriented India’s relations with the area. The region’s economic growth and strategic significance have been aided by the increasing diplomatic, commercial, and cultural exchanges between Northeast India and Southeast Asian nations as a result of this policy change. The ‘Act East Policy’ is bearing fruit, with projects like the ‘Inland Waterways’ through Bangladesh, ‘the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project’, and the Trilateral Highway Project connecting the North-East with Myanmar and Thailand showing great potential for India. The success of the policy will lead to mainstreaming of the North-East.

The government has adopted a multi-pronged approach that reflects its commitment to holistic development, encompassing infrastructure, health, sports, tourism, agriculture, and environmental sustainability in the Northeast. ‘Ayushman Yojana’, ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana’, ‘Kisan Samman Nidhi’, and other central government programmes provide free gas and electricity connections, toilets etc. to thousands of people from the Northeast in addition to all of the aforementioned benefits. As of February 2023, a total of 7,588 ‘Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs)’ have been set up in the North Eastern States and over 1.97 crore Ayushman Cards have been created (till 1st of June 2023). The region is also benefiting from the schemes such as ‘Swadesh Darsan’ and ‘Prasadh’ for the promotion of tourism in the region.

The region has seen tremendous transformation under the BJP government led by PM Modi. The area that was once ignored is now blossoming into a haven of optimism and comprehensive development in many fields. As per the report published by the Press Information Bureau (12 December 2023), PM Modi has visited the North-East around 64 times, while his Council of Ministers have also visited the North-East more than 400 times. The ministers in the government have been directed to visit North-east every 15 days and also to at least stay there for a night. This shows the dedication towards the development of the region. PM Modi’s government has lived up to its commitment of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas’. The mainstreaming and the emotional integration of the North East is the real materialization of that commitment.

*PhD, Research Scholar, Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies is Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU),  Delhi, India


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *