GUWAHATI, May 2 - Noted economist and National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog member Professor Bibek Debroy said that forging close economic ties with Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and South East Asia is the key to prosperity and development of the North East India.
Prof Debroy was delivering the 3rd Professor Sarat Mahanta Memorial Lecture at the Royal Group of Institutions at Gorchuk on Sunday evening. He spoke on �Re-crafting Development: Prospects & Challenges of Economic Growth in North East India�. He also spoke strongly in favour of decentralisation of power and devolution of more powers to states.
Prof Debroy, who was born in Assam, laid out a roadmap for the development of this region which, he said, is viewed as �bypassed and marginalised�. Building tourism hubs in the region, making it the educational and medical node of the country, tapping natural reserves, like bamboo, handlooms and mineral reserves and the hydropower potential of the region, were his prescriptions for fuelling economic growth of the region.
The North East was one of the relatively prosperous regions of the subcontinent till the 1930s when �history severed natural economic and commercial flows�, Prof Debroy said. He said the country is now in the process of re-establishing the flow. Work on the Asian Highways project that will link the North East with Southeast Asia and Bangladesh with Nepal through the northern part of West Bengal has started, he said. He also spoke about the proposed Indo-Myanmar rail link project, on which work has started, and the new Inland Water Transit and Trade Protocol with Bangladesh.
Dispelling the notion that little of these talked-about mega projects are actually implemented on the ground, Prof Debroy gave out details of the work being done on these projects. The sub-regional motor vehicles agreement between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal has been inked and seamless road transport between all these countries will boost trade and commerce. Infrastructure development, particularly transport connectivity, is the common template of prosperity and development, and better infrastructure can boost the country�s GDP growth by 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent. �What�s true of India is even truer of the North East region, which effectively became a landlocked part of the country,� he said.
Prof Debroy rooted for revamping the Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution that deals with division of powers between the Union government and the states. He said that the �concurrent� list which lists subjects on which both the Union government and the states can legislate, should be scrapped, the Union list should be pruned and a new �Local Body� list that empowers local bodies like panchayats and municipalities to legislate on matters of local importance, should be added. This will also aid the growth of the North East.
The �artificial distinction� between plan and non-plan allocations will be scrapped from the next financial year, said Prof Debroy, and that would result in devolution of more financial powers and resources to the states. The states, he said, should also decentralise powers within themselves and devolve more powers to local bodies. This is especially important for the NE states since they are dotted with remote and inaccessible villages, to which no government can provide even basic goods and services like road connectivity, potable water and electricity. The financial restructuring being undertaken at present will have long-term benefits for the states, especially the northeastern states.
However, he noted, law and order and security are the prerequisites for development and prosperity. �In the North East, we do have a problem with law and order, and perceptions about law and order, possibly everywhere except Sikkim,� said Prof Debroy.