Has BJP Govt Fulfilled its 2014 Manifesto Promises on Insurgency, Development in Northeast?
In the 2014 BJP manifesto, there were about seven promises dedicated to the northeast region. These promises have now been reduced to four in the current one.
PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, display copies of their party's election manifesto for the general election in New Delhi. (Image: Reuters)
New Delhi: In the election manifesto released on Monday, the BJP has promised to combat infiltration and implement the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in the northeast, listing it among its top priorities.
The party has exhibited intensive impetus towards the northeast and to strengthen its reach in the region, it even formed an alliance from the region in 2016—North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).
In five years, the Modi government prioritised its relations with the East Asian countries by transforming Narsimha Rao’s ‘Look East’ policy to ‘Act East’ policy. Under this, the government had proposed to develop the northeast as the region is a gateway to the Southeast Asia. But has the government really acted on its promise?
In the 2014 manifesto, ‘One India, Great India’, there were about seven promises dedicated to the northeast region. These promises have now been reduced to about four in the current one.
The 2014 manifesto had promised to address illegal immigration by including ‘clear policy directions’. Consequently, it brought the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). These steps have provoked public ire. The policy proposes to provide citizenship to the non-Muslims from the neighbouring countries.
The NRC got embroiled in a controversy as it excluded many of the indigenous nationals of the country. Realising the uproar, the Congress manifesto has promised to ‘immediately’ withdraw the CAB if it comes to power, while the BJP’s current manifesto promises to implement it in a phased manner in other parts of the country. The party also commits to clarify apprehensions of the northeasterners regarding the legislation.
Funds and Development
The BJP’s manifesto also claims that the northeastern region is now witnessing ‘unprecedented development’. The development in the northeastern region is looked after by the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER). It was formed under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government in 2001.
An analysis by News18 shows that the budget share for the ministry was higher at its onset but started declining 2006 onwards. Interestingly, the least budget share was allocated during the current regime only. From 2014 to 2019, the share of the budget for the development of northeastern region oscillated between 0.10% and 0.11%. Under the UPA-1 five-year team, this expenditure share was between 0.12% and 0.14%. This number was the highest (0.24%) in 2002-03 during the Vajpayee government.
Under the UPA-I, advertising and publicity expenditure had increased in the DoNER, which came down towards the middle of UPA-2 government. This fund is used to promote schemes, opportunities, awareness and tourism opportunities about the region. However, under the current NDA regime, there was no specific mention of this expenditure in the budget documents after 2014.
The BJP’s 2014 manifesto had committed to ‘empower’ the ministry with ‘non-lapsable funds’. However, the Non Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) Scheme had already come into existence during the Vajpayee government in 1998 under the then Planning Commission. It was subsequently transferred to the Ministry of DoNER in 2001.
The NLCPR scheme was replaced by North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme in December 2017. Since then no new project has been taken up. Also, more projects were approved during the UPA-2 government. On a yearly average, 110 projects were approved by the UPA-2, followed by a yearly average of about 83 approved projects under UPA-1, and 62 yearly approved projects under the Vajpayee-led NDA regime. In comparison to these three governments, the Modi-led government has only approved 31.5 of yearly projects on an average during its term.
Infrastructure and Connectivity
Except for a few vague mentions, the current BJP manifesto does not specifically talk about the development of infrastructure and connectivity. It promises to introduce ‘Entrepreneurial Northeast’ for employment generation and financially support of the MSMEs; introduction of necessary steps to leverage the region’s hydroelectric, tourism, horticulture etc.; and conserve the linguistic, culture and social identity of the region.
The previous manifesto was committed to enhancing connectivity within the region and to the rest of the country by emphasising on infrastructure development, especially along the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. What it did in reality were inaugurations of Pakyong Airport (Sikkim), Tezu Airport (Arunachal Pradesh) and the Bogibeel Bridge (Assam) by Modi. These were already approved and ongoing projects under the previous governments. The Trans Arunachal Highway—which was also conceived in 2008 and has now gone into land scam controversy—is also not complete yet.
The NDA government had launched the North East Road Sector Development Scheme during 2015-16 and had identified three roads—Doimukh-Harmuti, Tura-Mankachar and Wokha-Merapani-Golaghat. The work on these roads is underway along with that of the Arunachal Frontier Highway and East-West Industrial Corridor.
In its current manifesto, the government has also come up with the Digital North East Vision 2022, identifying thrust areas to implement digital initiatives in the region. In September 2014, Union Cabinet chaired by Modi approved implementation of Comprehensive Telecom Development Plan for the North-Eastern Region to enhance telecom connectivity in the region. However, as highlighted in the recently released Comptroller and Auditor General report, the BSNL had failed to implement it.
The party in 2014 had also vowed to nurture more ‘job generating opportunities’ in the region and take measures for the safety of north-easterns in the country. The government has not released the National Sample Survey Office’s employment report yet; whereas the leaked report has suggested the employment rate to be at a 45-year high in the country.
On the other hand, the National Crime Record Bureau report—which has also not been released after 2016—will formally start providing data on crimes against north easterners now, as mentioned in its 2018 proforma. The current manifesto does not address it.
Border Security and Insurgency
Additionally, the party promises to strengthen border security by using technology like the smart fencing implemented in Dhubri, Assam. Interestingly, the 2014 manifesto had promised to ‘complete pending fencing’ along the borders and step up border security.
The number of infiltration cases along the borders of the north-eastern states have, however, risen from 83 in 2016 to 102 in 2017, and 112 in 2018.
The party also plans to construct 14 more integrated check posts by 2024, to facilitate easier trade and travel from neighbouring countries. There are already six completed check posts and work on another one is underway. One such check post was created in the UPA ruling at Akhaurah (Tripura) in 2013.
The BJP manifesto claims of bringing insurgency under control and improving security situation. The government has recently lifted Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from four areas of Arunachal Pradesh. Earlier in August 2015, it proposed the Naga peace accord to end the insurgency in the state. Currently, the accord struggles in seeking consensus on signatories—the government of India and National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah).
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