By: Dr. Aniruddha Babar
“I measure the progress of the State of Nagaland by the degree of progress which ‘Noklak’ District has achieved. I measure the progress of the Naga Tribes by the degree of progress which ‘Khiamniungan’ and ‘Tikhir’ Tribes have achieved. I measure the progress of Naga Women by the degree of progress which ‘Eastern Naga’ women has achieved.”
“So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:16)
The Nagaland government, in collaboration with the DoNER ministry, successfully organized the two-day State Round Table of the North East Global Investors Summit 2023 at Chumoukedima police complex. The event aimed to discuss specific areas in Nagaland that are ripe for investment and exploration. The Ministry of DoNER, Government of India, has given a platform to states in the northeast region to organize the Northeast Global Investors Summit 2023, an event aimed at showcasing the investment and trade potential of the Northeast Region of India. With a focus on highlighting the geostrategic advantage, abundant natural resources, skilled workforce, and access to captive markets in the region and neighboring countries, the summit aims to propel the growth and development of the Northeast region.
However, in the context of the state of Nagaland we cannot ignore the need to explore the significance of the summit for the Eastern region of Nagaland, the need for equitable investment and business opportunities, and the role of the government in creating an investor-friendly ecosystem in the ‘Forgotten Frontier’.
As Nagaland gears up to embrace the possibility of the rise of the “Frontier Naga Territory”, it becomes crucial for the Government of Nagaland to formulate a comprehensive, independent blueprint for the economic, industrial, and infrastructural development of the eastern region. With the growing significance of the region in the context of the G20 nations, it is necessary to understand the need for a dedicated plan to unlock the immense potential of Eastern Nagaland and outlines key areas that require strategic attention to lay down the path to prosperity for the long neglected region which majestically spread over fifty percent of the total area of the state of Nagaland.
The blueprint that I have been suggesting here should focus on fostering economic empowerment by identifying key sectors with high growth potential in the eastern region. Industries such as agriculture, tourism, handloom and handicrafts, and renewable energy can be given priority. The government of Nagaland-in collaboration with New Delhi should provide necessary support, including financial incentives, skill development programs, and access to markets, to encourage entrepreneurship and attract investments in these sectors. Adequate infrastructure is vital for attracting investments and facilitating overall development. The blueprint should outline plans for improving connectivity, including high quality road networks, and air transportation. Additionally, investments in power infrastructure, telecommunications, and water management systems are essential to create a conducive environment for businesses and residents in Eastern Nagaland.
Also, Eastern Nagaland’s pristine landscapes, unique cultural heritage and biodiversity offer immense potential for tourism. The blueprint should include strategies for developing tourist infrastructure, promoting sustainable tourism practices, and preserving local traditions and heritage. By tapping into the region’s unique attractions, Eastern Nagaland can become a sought-after destination for both domestic and international tourists.
Moreover, Human capital development plays a crucial role in economic growth. The blueprint should emphasize the establishment of quality educational institutions, vocational training centers, and skill development programs on war footing. This will equip the local population with the necessary skills to proactively engage and participate in the emerging industries and enhance employability.
Eastern Nagaland, with its unique cultural heritage, breathtaking landscapes, and untapped resources, holds immense potential for economic growth and development. As the Northeast region emerges as a new, promising frontier for businesses, Eastern Nagaland has the opportunity to position itself as a vital player (a great catalyst) in the investment landscape. The Northeast Global Investors Summit 2023 that was concluded in Chumukedima should have served as a platform to independently showcase the eastern region’s ‘unique’ potential and attract investments in various sectors, ranging from infrastructure development to tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and many other areas.
In the context of Northeast Global Investors Summit 2023, certain things need to be understood. Prima facie, as we know, historically, investment and industrial development in Nagaland have been concentrated in urban centers like Kohima, Dimapur, Chumukedima, Niuland (also to Mokokchung, Phek, Peren, Wokha) while the eastern region has been grossly neglected. The Northeast Global Investors Summit 2023 presents a valuable opportunity to shift the spotlight towards Eastern Nagaland and foster inclusive growth by ensuring that investment and business opportunities are distributed across the entire state. Historically, as stated before, the development focus in Nagaland has been concentrated in certain regions, often neglecting the potential and needs of the eastern part of the state. The government, along with various stakeholders, should seize this opportunity to showcase the immense potential of Eastern Nagaland and demonstrate their commitment to its inclusive development. By redirecting focus and spreading investment across the entire state, we can ensure that the benefits of economic growth and prosperity reach all corners of Nagaland, empowering its people and fostering a more equitable society. The time has come for “Kohima” to get emotionally aligned with Eastern Nagaland for a better, inclusive future of Nagaland.
To attract large-scale national and global investments, it is high time that the government of Nagaland must create a conducive environment for businesses in Eastern Nagaland. This includes establishing a single-window clearance system, reducing bureaucratic red tape, Reduction in Compliance Burden, policy measures to boost domestic manufacturing through Public Procurement Orders, Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP), Schemes for Production Linked Incentives (PLI), One District One Product, Deliberate public expenditure and fostering an investor-friendly ecosystem that encourages Ease of Doing Business. Special economic zones and industrial clusters can also be developed on war footing in collaboration with the local communities to cater to the specific needs of the region in addition to constructive steps that need to be taken to develop and empower the local population in general. Needless to mention, however, we have three so-called “International Trade Centers” in Eastern Nagaland which at present have been kept in totally pathetic, dilapidated condition- reviving them to their well-deserved glory could be the first step towards building an economically independent and prosperous Nagaland.
The development of Eastern Nagaland should be a priority to ensure economic justice and inclusivity. By providing equal opportunities for the region to participate in the growth of the state and the nation, Eastern Nagaland can break free from the shackles of poverty and economic oppression. The creation of a Frontier Naga Territory would further enhance the responsibility of the government to uplift the region and become a catalyst for overall growth.
The possibility of rise of the “Frontier Naga Territory” brings with it increased responsibility for the Government of Nagaland to address economic disparities and pave the way for inclusive growth. The Northeast Global Investors Summit 2023 may hold immense promise for Eastern Nagaland as it aims to unlock investment and business opportunities in the region provided it is on the super priority list of the Government of Nagaland. It is essential for the government of Nagaland to prioritize the development of Eastern Nagaland, provide an investor-friendly ecosystem, and ensure equitable distribution of investment and industrial development. By leveraging the potential of Eastern Nagaland, the region can contribute significantly to the growth of Nagaland and the nation at large. The summit can also serve as a stepping stone towards a brighter future, where Eastern Nagaland emerges as a dynamic hub of economic activity, empowering its people and fostering inclusive growth.
The time has come for the Government of Nagaland to fulfill its constitutional commitment to the people of Eastern Nagaland, not only for the betterment of the region but also in the national and global interest of the nation. Eastern Nagaland has long been marginalized and neglected, with almost nil access to basic civic amenities and opportunities for development. However, the possibility of the rise of the “Frontier Naga Territory” as a great ‘constitutional experiment’ presents a unique opportunity for the Government of Nagaland to rectify this historical injustice and pave the way for inclusive growth.
The government must recognize that the development of Eastern Nagaland is not only a matter of regional significance but also crucial for the overall progress and prosperity of the nation. By investing in the economic, industrial, and infrastructural development of the region, the government can tap into the immense potential that Eastern Nagaland holds. This will not only uplift the lives of the people living in the region in subhuman conditions but also contribute to the nation’s growth trajectory.
Furthermore, neglecting the development of Eastern Nagaland would be a disservice to the constitutional commitment of providing equal opportunities and benefits to all citizens. It is imperative for the government to ensure that the people of Eastern Nagaland have access to quality education, healthcare, employment opportunities, and a conducive business environment. This will not only empower the local population but also enhance the region’s contribution to the nation’s economy and strengthen its position on the global stage. The government must stand true to its constitutional commitment and prioritize the development of Eastern Nagaland. By doing so, it will not only fulfill its obligations to the people of the region but also promote the national interest, fostering a more equitable and prosperous nation for all.
Creating an independent firm blueprint for the economic, industrial, and infrastructural development of Eastern Nagaland is of utmost importance as the region prepares for positively dynamic ‘Constitutional Transformation’ considering the possibility of the rise of the “Frontier Naga Territory” in near future with new political dimensions in the new arena of governance with organic political leadership which will rise with the dawn of Frontier Naga Territory.
While making any policy decision especially in the context of ‘Commerce, Industries and Investment’ for the state of Nagaland this developing story of the Eastern Nagaland should not be ignored by the state authority and its machinery – at this juncture twenty current members of Nagaland State Legislative Assembly representing the eastern Nagaland region need to play their constructive role communicating and advocating the ‘investment’ potential of their own regions/areas/constituencies and share their own ideas/plans through presentations with the government in the best interest of the eastern Naga people.
The necessary ‘state blueprint’ for the Eastern world should be driven by a clear vision, taking into account the specific needs and potential of the region. By focusing on economic empowerment, infrastructure development, education and skill enhancement, tourism promotion, and strategic collaborations, Eastern Nagaland can unleash its true potential and contribute significantly to the overall growth of Nagaland. The Government of Nagaland must assume its increased responsibility towards the eastern region through local and global economic as well as industrial partners and ensure that the blueprint is effectively implemented in proactive collaboration with the local stakeholders, thereby creating a prosperous future for the people of Eastern Nagaland and contributing to the nation’s progress on the global stage.
Finally, I believe that the development of the most backward, remotest, challenging and complex district in Eastern Nagaland- The Noklak could serve as a best yardstick for the overall development and prosperity of the state of Nagaland. If we truly aspire for the comprehensive development of Nagaland, it is crucial that we prioritize the upliftment of the most challenging, most backward districts like Noklak. We can set a benchmark for progress and prosperity not just in Noklak or the Eastern region but throughout the state. By doing so, in the interest of the constitutional rights of the people, prosperity of the state, and the global aspirations of the nation, we can establish a strong foundation for the inclusive growth of the Nagas and the Nagaland, ensuring that no region and no citizen is left behind. (The author is an academician in the Dept of Political Science, Tetso College, Nagaland)