Friday, September 28, 2012


Respected Shri Deepak Jalan, President of MCC Chamber of xCommerce & Industry, members of MCC Chamber of Commerce x& Industry, distinguished guests and ladies and gentlemen I feel privileged to be amongst you all today. MCC Chamber of Commerce &   Industry was founded in 1901 and carries with it a legacy of uniting the business community in Kolkata, forming an organisation and raising its voice of concern against all sorts of injustice which characterised Foreign Rule in India. It played a historic and nationalist role at different times of the last hundred and eleven years.

While championing the cause of small and medium enterprises, the Chamber has advocated strongly that in a mixed economy like ours, the Public and Private Sectors are complementary to each other. n has also represented to the Government, urging that both the sectors should receive proper encouragements, space for growth, and due incentives.

            I am glad to know that at present, the Chamber has about 800 direct' members and, 15000 indirect members covering a wide cross-section of small, medium & large industries, trades, professions and services. Besides, 20 Associations of Industry & Trade are affiliated to the Chamber. The interactions of the
Chamber with the
, Central and State Governments is frequent and multi-dimensional. The Chamber also interacts with various international bodies, foreign embassies and trade delegations, from timeto time, to foster closer economic relations with them.

            The topic that is chosen for today i.e "North East India- Challenges. of Development" is undoubtedly a very pertinent one and is of utmost importance to us. The task of development is indeed phenomenal and challenging, but we are all aware that the salvation of the region and its people lies. in bridging the yawning gaps that continue to exist in the growth and development that have taken place here and the rest of the country, a gap that we must fill up or at least reduce, so that we give good life to our people.

            Every one of us is aware of the huge potential of the economy of the North East in terms of resources, both natural and human. The region is also unique as world's one of the most bio-diverse hot spots, and is known for its unparallel and most colourful mosaic of cultural diversities. Provided there is right
kind of strategic intervention, the region has all the potential of becoming investors
' paradise and emerging as a major tourists' destination in the country.

            Let me first begin with the general perception regarding the North- East. When we talk about the North - East, we think about remote, peripheral region which is inaccessible and underdeveloped. There should be a paradigm shift in the way we look at the North- east. The NER shares borders with China in the north, Bangladesh in the south-west, Bhutan in the north- west and Myanmar in the east. This, naturally makes the region a goldmine Of opportunities, as far as international trade is concerned. Some of the important developments of India's Look East Policy relate to continuing dialogue and trade with China, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and other countries of ASEAN. Look East Policy, which has been. pursued through constructive engagements with various regional groupings and organizations such as ASEAN, East Asia Summit, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)
and Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC), can be the first paradigm shift in our attempt to trade led growth and development
. I strongly feel various trade engagements & agreements like India-ASEAN FTA, BIMSTEC etc., would definitely play a role in attracting investments from the neighbouring countries to the North Eastern Region in the long run. Thus the North-East region can develop as an international trade hub - the reqion is an emerging market of 400 million people including the neighbouring countries. Friendly and cordial relations with the neighbouring nation will also result in taking collaborative effort against the various insurgent groups of the region. MO'reover, I feel that rapid economic growth will act as a check on the growth, of insurgency itself.

            Let me also highlight the other aspect of the region - that of its backwardness. Despite having so many advantages and so much of untapped economic potential, all of us recognize that the North-East has not been able to grow as expected, or at par with the rest of the country. Without delving much into inherent,
historical reasons, I think, good governance, taking development to the grass-roots, improvements In infrastructure & connectivity, peaceful investment climate, increasing urbanization, are just some of the factors which can take the region to a higher growth trajectory.

            In so far as the Govt. of India is concerned, it is aware of the various issues" involved and is seized with the situation. Accordingly, a number of steps have been initiated and today, development of the north-east is one of the topmost agenda of the Planning Commission and Govt. of India. It was way back in
1972 that the
.North Eastern Council (NEC) was set up under an Act of Parliament, to plan and exploit the natural treasure for a balanced and sustainable growth and development of the region. This unique concept of a body exclusively geared to the task of bringing about a balanced. development of a particular region, reflects the concern and importance that the Central Govt. attaches to the special problems that has kept the
sensitive and strateg
ic region of the country underdeveloped and disturbed. Now, both Ministry of Development of North East region (DONER) and NEC, which. is also under aegis of DONER, are working in tandem for the development of the region.

            I also feel that while the tea and oil would remain the mainstay of the economy in the North East, the focus of an integrated growth of the region has to remain on agro- based sector and Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) / Small Scale Industries (SSIs), spearheaded by the commercial use of enormous skills, expertise and aptitude locally available. The region can become a granary of all kinds of agro, horti, flori, bamboo, forest and herbal products if it is backed up by a chain of cold storage facilities, adequacy of power, marketing and efficient transportation under an integrated planning. The focus of my Ministry too is in many of these areas already outlined.

Here, I will also like to refer to the North East Vision 2020 document released by the Hon'ble PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh in 2008, which recommends a structural transformation of the region in terms of development to catch up with the rest of the country with an increasing average growth rate of 12.95% in Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) per annum from the present 7.5 0/0. The Vision 2020 was the result of a collaborative effort of all the states under the aegis of North Eastern Council. It aims at achieving various development goals, including : Poverty eradication ; Maximising self-governance ; Harnessing resources for people's benefit ; Building capacity in people and institutions; Strengthening infrastructure; Creating a centre for trade and commerce, etc.

            The Vision 2020 also emphasizes that connectivity and infrastructure development is the cornerstone of development in the region. I am upbeat about the several Governmental initiatives which have been taken to bridge the infrastructure gap including like ambitious road.-building programme for the NER. Initiatives phased development of National Highways, major district roads and state highways by adding over 3000 Kms to the existing network; connecting all 8 state capitals to the East-West Corridor through 4 lanes; national projects under North-East Rail Development Fund , like Rs.850 crore Dimapur-Zubza (Kohima) new line (88.4 kms) project ; Dhola Sadia Bridge project ; Bogibeel Rail cum Road bridge over Brahmaputra; Jiribam-Imphal Road (Tupul) new line (98 kms) etc. -- all can playa major role in addressing connectivity issues in the North-East. Also, connecting all state capitals via the air route with Guwahati acting as the hub, I feel, would be extremely important, as would be reviving the old airstrips, and setting up new Greenfield Airports. My ministry is deeply involved in further addressing the issue of connectivity by looking at .the crucial gaps in the infrastructure and sponsoring projects to bridge those gaps. The ministry is also involved in monitoring and facilitating 26 national projects, being implemented by various ministries, which· address the development issues in general and connectivity in particular. Thus, ushering an era of development based on Vision document and focusing on good governance is a cherished strategy for accelerated development.

            At this time I would like to mention that we do not just want development but also want that the people are happy, We all know very well that this region is beset with the problem of insurgency and clashes among various groups, tribes and classes. While I agree that development is necessary to bring peace and happiness, it is not the sufficient condition. If we look at the world around us, we find that there is a rise of
unhappiness even in the developed countries. For example, even in
'United States of America, which is only superpower and amongst the richest, the people are not amongst the happiest one. We all are aware of the recent phenomenon namely, "October revolution "caused by "Occupy Wall street" demonstrators, which highlighted the level of unhappiness among the people" despite very high level of income. Hence, to my mind, we should look at the concept of "Gross National Happiness". The term "Gross National Happiness" or GNH was developed in an attempt to define an indicator that measure quality of life or social ,progress in more holistic and psychological terms rather than gross domestic product (GDP).

            Concept of GNH, coined by Bhutan's former King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, has now greater acceptance among· many countries. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of natural. environment, and establishment of good governance. A decentralized form of governance, where the decision, making right on development matters is with the regional, council, can help in raising political wellness by addressing the regional aspirations and can help in reversing the growth of insurgency. The successful experiment regarding Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) is a testimony to this belief. Thus, to my mind, a governance and developmental model based on the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) should be another pillar for the development of the region. 

            Lastly, ladies and gentlemen, we need to accept that an adverse perception about safety and security of the region is still there. We need to seriously address the most imperative need for managing this difficult and complex problem in a more professional manner. So far, we have been rather ad-hoc in our approach in the pursuit of the task of security and development in sequence and not simultaneously. Our response has been guided by security centric approach. Time has come to leverage the prevailing adverse perception in a professional manner by providing. systemic and not provisional solutions. The training curriculum has to undergo some modifications and the use of technology has to be more intense and extensive to bring about
a fundamental change in the management of security and development
. I extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to each one of you present here. Wish you all a very happy Durga Puja and Dipawali.

            Thank you. 

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