Five ideas for a Developed North East by 2030 | Dr Rashmi Baruah
Agriculture is the mainstay of the North-East economy. This sector accounted for close to 30 percent of the region’s National Skills Development Programme (NSDP) and is a major source of employment and livelihood for around 50-70 percent of the population. – Dr Rashmi Baruah*
GDP calculations entail calculating the contributions of three inputs of production: Labour + Capital + Land.
The land is limited in supply in the North-East, as it is mostly under forest cover. The forest cover in the region constitutes 52 percent of its total geographical area. Limited availability of arable land, small land holdings in the plains and lack of irrigation in the hills limits the scope for land-intensive production of agriculture or mechanisation of agriculture in most of the states. Capital (physical, banking or others) is limited and dependent on infrastructure. So we need to focus on labour; both skilled and unskilled.A few observations about demographics in North East:
- A substantial proportion of the population is younger than 14 years. This means, North East, just like the entire India, is expected to have a demographic dividend according to the World Bank, by 2030 India will have the largest working age population in the world. This “Demographic dividend” is expected to raise economic growth. On the other hand, in the absence of jobs, joblessness would be a challenge in the background of the insurgency.
- Sex ratios are high relative to country average reflecting the better status of women. Thus, we can leverage on female participation in the labour force.
- Agriculture is the mainstay of the North-East economy. This sector accounted for close to 30 percent of the region’s National Skills Development Programme (NSDP) and is a major source of employment and livelihood for around 50-70 percent of the population. With this in mind, the focus of development over the next decade needs to be on labour. In particular, the development strategy must focus on (i) more economic activity that will increase the demand for different types of skills; and (ii) human capital development, i.e. investment in both quantity and quality of education that will ensure employability of skills.
The five ideas for economic development in the North-East by 2030 would include:
- The mobility of labour from low-productivity towards higher-productivity jobs both geographically and across sectors. Hasan et. al., decompose aggregate productivity growth into a component that measures within-sector productivity growth and another that is due to reallocation of labour from an unproductive sector to a more productive sector (referred to the “structural change” by McMillan and Rodrik (2011)). They find that states which were most successful in poverty reduction over the period 1987-2009 were also the ones to witness a high degree of structural change (eg. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh). On the other hand, states that have not been able to reduce poverty significantly, Bihar and Assam, for instance, are also the states where labour reallocation across sectors is lowest. Acceleration in economic growth will have to come from the modernisation of agriculture, manufacturing and non-government service sectors.
- Agro-processing industries such as dried flower or dried herbs and fruits (small scale doesn’t require much capital)
- Fisheries, tea, floriculture, sericulture, medicinal plants: These needs to be modernised to increase productivity, organic farming and herbal healthcare industry.
- Handicraft and handloom: Almost 96 percent of North-East is having an international border and there is ample opportunity to develop trade and commerce in the region.
2. Tourism: leverage English speaking population
Ecologically sustainable tourism is a sector with a very high potential for generating income and employment. Hill tourism, trekking routes, river rafting (for instance in the Jia Bharali river where already some infrastructure has been built), adventure tourism, etc can be developed. Annual music/ dance festivals, Bihu celebrations in Assam, Dusshera in Manipur, could also be promoted.
3. Female labour force participation
Nursing: While the northeast has a demographic dividend, the western world is facing a greying of the population. The current global shortage of nurses in Europe, United States, United Kingdom and Australia is expected to increase further over the next few years. Since nurses from the North-East are in high demand across India, there also exists a potential of employing nursing staff abroad. Presently, nursing training is offered in several North-Eastern states, however, there needs to be quality control and emphasis on speaking English.
Quality of education needs to improve, to increase the employability of youths.
Note that drop-out rates are high in the North-East suggesting that education quality is below standards. Vocational education is important, particularly in hospitality and nursing.
5. Health: Access to safe drinking water
20 out of the 27 districts in groundwater dependent Assam are contaminated with arsenic. Similarly, there are serious health consequences of iron and fluorides in drinking water. These contaminants are known to cause severe skin diseases and major illnesses including cancers and cardiovascular diseases that restrains the amount of work, a tan individual can productively execute. Access to safe drinking water needs to be an important domain for health policy in the North-East.
*Rashmi Barua, PhD is an Assistant Professor at Centre for International Trade & Development Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and she may be reached at email: email@example.com
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team