Irom the Land of Seven Sisters before the

Irom Sharmila , Mary Kom , Bhaichung Bhutia , Kaziranga National Park , serene hills and  valleys of the region, tea plantations. These are the personalities and places that strike our minds at the first instances respectively when North East India comes into picture. North East India also known as the Land of Seven Sisters before the inclusion of Sikkim, now comprises a total of eight states .The states are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram,  Tripura and Sikkim.  Skyscrapers, high end cars, bullet trains, world class airports are some of the visuals that have been successfully marketed as features of a developed state. Development or “Vikaas” has also been the major plank on which the last general election (2014) was contested. Despite such hype we have not been able to enlighten us with the most relevant meaning of development . On delving deeper into the picturesque North East Indian states we will try to explore the Developmental Challenges in North East Indiain terms of economic development, cultural and political.Tracing the history of the word Economic Development; for the economists progress, growth and development meant the same. In 1970s clear meanings started to evolve. Progress became irrelevant ; growth and development were given proper meanings. Development indicates the quality of life in an economy. There could be many indicators for development such as nutrition, healthcare,  literacy and education, level of income, safe drinking water, social security, peaceful community life, prestige, entertainment, pollution free environment etc. It has been a herculean task for the experts to achieve consensus on these indicators of development. UNDP published its first Human Development Report (HDR) in 1990 which had a Human Development Index (HDI). It was the first attempt to define and measure the level of development of economies. HDR measures development on combining three indicators: Health, Education and Standard of Living which is converted into a  numerical value between 0 and 1 known as HDI. HDI serves as a reference for both social and economic development.According to the experts there were many indicators that HDI didn’t account for such as cultural aspects, broader view towards the aesthetic and purity of the environment, rule and administration of the economy, people’s idea of happiness and prestige, ethical dimension of human life. Most of the studies concluded that people’s life in the developed world was far from being happy. Their life was full of vices: crime, corruption, burglaries, extortion, drug trafficking, flesh trade, rape, homicide, moral degradation etc . It meant development had failed to provide happiness and well being . So the scholars came up with a concept of “Happiness” to define development . Before elaborating more on this concept, let’s have a look on our traditional indicators which are being still used widely.The most relatable and yet sounding intellectual term with reference to the economic development is Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP)is defined as a measure, in monetary terms of the volume of all goods and services produced within a boundary of a state. These  figures represents  contribution of each state to overall GDP of the nation. GSDP paints a grim picture for the North East Indian states. Out of the lowest nine GSDP states, seven are from North East leaving behind Assam which is relatively higher than its neighbouring states.In terms of Literacy there has been some highs as well as some lows for the North East Region (NER). Story of Tripura is quite remarkable. From 12th rank in 2001 it leapt to the top (94.65%) of literacy rate throughout the country in 2013 leaving behind Kerala (93.91%). Tripura’s success story is attributed to the involvement of local governmental bodies including gram panchayats , NGOs, and local clubs under the close supervision State Literacy Mission Authority (SLMA) headed by the chief minister. Mizoram is also one of the leading states in literacy rate.  Success story of Tripura should  be adopted throughout the country especially states marred with dismal literacy rate like Bihar (lowest in the country). The sad part for the North East Region (NER) is that Arunachal Pradesh is the second lowest (66.95%) in literacy rate just above Bihar. Despite being so familiar in terms of topographical features, terrain, climate and in cultural aspects Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh are poles apart in terms of literacy rate. Factors  for the stark difference needs closer attention and to be worked upon in improving the situation of literacy in Arunachal Pradesh.Health is one of the most vital indicator to gauge development and it can be fairly accounted by Infant Mortality Rate (IMR). Tripura and Nagaland have been doing significantly well and continuously improving over a period of time . It is for their sincere, technological and innovation driven program that they have been awarded  top ranks in reducing IMR among small states. IMR in Nagaland is 21 per 1000 live births (0 to 1 yr) and IMR in Tripura is 21. It would be worth noting that the national average of IMR is 40 deaths per 1000 live births. To further improve upon its health care Tripura has adopted 13 point steps which includes measures like  60 delivery centres were made into ideal delivery centres with upgraded labour rooms, new born care corners, and new born stabilization units. The situation in Assam is just opposite of the above two states. It has improved a lot but it has to put in more efforts. It had an IMR of 68 in 2006 which has now slipped to an IMR of 48 which is higher than the national average of 41. Maternal mortality rate (MMR) is also one of the highest in country. The main issue which plagues the high IMR and MMR is the early marriage of females. Child marriage has been very prevalent in Assam. The state needs to run massive awareness programme to prevent child marriages, thereby reducing early pregnancy and recurrent pregnancy. It should diligently implement life skills education for school going children, strengthen social institutions and local governance system to prevent child marriages. Apart from stemming the issue of child marriage, it needs to seriously look and adopt to the healthcare system of Tripura and Nagaland and has started moving in the right direction by launching “Right to Health Services” scheme to provide affordable, accessible and quality healthcare for all especially the poor. Apart from the state govt.  ,central govt. has also chipped in to improve the situation in Assam. The Centre has chosen 52 districts from the North East out of which 7 are from Assam for its Intensive Mission Indradhanush (IMI) program . Under this program, immunization is being carried out to reach 100 percent coverage.Clubbing three components namely quality of life which includes IMR,  quality of opportunity which includes literacy rate and economic well being; the HDI values for the north east states was calculated . in general, the north eastern states did well in HDI as compared to other states of the country. Among the north eastern states highest HDI was for Mizoram (0.584) and the lowest was for Assam (0.364). 


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