Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Look east, north east...

One of the thoughts that often runs through my mind is about how little the rest of India knows about our country to the north-east.

With a background of having my ancestors having zamindari in Bogra district in East Bengal (now Bangladesh), becoming refugees and making a hometown in Calcutta and a brother-in-law from Assam, I must say I have an enduring interest in the north-east.

 There is much to see and learn about the north-east. Like the north and south of India being very diverse and different from each other, so the north-east is really unique and different from the rest of India. In the last decade or so, there has been a lot more of understanding between the north and the south, and more and more people appreciate and understand the differences.

It would be great to have similar interaction and understanding and integration with the north-east. Our prime minister who represents the State of Assam and prime ministers before him have extensive schemes and money-spending programs to achieve this better understanding/integration.

But it doesn't appear to have yielded too much effort on the ground and the north-east remains a little known large corner of India.

Mountains of Arunachal Pradesh (credit: Appaji)
In my view - the best way is to encourage interaction. The government should provide a subsidy in the form of say Rs. 5000 on every air-ticket to any of the capitals of the north-eastern states from the rest of India (maybe with the exception of West Bengal given its proximity and business ties already existing). This subsidy could be directly provided to the airlines for actual tickets sold and traveled upon.  It would be leakage-resistant and not easy to misuse. If the scheme were to run for a period of say two years - the incremental traffic to the north-east would boom. Every tourist from the rest of India would spend a large amount of money in the destination - the economy would improve. The awareness and understanding of the people and land of north-east amongst the rest of India would go up phenomenally. In my view, this 5000 would be very well spent as compared to so many other schemes that the government runs as part of its north-east development program.

What do you think?