Guwahati, Feb. 13: Mizoram Governor A.R. Kohli today set the cat among the pigeons, comparing the Northeast to a petulant child who is showered with goodies but does not know what to do with them.
Kohli described the Northeast as the “most spoilt child in the country”, an observation likely to rub many the wrong way and open up a fresh debate on the widespread perception that the region is neglected by Delhi.
Kohli’s remark came during the inauguration of a seminar here today on Development of Agribusiness: Key to Northeast’s Prosperity. It left most at the gathering stunned.
“This may sound a bit strange ... I do not agree that the Northeast is the most neglected region. It is, in fact, the most spoilt child in the country,” Kohli said.
He attributed the reason for this to the Northeast being pampered by the Centre, which “showers funds and other goodies” liberally on it.
“However, the funds given by the Centre have not been utilised properly or have not reached where they should have,” the Governor added. Those present at the seminar included North Eastern Council chairman P.L. Thanga.
Kohli said some of the most advanced regions of the country, like the western part, had not got as much money as the Northeast in the past 10 years.
Citing an instance of funds not being spent properly, Kohli pointed out that Rs 85 crore was purveyed by the Centre to the Northeast as industrial subsidy “but there are no visible signs of industrialisation taking place in the region”.
Kohli also urged the industrial units to network with farmers to help people here reap the benefits of agriculture.
He requested the governments of the region to adopt a cluster approach in the farm sector.
For decades now, the Northeast has been crying for attention from successive governments in Delhi and has been accusing the Centre of exploiting the region’s rich resources without giving anything in return. This perceived neglect of the region has been the rallying point for mass organisations to launch countless agitations and has also spawned armed insurgencies.
Kohli’s remark is sure to raise the hackles of many, specially students’ organisations like the North East Students’ Union, a conglomerate of youth organisations of all the states in the region.
In fact, Kohli may even face the ire of organisations in Mizoram where frustration is growing over the Centre’s alleged failure to fulfil many of the promises it made when the militant Mizo National Front (MNF) called off its armed struggle to sign the peace pact in 1986.
However, there seems to be some basis for Kohli’s assertions as figures released by the Union home ministry recently showed that over Rs 300 crore have remained unutilised as part of the funding for projects released between 1998-2003.
Home ministry officials said most of the states have defaulted on submission of utilisation certificates.
Among the eight states of the region (including Sikkim), only Nagaland and Mizoram have provided certificates on the non-plan scheme of police modernisation. But even they have been “lethargic” like all the other states in schemes like the national disaster management programme, relief assistance for natural calamities and border area development.
Assam topped the list with more than Rs 170 crore being unspent on four schemes, followed by Tripura and Meghalaya.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi admitted that there were delays in utilisation of funds but felt that the Centre’s attitude towards the problems faced by the region was not above reproach.