It was the morning of 8 February, 2014. A massive crowd of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers and supporters had gathered for the New Hope, New Manipur rally in Imphal. The main speaker was the party’s prime ministerial candidate for the Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi.
“With a lot of conviction and commitment to do something, we promise to bring this region at par with other regions of India,” said Modi, underscoring the potential of the North East – including the seven sister states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura, as well as Sikkim. “This is the Ashta Lakshmi who will change India’s fortunes,” he said.
Now, by allocating a hefty sum of Rs 59,000 crore in the 2019-20 Union Budget for the North East, the Modi government has shown that it is keen to retain the political dividends it derived out of the region through incremental budgeting over the last five years.
The BJP’s unprecedented success story in the nation’s northeastern frontier is all about taking governance and welfare to the doorstep of the citizen. Making it possible required drastic increase in the budgetary allocations for the region and also ensuring that the benefits reach the targeted beneficiary.
Soon after he took over as prime minister, Modi allocating a whopping Rs 53, 706 crore in the 2014-15 Budget for the development of the region, compared to the Rs 31,625 crore set aside in the previous fiscal.
Barring 2015-16, when the North East received a budgetary share of Rs 29, 087.93 crore only, the region received incremental allocation every year during the first term of the Modi government.
The amount that was set aside for the Northeast in the 2016-17 Budget was Rs 33, 097 crore, and it was Rs 43,244.64 crore and Rs 47,944.88 crore in the following two financial years.
The increase in allocation has also resulted in wider and deeper reach of government services in the region. In the year 2013-14, the Union Budget sanctioned Rs 1,518 crore for rural housing and only 2,794 units were built under this scheme till that year in Assam. Not a single house was built till that year in other northeastern states such as Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Mizoram, while three houses were built in Tripura and 103 in Meghalaya.
More than two lakh homes were built in Assam after Modi took over as the prime minister in 2014, till 2019. Among other states in the region, Manipur built 8,068, Nagaland 14, Tripura 27,523, Arunachal Pradesh 83, Sikkim 1,424, Meghalaya 14,100 and Mizoram 2,556 houses during this period.
Till the end of the financial year 2018-19, Kamrup district of Assam saw 1,046 habitats getting connected under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). Significantly, 411 of them were connected in the last five years, while 555 were connected between the years 2000 and 2014.
Churachandpur, a remote district in Manipur, has 196 habitats which have been connected by PMGSY roads in the last two decades. Of these, 90 habitats have been connected in the last five years.
Health expenditure in the region by the Government of India has increased substantially from Rs 2,916 crore in the year 2013-14 to Rs 4,127 crore in 2018-19.
Despite an increase in the health budget, the outcomes have not been uniform in the region. While Mizoram and Manipur have reached top positions in health indices such as infant and under-five mortality, sex ratio at birth, immunisation, institutional deliveries, health-monitoring and governance indicators such as occupancy of hospital beds, infrastructure and human resources in 2017-18, Assam recorded the highest maternal mortality rate at 300.
Of the record Rs 59,000 crore earmarked for the Northeast in this Budget, a chunk of Rs 4,582.7 crore has been set aside for teachers’ training and Rs 4,700.1 crore for three medical institutes. An old-age pension scheme for small and marginal farmers has got Rs 12,982 crore.
Though the first five years of the Modi government saw massive enhancement in infrastructure in the region, the real challenge for the administration lies not only in continuing the pace of development and welfare, but also maintaining the built infrastructure. Monitoring and capacity building of state machineries would require enhanced focus, as a major part of these jobs would be done by them.
Updated Date: Jul 10, 2019 19:18:03 IST