Many of the issues confronting the states in Northeast India share similar problems with varying dimensions. As far as development and infrastructure are concerned, each of the states more or less faces the same dilemma of dependency. It has also been observed that none of the Northeast states are self-sufficient in terms of food grain production and daily consumable goods. The sheer need of the people cannot be fully fulfilled by the state government themselves. Whenever a state fairs well in some sectors, there is another serious problem that besieges the same state. Ironically, the region is truly united by underdevelopment, unemployment, environmental issues and ethnic tensions.
In recent times, the region has fared well in education but it still lacks the infrastructural backup needed for higher and technical education. While states like Sikkim has also been rated high in the development scale, other states are lagging much behind in most aspects of human well-being. Most of the times, experts have only given their views on addressing the issues at the individual state level. Apart from slamming New Delhi for all woes, few have pondered on the need to organise inter-state dialogues so as to collectively address common issues.
Some of the issues that can be collectively addressed on a priority basis are Disaster Management, Sharing of Human and Natural Resources besides the often talked about Eco-friendly Industrial Policy, and Resolution of Political and Ethnic Conflicts. While identifying these issues, there is a need to acknowledge that Northeast India collectively possesses tremendous natural and human resource potentials. Its rich mineral deposits and forest resources can be one major source of economic spurt if planned well keeping in view certain ecological constraints. The region which has seen disasters like floods, landslides and earthquake can have a nodal agency for handling disaster management.
It would be prudent to kick off the proposed joint effort with works related to monitoring the recurring and impending natural disasters and calamities. While doing so, we should be reminded that most of the natural disasters in the region are also the indirect result of human neglect and interference. Efforts should be made towards bringing a comprehensive and sustained programme for landslide management besides prevention and mitigation of natural disasters. State governments can make concerted joint efforts dealing with frequent landslides caused by inclement weather conditions. An automated weather monitoring station and analysis can be jointly established for the region to keep the citizens informed of cyclones, storms and floods using the satellite images.
On human and natural resources, the states should be able to workout practical plans on sharing of river waters originating from the lesser Himalayas. One can work on trans-border rivers and invent innovative ways of approaching the issues related to water sharing. Any policy drawn has to cater to the needs of the environment. It is also high time to take note that all existing river policies are made in favour of the policies pushed forward by the Government of India. There have been instances of hydel projects and dams planned along mountain rivers without properly assessing the environmental impact. As far as the forests are concerned, there is an urgent need for co-management between the governments and the people with demarcated roles. In recent times, no one seems to be talking about inter-state dialogues in managing nature and finding collective solutions to collective problems in Northeast region of India. Here, it should be remembered that the idea of dialogue encompasses a willingness on the parts of all participants to share their experiences, find a solution and march forward.