(GIST OF YOJANA) Governance Challenges in the North East
Governance Challenges in the North East
The North-East Region (NER) is one of the backward regions of lndia
characterized by low per-capita income, lack of private investment, low capital
formation, inadequate infrastructure facilities. geographical isolation, and
inadequate exploitation of natural resources like minerals, hydro power
potential, and forests. lts own tax collection and internal resources are quite
meagre rendering the region totally dependent on central devolution. The local
moneyed people prefer to invest in landed property and shy from setting up
enterprises which are perceived as risky ventures. The peripheral locations of
the states, the terrain and inadequate infrastructure have impeded the growth of
industry. Except for Sikkim and Tripura, and to some extent Mizoram, other
states have not done well in improving their economic growth as shown in Table
1. Upto the beginning of 19703 Assam was one of the better-off states in India.
However, the state did not do very well in the next four decades and started
slipping on all indicators. Since Assam accounts for almost 70 percent of NER
population, and has been a , laggard state on almost all development indicators,
it has pulled down the overall performance of the region.
Fund Utilisation - As is well known, all non-exempt Union Ministries are
required to mandatorily earmark 10 per cent of their Gross Budgetary Allocation
(GBA) annually for the North Eastern Region. The unspent balances are
transferred as Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR). While some
projects are implemented on time, the other projects get delayed because funds
are not transferred to them on time, the utilization capacity of these states is
poor, and the works are hampered due to the short working season.
The website of Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) shows
that cumulative accrual in NLCPR since 2000 to 2010 was Rs 17,213 crores, but
releases upto 2011 were only Rs 8,796 crores, that is just 50 percent. It could
be because the states are not able to send good proposals to the administrative
Ministry. In NREGA the expenditure during 2016-17 in Assam and Manipur (the two
most poor states in NE) was only Rs 1630 and Rs. 4953 per rural poor, as against
Rs 15657 in Kerala and Rs. 1 1942 in Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana).
According to a CAG report (1 of 2015) on sanitation programme in Manipur the
process of planning was devoid of comprehensive assessment of the
needs/requirement of rural beneficiaries. Reliable baseline data was not
available. There was no community participation in the preparation of PIPs
(Project Implementation Plan). Financial management was inefficient which
resulted in delays in release of funds, short release of State’s matching
contribution, retention of huge balances and leakage of funds through
inadmissible payments and avoidable expenditure. There were neither norms for
assessment/ identification of beneficiaries nor for upkeep of the toilets by
Improve M&E Systems - At present, officials at all levels spend a great deal
of time in collecting and submitting information, but these are not used for
taking corrective and remedial action or for analysis, but only for forwarding
to a higher level, or for answering Assembly Questions. The data collected are
not normally subjected to any regular checks. There is a failure of the
departments in verification of their correctness and almost total absence
For instance, according to the state governments the percentage of severely
malnourished children in the northeastern states is much less than 1 per cent,
whereas independent verification by UNICEF in 2014 has reported a much higher
figure varying from 3.5 per cent in Manipur to almost 16 per cent in Meghalaya
There is urgent need to reconcile the two sets of figures. Process reforms
are needed so that field data is authentic, reliable and tallies with the
evaluated data. It appears that state governments actively encourage reporting
of inflated figures from the districts, which renders monitoring ineffective and
Promote e-Governance – ‘e-Governance’ is the use of Information and
Communication Technologies (ICT) to transform government by making it more
accessible, effective and accountable. e-Governance utilizes technology to
accomplish reform by fostering transparency, eliminating distance and other
divides, and empowering people to participate in the political processes that
affect their lives. While e-Governance has great potential to bring benefits to
all citizens, knowledge about e-Governance is mostly restricted to educated and
professional groups. Most citizens are still unaware of the potential benefits.
A World Bank report on Assam observed in 2014 that there was absence of a
comprehensive ICT Plan, and there was no common framework for service delivery,
including a strong and supporting ICT infrastructure. A common ICT Plan could be
developed addressing legacy issues, infrastructure bottlenecks, horizontal
connectivity, wide area networks and data centers, ICT strengthening, standards
and interoperability; and future growth and scalability model in terms of
technologies and usage. Each Department should be required to make an ICT Plan
covering the services, back-end requirements, requirements of horizontal
connectivity, capacities and could be encouraged to adopt f a m a central
bouquet of application that would help in improved efficiencies and better
Whereas many states in India have benefited from end-to-end computerisation
in the distribution of foodgrains through Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS),
a comparative study of TPDS in six states, viz., Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh,
Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal sponsored by the Ministry (Evaluation
Study of Targeted Public Distribution System in Selected States, NCAER
September, 2015) revealed the following:
Chhattisgarh had the lowest exclusion error at 2 percent of all households
eligible for beneiits, while Assam had the highest at 71 percent.
Leakage is found to be the lowest in Chhattisgarh, followed by Bihar. It is
comparatively high in Assam, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Vigilance and monitoring is extremely low in Assam.
In Assam, people have paid as much as Rs 3,000 to get a BPL card. This cost
is negligible in Chhattisgarh.
In Cachar and Bongaigaon cardholders never get their full quota of grain
because FPS dealers deduct 3--4 kg per card. The dealers admitted this was true;
they justified this deduction as the cost of transport was never reimbursed by
Redundant Bureaucracy- Whereas some of the governance deficits discussed
above are common to many states, there are two specific constraints in the NER.
One, the non plan expenditure of NE states is quite high due to huge presence of
group C and D staff, such as clerks, peons, etc who are not needed now. Because
of this the NE states end up with having insufficient funds for plan
expenditure, despite liberal central devolution. For instance, Assam’s per
capita plan outlay for 2014-15 was Rs 5,775, whereas with similar poor
population Chhattisgarh’s plan outlay was RS 12,807, primarily because of heavy
salary burden in Assam. The two states are compared below.
Thus, public administration in NE States is marked by a number of
dysfunctional staff that contribute to inefficiencies in public administration
epitomised by endemic overstaffing of support staff, resulting from poor
staffing norms, and accompanied by unsustainable wage bills.
To significantly reduce, let alone eliminate within the next decade or so,
the growing gap between growth rates in the country as a whole and much of the
North Eastern Region calls for a massive improvement in delivery and governance,
and not only increase in the flow of financial resources to the Region. It is no
longer the availability of financial resources but the capacity of institutions
and individuals in the North East to make effective use of available resources
that is proving the critical constraint to growth. To combat this, every effort
needs to be made to induct technical support from all over the country, as well
as from within the North Eastern Region, into all levels of governance.
Institution-building calls for strengthening State departments and agencies, as
well as promoting fruitful partnerships between civil society and State
Governments. Strengthening of institutions of local self-government is
particularly important. It is in these areas that government of India may like
to concentrate in future.
With tightly set targets, clear outcomes, strategies, and coordinated
planning for the region as a whole, the North East can be revitalized to become
increasingly self-sufficient and a net positive contributor to the national
exchequer and the country’s economy. Initiating the process is the imperative
requirement. Good governance calls for probity, transparency and accountability.
This is a matter of both ethics and governance systems. Effective devolution,
reinforced by social audit, will considerably strengthen monitoring and
vigilance at the grassroots level and, hopefully, gradually impact higher
echelons of governance. Equally, the importance of capacity building and
institution-building cannot be over-emphasized.