Saturday, June 14, 2014

Do you have it in You, General?

For Gen (Retd) V K Singh the assignment from PM Narendra Modi comes as an opportunity to prove his DEVELOPMENTAL works and diplomatic skills to play game changer in northeast. In Israel, the best creative brilliance is found in the Army, the former Indian army chief can now demonstrate his real grit. 
Amongst the many challenges faced by the Narendra Modi government amid a general mood of high expectations, understanding the core issues of northeast is certainly one. Cradled amidst the hilly wilds, the northeastern tip of our country is an ideal description of a mini-India. Even the diversity of a vast Indian sub-continent often appears only a humble submission as compared to distinctly different living styles of the tribals and the rest in the region - for more than one reason. Even within a state called Nagaland, the identity of Nagas refers more to “collective identity” as a 20th century phenomenon because more than 17 tribes and sub-tribes have discovered themselves as a community hardly few decades back. A neo-community of Chakhesangs among Nagas has come only with merger of three clans Chakhros, Khejas and Sangtams.
Blogger and his daughter

There have been mutual suspicions and rivalries between tribes, clans and even confusion on historical background. It is therefore there are perhaps some connections on emergence of Naga-Kuki feud in 1990s or how Mizos still consider Kukis as belonging to their stock. The Ministry of Department of North East Region (DoNER) was created during the stint of Atal Behari Vajpayee by taking out the ‘north east cell’ from the Home Ministry. It was a well concerted decision established in September 2001 to function as the nodal Department of the Central Government to deal with matters related to the socio-economic development of the eight States of northeast.
The Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) is responsible for the matters relating to the planning, execution and monitoring of development schemes and projects of the 8 states.
That way, the ministry opened a new vista in helping to understand the developmental related problems of the region. The then Prime Minister Vajpayee had visionary plans about northeast and thus had initially entrusted the portfolio to a considered ‘performer’ Arun Shourie. On his part Shourie had started on a business like note and had even organised a North East Summit – a unique of its kind – called all Governors and Chief Ministers to Mumbai and tried to present a bonanza before industry captains to invest in northeast. But Vajpayee failed to keep the momentum as the DoNER portfolio was later on passed on a few well known non-performers. 

Naga rebel leaders Th Muivah and Isak Chishi Swu

Worse under UPA, despite the fact that the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) was an elected member from Assam, the DoNER almost lost its relevance.
The second Administrative Reforms Commission has even recommended for abolition of the DONER and relegating all its responsibility to Ministry of Home Affairs. 
In such an event it would be back to proverbial square one as for decades north east in general was under the control of ministry of Home Affairs.

But in his wisdom, new Prime Minister Modi, who campaigned tirelessly in the northeast, has tried to understand the ‘security’ as well as ‘foreign affairs’ elements vis-à-vis north east India. Therefore, he thought the DoNER ministry should be handed over to someone like Gen (Retd) V K Singh with independent charge of DoNER. Trying to take an out-of-box approach, Modi also made the retired General - a Minister of State to play second fiddle to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Modi’s emphasis to take neighbouring South Asian countries into the strategy planning for resolving the problems of northeast is both unconventional and a path-breaking move.

Thus, much will bank on the retired General to display some persuasive skills with neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar in resolving lot many issues. Indian ultra gifts more often take shelters in neighbourhood.
For the General V K Singh (retd), who took over charge on May 29, the mandate is apparently clear from the Prime Minister that he has to work for the development of northeast, development infrastructure and industry. "Giving a face lift to cottage industries in the region and creating job opportunities for the youths will be among priority areas for the government," he told this writer minutes after taking charge.
"I have a plan for overall development of North East. We will try our best to address all the problems facing the region. There is tremendous amount of work to be done for the region," said the 63-year-old former army chief, who served also as GoC-In-C Eastern Command.

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