Giving new thrust Arunachal Pradesh economy, how?

By Pradeep Kumar

ITANAGAR, May 31: Arunachal Pradesh, basically a consumer economy, cannot escape the worst impact of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that had hit hard the economy and brought life to standstill across the world.

Arunachal Pradesh Govt on May 27 formed an economic revival committee (ERC) whose members held preliminary online discussion on Saturday to recommend measures to achieve the goal.

The examples to boost rural economy set by trend setting leader late Setong Sena and National Youth Project (NYP) are eye-opening.  It was Sena who as finance minister had given highest ever allocation to agriculture sector and approached then chief minister Nabam Tuki and sought Agriculture, Horticulture, Animal Husbandry and Diary Development portfolio voluntarily.

His innovative three-day Krishi Expo & Kisan Mela-2012 at Itanagar’s Indira Gandhi Park had drawn over 25,000 visitors and +10,000 farmers from across the state. The maiden expo with record 258 stalls – 15 by GoAP departments, 41 by SHGs & NGOs, 151 farmers’ groups and 51 private companies – had inked spot trading worth crores, as confirmed by agricultural (marketing) director A K Purakayastha.

The livestock show; inter-district farmers’ meet; farm machinery demonstration; farmers-scientists interaction on agri-horti, livestock & fishery sectors; farmers-traders-processors interface on value addition & marketing; workshop on value addition, packaging & branding for women entrepreneurs, promotion of entrepreneurship in farm sector for youth and interaction with financial institutions on availing loans were highly educative to farmers. It was extended for two days hounouring tremendous public response and demand.

This had prompted CM Nabam Tuki and finance minister Chowna Mein to give topmost priority to agri-horti sectors in 2012-13 budget to tap the vast potential of the state by involving the people and the much needed turn around to state economy besides winning national Krishi Karman Award for four consecutive years for higher production of food grains since 2011-12.

Moreover, Sena leading a 10-member team including agri-hoti commissioner Hage Kojeen and Purakayastha at the initiative of NYP vice president Pradeep Kumar had visited Sikkim in June 2012. He was impressed with massive growth of agri-horti-animal husbandry sectors to comment “Seeing is believing”! As the team also had visited Melli Dara Livelihood Mission School (LMS) when his friend Sikkim’s Health and Agri-Horti Minister Dawa Norbu Thakarpa had proudly claimed “no unemployment in his state though then Govt had official target to end unemployment by 2013”, while its achievements was unbelievable,

Melli Dara village administrative centre (VAC) wi-fi enabled since 2008 serves its total 1,158 households of 6,333 inhabitants but its annual income from backyard poultry was Rs 4 crore and Rs 1 crore from dairy. The centre also earns from drinking water user charge, garbage disposal charge, work permits, single window system, utility vehicle hire charge, trade/hawker licence fees, household tax, construction fees, environment tax, dispute redressal, sale of tender forms, issuing of NOCs, photocopy, photography, videography and hire charges of public address system. All taxes are mandatory for each household and no one takes up construction in the gram panchayat before paying the fee and obtaining permission. The GPU executes the plans and schemes of the GoS, which reflects the authority of the GPU. This had prompted me to write: Sikkim jangal mein mangal on 16.06.12.

Moreover, Sena was instrumental in getting Cabinet approval to set up CMLMS to provide skill development training to school dropouts (18-30 years) to channelize their energies for productive purposes to contribute to state building.  He had funded from his MLALAD fund to set up first CMLMS at Nampong on 15.06.12, which has trained 144 local youths, including 76 girls in agri-horti and poultry sectors to make Jairampur sub-division self-sufficient in those products.

Moreover, 22 opium cultivators of Anjaw district were convinced to form two farmers’ clubs to take up large size cardamom cultivation, whose first harvest had yielded Rs 1.72 crore through forward-backward market linkage provided by the NYP. This was known to former CM, late Kalikho Pul and uploaded to NABARD website as a national success story for heralding development along Indo-China border of the state.

Arunachal again is considered almost a zero industry state with finger counted large industries, hardly few medium and small scale industries. The entrepreneurship development policy has not yielded the desired result.

When asked, Rajiv Gandhi University economics department HoD Prof S K Nayak said that agri-sector holds the panacea as about 70% population of this Himalayan state depends on that sector to earn their livelihood. However, NYP president Biswas suggested skill development of local youths on priority the way the NYP as training provider, empanelled with 12 GoI departments and funded by them has so far skilled about 1, 12, 000 youths in the state  including 8,000 people with special abilities of 10 districts funded by Ali Yavar Jung National Institute of Hearing Disability to make them earnable.

The trained ones include 172 trained by Nampong CMLMS and about 8,000 people with special ability of eight districts. He, however, regretted that though the NYP had conducted skill training in various districts under border area development of the GoI but outstanding payment of Rs 24 lakh was never released by the department concerned under one pretext or other and baseless objections. That was why former chief secretary Ramesh Negi and former CM’s secretary Sonam Chombay had taken initiative but the file is still lost as government process is known as the longest channel on the earth.

It would be worth mentioning here that Kaho, a non descriptive village perched on a hill top in an inaccessible area along Indo-China-Myanmar tri-junction border in Anjaw district, boasts of 24-hour power supply from a micro hydel project, a privilege not available in most developed part of India including Capital Complex. It was then DC P S Lokhande (present planning & finance commissioner) & hydropower development SE R K Joshi had built Kaho hydel project in January 2008, operated by the villagers to meet electricity requirements of its 51 residents besides supplying power to the Army border post as a goodwill gesture. Kaho micro project is still a role model for power starved Arunachal Pradesh, though known as ‘future power house of India’.

If industrial and agricultural sectors are indictors of economy of a region or a state or a country, official statistics about NE region (NER) are mindboggling. ‘In 1950, Assam (which included Arunachal Pradesh), Northeast India’s largest state, was more than 4% richer than the rest of India. Isolated and often ignored, by 1999 it was more than 45% poorer, with the gap steadily widening,’ according to United Nations report.

That is why stalwart BJP leader LK Advani as deputy prime minister in his pubic address at Itanagar on 14.11.03 and again in 2005 had given shocking disclosure “Delhi had decided not to develop Arunachal after the 1962 Chinese aggression, fearing it could benefit the neighbour. It was a historical blunder”. But his monumental remark was “Arunachal Delhi se door hey, par dil se nahin”.

Has Arunachal benefitted so far? – is crux of the question for the ERC to find replies. But according to me the replies are not far fetching! Chief Minister Pema Khandu belongs to Tawang district majority of whose inhabitants are most hardworking Monpas, one of the 26 major tribes of the state. This district unlike others is not dependant on outside labour force which I have seen myself in Lumla assembly constituency. Even the labourers of the Border Roads Organisation are mostly local denizens.

Thus, this is ripe time for this land-locked state to go for scientific exploration to tap its huge agri-horti & allied sector which could meet demands of the NER. Looking for avenues would justify the adage: diya tale andhera (below the lamp is dark). Thus, the lawmakers and bureaucrats, particularly Lokhande, credited with developing a hydropower project at Kaho village along Indo-China-Myanmar border as Anjaw-Lohit DC, introducing Jan Suvida and initiating extension of rail line to Tezu, should adopt former CM, late Dorjee Khandu’s ‘Team Arunachal’ spirit to ensure development light penetrates into every inch of this ‘Land of Rising Sun. The sooner a naya sabera the better it is!

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