GUWAHATI, Aug 13 - Over 67 per cent of the country�s bamboo grows in the Northeast but the region is nowhere near realizing the huge potential of its �green gold�. This is largely because the Centre persists with its ham-handed approach even after the �failure� of two much-touted bamboo missions.
A case in point is the reluctance of the New Delhi-based North East Centre for Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR) which is actually headquartered in Shillong and supposed to function from there. But for reasons best known to the authorities, it has not shifted office to the Meghalaya capital since it was formed five years ago.
Even an instruction from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, asking NECTAR to shift to Shillong by December 24, 2016 failed to yield any result.
A letter from DST to Sanjiv Nair, then Director General, NECTAR, dated October 24, 2016, stated that the DST Secretary had instructed that NECTAR must relocate to Shillong within two months (starting from the date of the letter, i.e. October 24). �...the instructions of Secretary, DST, are followed up in the right earnest and the actions taken are reported back to us promptly,� the letter added.
The issue figured in the ongoing Lok Sabha session when the Minister for DST, Dr Harsh Vardhan told the House on July 25 that due to lack of accommodation in Shillong, the organization was currently functioning from Delhi. He added that NECTAR recently took some vacant space on lease from the Survey of India at Shillong and requested the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) to carry out necessary fittings and furnishings to enable shifting of NECTAR to Shillong.
Entrepreneurs engaged in the bamboo sector are, however, far from enthused by the assurances.
�It�s inexplicable that NECTAR should be functioning from Delhi all these five years due to lack of space in Shillong. The whole development actually exposes the myopic vision of the Central authorities entrusted with the job of uplifting the Northeast�s bamboo sector,� Rajib Goswami, president of the Bamboo Industries Association of India (BIAI) told The Assam Tribune.
He said that what had been happening followed a trend of neglect being meted out to the bamboo sector. �The Northeast�s bamboo sector has been plagued by anomalies and mismanagement for years. Two major projects � National Mission on Bamboo Technology (NMBT) and National Bamboo Mission (NBM) � were implemented in the past decade but with little impact on the ground, as those were plagued by corruption and mismanagement. The much-talked-about technological interventions remain distanced from the local entrepreneurs,� he added.
As for NECTAR, with an approved budget of Rs 292 crore for the 12th Plan, it was supposed to undertake all activities which require technology and management to strengthen the economy of the northeastern region and create income and livelihood but that�s not happening, he said.
�How can an agency set up to look after the needs of the Northeast�s artisans function from Delhi? Both the bamboo missions failed to provide any resources to the entrepreneurs, especially those from Assam, to commence their business,� he said.
Experts believe that the harnessing the Northeast�s bamboo potential is critical to the fructification of any bamboo mission in the country.
�But this is not happening due to lopsided implementation of projects. Local entrepreneurs are enduring a tough time even as Indian markets are being flooded with products from China and Vietnam and we are in no position to compete. Only a few industries got technology development assistance from the National Mission on Bamboo Applications (NMBA), while a huge amount was spent on foreign trips of the officials,� Goswami added.
Goswami demanded that there should be a detailed probe into the anomalous implementation of the bamboo missions.