Special Content


Issue no 38, 17-23 December 2022

 

PM-DevINE Scheme Rise of a New Dawn in the North East

 

BS Purkyastha

While Rs. 1,500 crore has been allocated for the initial list of projects under it, the PM-DevINE Scheme will have an outlay of Rs.6,600 crore for the four-year period from 2022-23 to 2025-26

The eight states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura together comprise India's North East Region (NER). The population of this region is over 45 million, which accounts for about 3.76% of India's total population. While it accounts for over a third of India's water resources and nearly 40% of the hydropower potential, vast fertile area, mineral deposits and large untapped human capital, the region has lagged behind the rest of the country when it comes to infrastructure development, industrialisation or employment. Lack of investments, geographical isolation, difficult terrain, inadequate utilisation of natural resources coupled with a history of insurgencies and separatist movements are the common culprits for this under-development. The obstacles are compounded by the fact that the North East, comprising around 7.98% of the country's area, is surrounded by five countries- China, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal - leading to a total international border of 5483 km length and connected to the rest of India by a 27 kmlong chicken-neck corridor. The North East Region's development has been among the top priorities of the Government of India and it is to ensure this the government of India recently launched the Prime Minister's Development Initiative for North East (PM DevINE) scheme for the development of this region. First announced in the Union Budget 2022-23, the aim is to accelerate economic and social development of the eight states, with special emphasis on infrastructure projects in the spirit of PM Gati Shakti, and social development projects based on the felt needs of the North-East. The PM-DevINE scheme will enable livelihood activities for youth and women by filling the development gaps in various sectors, by providing funding for projects in infrastructure (especially road connectivity), healthcare, agriculture and livelihood. This would help improve the standard of living of people in the region.

PM-DevINE scheme: Accelerating development in North East India: The PM DevINE scheme ensures additional resources for the development of the NER as it will not be a substitute for existing Central or State schemes. The new scheme is a Central Sector Scheme with 100% Central funding and will be implemented by Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) through North Eastern Council or Central Ministries/ agencies. While the central ministries may also pose their candidate projects, priority will be given to those posed by the states. An initial allocation of Rs.1,500 crore has been made, as per Budget speech for 2022-23; and the initial list of projects is given in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Initial list of Projects under PM-DevINE

S.no

Name of the Project

Total tentative cost (in Rs. crore)

1.

Establishment of Dedicated Services for the Management of Paediatric and Adult Haemotolymphoid Cancers in North East India, Guwahati (Multi-State)

129

2.

NECTAR Livelihood Improvement Project (Multi-State)

67

3.

Promoting Scientific Organic Agriculture in North East India (Multi-State)

45

4.

Construction of Aizawl By-pass on Western Side

500

5.

Gap funding for Passenger Ropeway system for Pelling to Sanga-Choeling in West Sikkim

64

6.

Gap funding for Eco-friendly Ropeway (Cable Car) from Dhapper to Bhaleydhunga in South Sikkim

58

7.

Pilot Project for Construction of Bamboo Link Road at Different Locations in Various Districts in the State of Mizoram

100

8.

Others (to be identified)

537

 

Total

1,500

Source: PIB

Focus Areas of PM-DevINE's Initial Projects:

Transport and connectivity

Mainly focused on transport projects which are essential for the development of North-East India, a large portion of the Rs1500 crore are allocated for the construction of highways and ropeway systems. This is extremely important given that Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, parts of Manipur and Assam consist of hilly terrain where connectivity has been a major obstacle in the road to development. The railway network has been largely confined to the states of Assam and Tripura, with connections to other states either absent or restricted to a handful of towns. Thus road connectivity is of utmost importance for movement of both people and goods. Mizoram-based projects such as Aizawl bypass and bamboo link roads indicate that Mizoram would be the biggest beneficiary of this initiative, followed by Sikkim with the two ropeway systems promising better connectivity in South and West Sikkim. The Aizawl bypass is expected to reduce traffic and congestion in the hill capital city. The construction of bamboo link roads for the transport of bamboo, a major forest resource of Mizoram, will help bamboo growers in remote and inaccessible areas in the state connect better with the rest of the country, and bring higher incomes in the long run.

Healthcare: The announcement regarding establishment of dedicated services for the management of paediatric and adult haemotolymphoid cancers to be located at Dr. B. Borooah Cancer Institute (BBCI), Guwahat is a hugely welcome step. This initiative is expected to give a huge boost to cancer care in the region given that in the last 11 years, 3,855 childhood and adult Haematolymphoid cancer patients reported to BBCI for treatment. The Population Based Cancer Registry of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) reveals that the incidence of cancer in India is highest in the NorthEastern Region. The national average incidence of cancer every year varies from 90- 120 per lakh population, whereas in the North-Eastern Region it is as high as 220-270 per lakh population. As per the ICMR report, more than 45,000 new cancer patients are detected in the North-Eastern Region each year, and 95% of patients from Sikkim, 58% from Nagaland, 16% from Manipur, 13% from Meghalaya go out of the North-Eastern Region for cancer treatment. Moreover, some cancers like paediatric and adult haematolymphoid (blood cancers) malignancies are among the curable cancers and, if treated optimally, patients can survive to live a long and fruitful life. Once the dedicated paediatric oncology block is established at Dr. B. Borooah Cancer Institute, approximately 1,000 patients annually can be offered treatment for this group of ailments, which will significantly reduce the patient expenditure and benefit the people of the North-Eastern Region immensely.

Livelihood: The North East Center for Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR), an autonomous body under the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, has been working on several programmes to upskill rural people in the region and ensure sustainable livelihood and improved incomes. State Specific TDCs (Technology Demo Centre) have been established to develop awareness among local people about the know-how of various technologies and their useful applications. A Bamboo-based TDC has been established in collaboration with the Bamboo & Cane Development Institute (BCDI), Agartala, Tripura, for promotion of the bamboo sector, its value addition and establishing market linkage. A Joint Centre called NECTAR-BCDI Incubation cum Innovation & Technology Demonstration Centre (IITDC)" has also been set up in the BCDI campus, Agartala, for training and skill development of participants across the NE region and other parts of the country. NECTAR has supported more than 300 vulnerable women in Manipur for skill and entrepreneurial development. As a part of the initiative, NECTAR collaborated with the Control Arms Foundation of India and the Manipur Gun Survivors Network, and the craft company Rangsutra, to help these women sell Manipuri handloom products to Fabindia. Among other successful initiatives are expanded honey production in Nagaland, production of eco-friendly yoga mats from water hyacinth by the fishing community in Deepor Beel Wetland area in Assam and improvement and sustainability of the traditional Terracotta and Pottery Business in Asharikandi, Dhubri, Assam. It has helped preserve the ancient heritage art of 'Charei Taba Pottery' (Coil Pottery) in Imphal-East Manipur and strengthened trade in cultural goods offering sustainable livelihoods. NECTAR recently guided the successful cultivation of saffron for the first time in Yangang village of South Sikkim. It is now being expanded to Twang, Arunachal Pradesh and Barapani, Meghalaya. The recognition of NECTAR's work in the eight states via the PM-DevINE scheme with the additional funds is expected to help identify many more potential livelihood projects in the region.

Organic Farming: The North Eastern Region (NER) of India has tremendous potential for promotion of organic farming. Limited use of chemical inputs and farmers practising traditional methods of farming support the development of this region as the country's organic farming hotspot. The hilly terrain, fertile plains, agro and forest biodiversity, wetlands, and good rainfall encourage growing different horticultural crop groups like fruits, vegetables, spices, plantation crop, medicinal and aromatic plants etc. About 18 million hectare of land in NER is suitable for organic agriculture. Already, a variety of organic crops, including tea, Joha rice and lemon in Assam; ginger, large cardamom, Sikkim mandarin, turmeric, orchid, local chillies, aromatic rice, mushroom, and baby corncardamom and ginger in Sikkim; tamenglong orange, kachai lemon, black rice, pineapple in Manipur, pineapple, ginger, cowpea and paddy in Mizoram, turmeric, orange and passion fruit in Meghalaya and pineapples in Tripura are grown here. In January 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared Sikkim to be India's first fully organic State and Mizoram has followed in its footsteps. The Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) recently organised a conference on the export potential of natural, organic and geographical indications (GI) agro products in Guwahati to tap the abundant export potential of organic agricultural products from the North East Region. The region witnessed an 85.34% growth in the export of agricultural products in the last six years as it increased from $ 2.52 million in 2016-17 to $17.2 million in 2021-22. The major export destinations have been Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Middle East, the UK and Europe. The Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region is already providing an impetus to the eight North East states to develop certified organic produce in a structured value chain mode linking farmers with end-consumers. Under the scheme, 30000-50000 farmers of North East region would be empowered through creation of about 100 farmer-producer organisations. The PM-DevINE's emphasis on promoting scientific organic farming along with the ongoing initiatives of different arms of the Central Government and the respective state governments will give a further fillip to organic farming in the region.

Financial Outlays under PM-DevINE Scheme: In October 2022, the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi, approved the PM-DevINE scheme for the remaining four years of the 15th Finance Commission from 2022-23 to 2025-26. The PM-DevINE Scheme will have an outlay of Rs.6,600 crore for the four-year period from 2022-23 to 2025-26. Efforts will be made to complete the PM-DevINE projects by 2025-26 so that there are no committed liabilities beyond this year. This implies front-loading of the sanctions under the Scheme in 2022-23 and 2023-24 primarily. While expenditure would continue to be incurred during 2024-25 and 2025-26, focused attention will be given to complete the sanctioned PMDevINE projects. Measures would be taken to ensure adequate operation and maintenance of the projects sanctioned under PM-DevINE so that they are sustainable. To limit construction risks of time and cost overrun, the projects would be implemented on EngineeringProcurement-Construction (EPC) basis, to the extent possible. PM-DevINE is expected to lead to creation of infrastructure, support industries, social development projects and create livelihood activities for youth and women, thus leading to employment generation in the region, where average unemployment rate is 9.1% against the all-India unemployment rate of around 8%. Given the lack of private industries in the North East Region, most adults look for government jobs or migrate to other parts of the country in search of employment.

Objectives of PM-DevINE:

(a)    Fund infrastructure convergently, in the spirit of PM Gati Shakti;

(b)   Support social development projects based on felt needs of the NER;

(c)    Enable livelihood activities for youth and women;

(d)   Fill the development gaps in various sectors.

There are other Ministry of DoNER (MDoNER) schemes for the development of North Eastern Region but the average size of the projects is about Rs. 12 crore only. PM-DevINE will provide support to infrastructure and social development projects which may be larger in size and will also provide an end-to-end development solution instead of isolated projects. It will be ensured that there is no duplication of project support under PM-DevINE with any of the other schemes of the Ministry of DoNER or those of any other Ministry/Department. While some of the projects to be approved for 2022-23 under PM-DevINE are part of the Budget announcement, projects with substantial socio-economic impact or sustainable livelihood opportunities for the general public (e.g., basic infrastructure in all Primary Health Care Centres, comprehensive facilities in Government Primary and Secondary Schools, etc) may be considered in the future. The justification for announcement of PM-DevINE is that the parameters of the North East States in respect of Basic Minimum Services (BMS) are well below the national average and there are critical development gaps as per the BER District Sustainable Development Goad (SDG) Index 2021- 22 prepared by NITI Aayog, UNDP and MDoNER. The new Scheme, PM-DevINE was announced to address these BMS shortfalls and development gaps.

Institutional arrangement to administer the PMDevINE Scheme: The allocation for PM-DevINE Scheme will be communicated every year by the Ministry of Finance to Ministry of DoNER. The projects to be taken up under the PM-DevINE Scheme can be proposed by the Central Ministries/Departments or the individual State Governments. The scheme will be implemented by the Central Ministries/ Departments or the North Eastern Council / State Governments, through the Implementing Agencies identified project-wise. An Empowered Committee under chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of DoNER has been formed. The Committee will be serviced by the Ministry of DoNER. It will screen, appraise and recommend project proposals for implementation by appropriate agency. The Committee will also monitor progress of sanctioned projects to ensure the utilization of the allocated funds under PMDevINE Scheme.

 The functions of the Empowered Committee are:

  1. To assess projects/schemes proposed under PM-DevINE Scheme by the Central Ministries/Departments and North Eastern Region States in terms of viability and tangible socio-economic impact.
  2. To discuss the list of projects with the representatives of concerned Central line Ministries/Departments of Government of India and State Governments; and make suitable recommendations for funding of identified projects.
  3. To recommend the implementation time frame for the identified projects and the physical and financial milestones
  4. To recommend effective means for Monitoring and Evaluation through field inspection on a periodic basis and also recommend for suitable third-party monitoring.
  5. To suggest a suitable mechanism for Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of the projects undertaken in PM-DevINE.
  6. To suggest policy changes to obviate bottlenecks in project implementation.

 

Identification and Formulation of Projects: Some of the key guiding principles for projects to be submitted by Central Ministries/ Departments and NER States to be funded under PM-DevINE Scheme are:

  1. The maximum and minimum amount which may be sanctioned under the PMDevINE Scheme shall be Rs.500 crore and Rs.20 crore respectively, in any one scheme, intervention or project.
  2. Each location-specific project would be counted as one; and clubbing many projects into one to increase the size of the project would not be acceptable.
  3. The North Eastern States will submit an annual list of proposals along with Concept Papers / Notes, for projects to be funded under PM-DevINE Scheme. Central Ministries/Departments or NEC, Shillong may also propose projects similarly, for funding under the PM-DevINE Scheme.
  4. NITI Aayog and MDoNER, in collaboration with UNDP, have prepared the NER District SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) Index (Baseline Report 2021-22), which inter-alia points the SDG gaps at district level in the Region. This Report (and its updates) would increasingly be used for project identification and formulation under PM-DevINE. The Concept Paper/Notes of proposed projects would invariably include justification of the project also in terms of the identified SDG gaps
  5. One of the objectives of PMDevINE is to fund infrastructure in the spirit of PM GatiShakti. For availing such funding under the PMDevINE, NE Region States or Central Ministries / Departments will have to ensure updation of required data layers on PM GatiShakti National Master Plan (NMP) including land revenue maps, formulation of State Logistics Policy, and creation of administrative structures i.e. Empowered Group of Secretaries (EGoS), Network Planning Group and Technical Support Unit.

NER Facts

 

  1. 3.78% of country's population - (45 million as per Census 2011)
  2. Population Density of 175 per Sq. Km., varies from 17 in Arunachal Pradesh to 398 in Assam
  3. SC population 6.62% and ST population 27.7%; Mizoram (94.43%) Nagaland (86.48%) & Meghalaya (86.15%) having ST population above 85%
  4. 7.98% of country's area
  5. Average Literacy rate of 78.5%, against a national average of 73%
  6. Average Unemployment Rate of 9.1%
  7. 5,483 Km of international borders
  8. 5,26,915 km of Total Road length, 13,129 km of NHs and 14,024 km of SHs
  9. Railway Route length of 2669.52 km
  10. Shares 52.68% of country's Tea Production
  11. Shares 22.46% of country's Silk Production
  12. Average Per Capita Electricity Consumption of about 500 KWh; Average yearly Installed Capacity of Power of approx. 4700 MW
  13. 591 crore of cumulative FDI inflows
  14. Average Per Capita NSDP of Rs. 1,11,042

 

References: Press Information Bureau, North East Council, Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, North East Center for Technology Application and Reach

The writer is a freelance journalist and can be reached at ideainks2020@gmail.com

Views expressed are personal.