North-East India—An Overview of Political Frameworks, Economy and Connectivity

AuthorSaranya Sircar,Sanjay Pulipaka,Harisha Gorthi
DOI10.1177/0019556120160304
Publication Date01 July 2016
Date01 July 2016
SubjectArticle
NORTH-EAST
INDIA-AN
OVERVIEW
OF
POLITICAL FRAMEWORKS, ECONOMY AND
CONNECTIVITY
SANJAY PULIPAKA,
HARISHA
GORTHI
AND
SARANYA
SIRCAR
This article gives an overview
of
North-East as a region
in
India.
It
is divided into three segments.
The
first section
gives a
brief
overview
of
state formation, autonomous district
councils, and conflict
in
North- East India.
The
second section
deals with economic dimensions such as policy frameworks,
development indicators, and natural resources management.
The final section maps the recent connectivity projects
and
calls
for
greater interaction between North-East India and its
eastern neighbours.
lNTRODUCTION
NORTH-EAST India has witnessed many political shifts. The advent
of
the
British in the Indian sub-continent has impacted the political, economic and
social structures
in
North-East India. The fierce battle
of
the First Anglo-
Burmese War
of
1824, in which many soldiers perished, ended with the
Treaty
of
Yandabo on February 24, 1826.1 Articles 2 and 3
of
Treaty
of
Yandabo state: "His Majesty the King
of
Ava renounces all claims upon,
and will abstain from all future interference with, the principality
of
Assam
and its dependencies, and also with the contiguous petty States
of
Cachar ·
and Jyntia .... the British Government will retain the conquered Provinces
of
Arracan, including the four divisions
of
Arracan, Ramree, Cheduba,
and Sandoway, and His Majesty the King
of
Ava cedes all right thereto''.2
Through this treaty large parts
of
North-East India and contiguous areas
came under British control. The British conquest had an economic rationale
as the region was rich in various resources such as tea, oil, and coal. The
British economic activities ensured that there was a movement
of
people
to work substantially in tea plantations and other allied activities. The
growth
of
the tea economy also prompted the British to develop transport
and communication links as a result
of
which several water and land links
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were created connecting North-East India and Bengal. However, the thrust
on the transport infrastructure development, during colonial rule, was
placed entirely on Assam, leaving other regions
of
North-East India devoid
of
modem infrastructure. The partition
of
India in 1947 fundamentally
altered the political economy
of
North-East India. The partition resulted in
the emergence
of
East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and as a consequence,
the North-East India became a landlocked territory. Not only was about 98
per cent
of
the border shared by the North-East with India's neighbours
and only two per cent with India, but the Partition also brought about the
severing
of
old market links
as
well
as
the transportation links. 3 Further,
the North-East India went through significant political restructuring, which
over time resulted in the formation
of
eight provinces.
Political Frameworks: State Formation, Autonomy, and Conflicts
Immediately after Independence
in
194
7,
the state formation processes
consumed the politics
of
North-East India. While in the rest
of
the country
linguistic commonality was a dominant theme, for North-East India the
States Reorganisation Commission Report, 1955, focused on administrative
viability and argued for a bigger state. The report notes that "it will be
desirable
to
bring the entire border between India and Pakistan
in
this
region under one single control namely, that
of
the Assam Government".4
And the Report goes on to note: "The proposed new State
of
Assam will
include all the areas now constituting the existing State as well as Tripura
and will have an area and population
of
about 89 ,040 square miles and
9. 7 million, respectively". 5 With reference to Manipur, the report noted:
"We have come to the conclusion that Manipur should continue
to
be a
centrally-administered territory for the time being".
6 However, even with
reference to Manipur, the State Reorganisation Commission report notes the
challenges that come for a small state regarding "maintenance
of
expensive
representative institutions and uneconomic administrative agencies".7 As
per the States Reorganisation Act, 1956, North-East India consisted
of
the
state
of
Assam, and Manipur and Tripura were treated as Union Territories.
Over
the years, the demands for creation
of
new states gained
momentum in North-East India. Sometimes, new states were created in
response to growing insurgency movements. Nagaland came into being
in 1963. The North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act, 1971, resulted in
the formation
of
the states ofManipur (1972), Tripura (1972), Meghalaya
(1972), Union Territories
of
Mizoram ( 1972), and
of
Arunachal Pradesh
(1972). Subsequently, Mizoram became a full state in 1987 and so was the
case with Arunachal Pradesh.

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