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Chapter # 36. The North-East Region


The North-East Region (NER) should:

  • Have adequate road, rail and air connectivity, waterways, internet connectivity and financial inclusion. This will form the platform upon which suitable interventions for all sectors where the North-East Region has a comparative advantage (for e.g., tourism, hydropower generation, handicrafts, organic agriculture, etc.) can be effectively implemented.
  • By 2022-23, the region should also be developed for enhanced trade, particularly for the export of products made in the NER, to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region and other neighbouring countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal).

Current Situation

North-East Region- The NER consists of eight states, namely Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. The region accounts for 3.78 per cent of India’s population and covers 7.98 per cent of its total geographical area. Its contribution to national GDP is 2.5 per cent.1 the per capita net state domestic product (NSDP) for the year 2015-16 (base year 2011-12) for the North-Eastern states.

The figure clearly illustrates the disparity in development within the region. While five out of the eight states have a per capita income below the national average, Sikkim enjoys a per capita income level that is 2.5 times the national average.

A comparison of the per capita incomes in these states in 2015-16 and 2004-05 indicates that the ranking within the NER has also changed over the years.

Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim have shown the most significant improvement in per capita incomes. Per capita income in Arunachal Pradesh, which was below the national average in 2004-05, rose to 1.3 times the national average in 2015-16. Sikkim’s per capita income, which was on par with the national average, increased to 2.5 times the national average in 2015-16.

States like Nagaland and Tripura, which were on par with the national average in 2004-05, have fallen behind. The heterogeneity among the NE states is noteworthy and calls for a state specific development approach.

The North-East states have performed well in different aspects of human development. For e.g. according to the Sikkim Human Development Report 2014,3 Sikkim increased its social sector spending from 23 per cent of total expenditure in 2001 to 37 per cent in 2012-13.

The female labour force participation rate in Sikkim is 40 per cent compared to the national average of 26 per cent. Furthermore, according to the National Family Health Survey – 4,4 all states in the North-East Region except Assam have a lower mortality rate for under-fives than the national average. Lastly, Sikkim was recently declared India’s first fully organic state.

This area is strategically important for India both for its geographical location and the resources found there. Some of the key strengths of the North-East Region are given below:

  • North-East Region shares about 5,437 km of international boundaries with Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Nepal.5
  • Total coal reserves in the NER is estimated at 1,597 million tonnes.6 These were exported in the past.
  • Limestone deposits are found extensively throughout the North-East Region .
  • Petroleum, natural gas and uranium are other natural resources to be found in the North-East Region .
  • According to the India State of Forest Report 2017,7 some of the North-Eastern states have the highest forest covers in the country. The total forest cover in the region is 1,71,306 sq km, which is 65.3 per cent of its geographical area, which is thrice the national average of 21.5 per cent.
  • Hydropower potential for the NER has been estimated at 58,971 MW,8 which is 40 per cent of India’s total hydropower potential. However, only 2.1 per cent of this vast potential of clean energy has been utilized.

Despite the region’s strengths and the government’s focus on developing the NER, a lot of challenges remain. These are highlighted below.


North-East Region -While the NER has all the ingredients needed to become prosperous, it could not achieve the expected level of economic growth mainly due to inadequate road, rail and air connectivity. A lot of its resources remain untapped. For e.g.

  • Despite abundant rainfall, the irrigation coverage in this region is less than the national average of 46.35 per cent.
  • The NER’s natural scenic beauty and distinct ethnic heritage offers great attractions for mountaineering, trekking and other tourist activities. However, the tourism industry remains underdeveloped.

The major constraints hampering economic growth in the NER are:

  • Inadequate infrastructure in terms of limited air, rail and road connectivity.
  • Under-utilization of available natural resources.
  • Safety and security related issues.
  • Difficulties in transfer of land on lease to entrepreneurs.

Way Forward

  • A targeted strategy needs to be devised, in consultation with representatives from all eight NE states, to disseminate information on the various central government schemes that are already in place for the development of the NER.
  • All central ministries and departments should consider sharing their targets and vision for the NER and spell out modalities for spending the stipulated 10 per cent of their budget for the NER. The Ministry of Finance should formally acknowledge the availability of funds under the NLCPR.
  • Each state within the NER may be encouraged to draw up their development blueprint in consultation with the NITI Aayog and the North-East Council (NEC).
  • As noted earlier in this chapter, different states in the NER have achieved success in different aspects of human development. The Ministry of Development of North-Eastern Region (MDoNER) should document such best practices and disseminate its findings within the region so that the learning can be implemented suitably in other states.
  • The NER Vision 20209 noted, “responsive governance and planning from below require significant augmentation of capacity”. It is recommended that mechanisms like project management units be considered to augment the capacities of state governments.
  • To address the issue of inadequate connectivity in the NER, the following measures need to be taken:
  • As a general point, transit treaties for the NER and its neighbouring countries need to be put in place. India could consider initiating a regional multi-modal transit agreement between the NER and the four neighbouring countries.
  • It is necessary to monitor closely on-going transport projects with focus on projects that boost inter-regional connectivity and help transform the region into a major trade hub with South East Asia. It is recom-mended that a high-level committee be set up in 2018 (possibly as a sub-committee under the “NITI Forum for North-East”) to focus on expediting such projects, includ-ing the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Trans-port Project, the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, the 5-km road stretch between the border city of Zokhawthar in Mizoram and Rih in Myanmar and the rail link from Imphal to Moreh and further from Moreh to Kalay (in Myanmar)
  • One of the projects that will boost connectivity within India and significantly benefit the NER is the Agartala-Akhaura rail project. This project, 15 km in length, has already been sanctioned and will reduce the distance between Kolkata and Agartala by 1,200 km.10 The Ministry of Railways needs to fast track the project.
  • UDAN III may be launched. Its international component could connect Guwahati to ASEAN capitals.
  • The viability gap funding (VGF) required for UDAN III could come from the Government of Assam or could be met from the NLCPR. It is envisaged that VGF requirements would not be large and demand will rise in response to improved air connectivity.
  • The Government of India and the NER should work together to create an environment to attract more private investment into the region. On March 21, 2018, the Union Cabinet approved the North-East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS) with a project outlay of INR 3,000 crore up to March 2020, to incentivize new industrial units in manufacturing and services sector in the region.11 Indicators of development in the NER should be monitored closely and taken up in mission mode.
  • A few other measures that could also be considered over the next few years are:
  • Set up industrial estates/parks in the region.
  • Focus on sectors such as organic agriculture, tourism, renewable energy, etc, in which the NER has competitive advantage.
  • Accelerate skill development as suitable for the region.
  • One of the most pressing issues hampering the progress of hydropower projects in the region is rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R). Attractive R&R packages should be devised for hydropower projects in the region.
  • NER is endowed with natural beauty, rich flora and fauna and a unique culture. Tourism, particularly eco-tourism and adventure tourism, should be promoted by identifying suitable sites and creating supporting infrastructure at these sites through the PPP mode.
  • Water management is a major issue in the NER. Early completion of ongoing irrigation projects, particularly Borolia, Dhansiri and Champavati in Assam, and Thoubal and Dolaithabi Barrage in Manipur under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme, should be accorded high priority. It is expected that the establishment of the North East Water Management Authority will help address the issue.

Chapter # 41. Data Led Governance and Policy Making

Objectives Evidence based policy making should be made integral to the overall governance structure in New India, 2022-23. To achieve this, timely gen

Chapter # 40. Optimizing the Use of Land Resources

Optimizing the Use of Land Resources-Ensuring that land markets function smoothly, through efficient allocation of land across uses, provision of secu

Chapter # 39. Modernizing City Governance For Urban Transformation

Objective  City Governance For Urban Transformation To transform our cities into economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable habitats that p

Chapter # 38. Civil Services Reforms

Objective  civil-services-reforms To put in place a reformed system of recruitment, training and performance evaluation of the civil service to ensur

Chapter # 37. Legal, Judicial and Police Reforms

Objective To ensure the safety and security of citizens and ensure access to effective legal systems and speedy delivery of justice. Current Situation

Chapter # 36. The North-East Region

Objectives The North-East Region (NER) should: Have adequate road, rail and air connectivity, waterways, internet connectivity and financial inclusion

Chapter # 35. Balanced Regional Development: Transforming Aspirational Districts

Objective  Balanced Regional Development: Transforming Aspirational Districts Achieve balanced development in India by uplifting 115 districts, curre

Chapter # 34. Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Other Tribal Groups and Minorities

SCs, STs, OBCs, De-Notified Tribes (DNTs), Nomadic Tribes (NTs) and Semi-Nomadic Tribes (SNTs) Objective  To accelerate the socio-economic developm

Chapter # 33. Senior Citizens, Persons with Disability and Transgender Persons

SENIOR CITIZENS  Objective To ensure a life of dignity, social security and safety for senior citizens, enabling them to actively participate in econ

Chapter # 32. Gender

Objective  To create an enabling environment, sans institutional and structural barriers. To enhance the female labour force participation rate to at

Chapter # 31. Nutrition

Objectives  Under POSHAN Abhiyaan, achieve the following outcomes by 2022-23, compared to the baseline of 2015-16 (National Family Health Survey-4):

Chapter # 30. Universal Health Coverage

Objectives  On the strong platform of Pradhan Mantri – Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY): Attain a coverage of at least 75 per cent of the population

Chapter # 29. Human Resources for Health

Objectives  Achieve a doctor-population ratio of at least 1:1400 (WHO norm 1:1000) and nurse-population ratio of at least 1:500 (WHO norm 1:400) by 2

Chapter # 28. Comprehensive Primary Health Care

Objectives  Under Ayushman Bharat, scale-up a new vision for comprehensive primary health care across the country, built on the platform of health an

Chapter # 27. Public Health Management and Action

Objectives  To revamp radically the public and preventive health system in the nation through the following strategic interventions: Mobilize public

Chapter # 26. Skill Development

Obejctives  For harnessing the demographic advantage that it enjoys, India needs to build the capacity and infrastructure for skilling/reskilling/up-

Chapter # 25. Teacher Education and Training

Objectives There cannot be a quality education system without quality teachers. Therefore, a thorough revamp of the entire ecosystem of teacher educat

Chapter # 24. Higher Education

Objectives  Increase the gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education from 25 per cent in 2016-17 to 35 per cent by 2022-23. Make higher education

23. School Education

Objectives Universal access and retention: o Hundred per cent enrolment and retention at elementary education and secondary education levels; achieve

Chapter # 22. Sustainable Environment

Objective  The objective is to maintain a clean, green and healthy environment with peoples’ participation to support higher and inclusive economic

Chapter # 21. Water Resources

Objectives By 2022-23, India’s water resources management strategy should facilitate water security to ensure adequate availability of water for l

Chapter # 20. Swash Bharat Mission

Objectives The key objectives of the Swachh Bharat Mission include: 1. Making India Open Defecation Free (ODF) by October 2, 2019. 2. Carrying out ext

Chapter # 19.Smart Cities for Urban Transformation

Objectives  Leverage the ‘Smart Cities’ concept in select urban clusters to: Drive job creation and economic growth. Significantly improve effici

Chapter # 18. Digital Connectivity

Objectives Given the relevance of digital connectivity to economic growth and the need to eliminate the digital divide by 2022-23, India should aim to

Chapter # 17. Logistics

Objectives Achieve multi-modal movement of cargo on par with global logistics standards. Reduce the logistics cost to less than 10 per cent of GDP fro

Chapter # 16.Ports, Shipping and Inland Waterways

Objectives  Double the share of freight transported by coastal shipping and inland waterways from 6 per cent in 2016-171 to 12 per cent by 2025. Incr

Chapter # 15. Civil Aviation

Objectives Enhance the affordability of flying to enable an increase in domestic ticket sales from 103.75 million in 2016-171 to 300 million by 2022.2

Chapter # 14. Railways

Objectives By 2022-23, India should have a rail network that is not only efficient, reliable and safe, but is also cost-effective and accessible, both

Chapter # 13. Surface Transport

Objectives Increasing the coverage and quality of roads and highways is critical to enhancing connectivity and internal and external trade. By 2022-23

Chapter # 12. Energy

Objectives The government’s on-going energy sector policies aim “to provide access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy”. At t

Chapter # 11. Minerals

Objectives Double the area explored from 10 per cent of obvious geological potential (OGP) area to 20 per cent.1 Accelerate the growth of the mining s

Chapter # 10. Travel, Tourism and Hospitality

Objectives  Increase India’s share in global international tourist arrivals from 1.18 per cent to 3 per cent. Increase the number of foreign touris

Chapter # 9. Housing For All

Objectives Provide every family with a pucca house, with a water connection, toilet facilities, and 24×7 electricity supply and access. Build 2.9

Chapter # 8. Financial Inclusion

Objectives Banking for the unbanked  o Bank accounts: Ensuring universal access to bank accounts, which are a gateway to all financial services.  o

Chapter # 7.Doubling Farmers’ Income (III): Value Chain & Rural Infrastructure

Objectives • Transform the rural economy through the creation of modern rural infrastructure and an integrated value chain system. • Leverage the

Chapter # 6.Doubling Farmers’ Income (II): Policy & Governance

Objectives Create a policy environment that enables income security for farmers, whilst maintaining India’s food security. Encourage the participati

Chapter # 5.Doubling Farmers’ Income (I): Modernizing Agriculture

Objectives • Modernize agricultural technology, increase productivity, efficiency and crop diversification. • Generate income and employment throu

Chapter # 4.Industry

Objectives Double the current growth rate of the manufac-turing sector by 2022. Promote in a planned manner the adoption of the latest technology adva

Chapter # 3. Technology and Innovation

Objectives India should be among the top 50 countries in the Global Innovation Index by 2022-23.1 Five of our scientific research institutions should

Chapter # 2.Employment and Labour Reforms

Objectives Complete codification of central labour laws into four codes by 2019. Increase female labour force participation to at least 30 per cent by

Chapter # 1 Growth (India @ 75)

Objectives Steadily accelerate the gross domestic product(GDP) growth rate to achieve a target of about 8 per cent during 2018-23 This will raise the


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