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One District One Product: A Potential Gamechanger for Northeast Economies

Background

  • Northeast India — comprising eight pristine States along the Himalayas that share 98 percent of their land border with neighbouring nations including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China.

  • People in the Northeast have preferred sustainable thinking and planning, and community involvement has been a pre-condition for development-based initiatives.

  • The region has always faced challenges of geographic and economic integration with mainland India.

  • The inability of regional and central leadership to bring along opportunities that could empower the citizens of the region have often led to a surge in protests in the region demanding economic and social justice.

  • The citizens of Northeast India have time and again been blaming Delhi for the step-motherly treatment it has received over the years.


Analysis

Why ‘development’ is becoming a major issue?

  • The predominantly tribal population of the Northeast have always believed in sustainable development and have resisted the economic exploitation of the land and its resources by governments in the past.

  • The Northeast has always been a predominantly agrarian economy with immense potential for agriculture.

  • Additionally, the inhabitants of the land — consisting of a number of tribes and sub-tribes — have had a vigorous craft tradition and almost every tribe in the region excels in craftmanship.

  • However, even though the Northeast has been producing the best quality spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits for years, the region has had minimal institutional support from the government at the local level.

Other major issues

  • lack of economic development

  • connectivity or access to the mainland

  • logistics, storage, connect to buyers worldwide and training

  • the pursuit of economic development

How will ODOP Scheme help?

  • The government seems to have finally struck the right chord in the Northeast with the aspirational One District One Product (ODOP) scheme, which aims to boost the economy of the region district by district through encouraging indigenous and specialised products of each district.

  • The new ODOP programme has come as a new ray of hope for the people of the region as it aims towards giving a push to the ailing traditional industries by working alongside the local communities and empowering the citizens through the Make in India

  • The programme aims to promote local indigenous specialised products and the crafts of each district through various development initiatives, including

  • providing loans to local production units, artisans, and farmers

  • establishing common facility centres

  • helping market these products at a global level

  • facilitating these traditional craft and art forms to gain an international market and be preserved for the next generations.


Significance of the initiative:

  • Empowerment: These steps will increase income and local employment at the bottom of the value chain and can empower the craftsmen, artisans, and farmers to improve their product quality and attain newer skills to produce better products.

  • Bridging the gap: The possibilities are immense for the ODOP initiative to bridge the gap between the Northeast and the rest of the country while also pushing through a sustainable development model.

  • Game changer: If implemented well in the Northeast, the ODOP could be a game changer for the economy of the region.

What are the recent Government initiatives in the region?

In a bid to address the concerns, government has proactively taken steps to integrate the Northeast with the rest of the country through various initiatives such as

  • the Act-East Policy

  • Northeast Special Infrastructure Development Scheme

  • Non Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) Scheme

What other efforts are required for the region?

  • Focus on priority sector: Agriculture is northeast’s priority section, with the region’s very high dependence on agriculture and allied activities, comprising over 80 percent of the Region’s gross domestic product.

  • Employment generation: Non-Farm Rural Employment and Income Generation, especially handlooms, handicrafts and animal husbandry.

  • Inclusive governance: Inclusive growth calls for attention to inclusive governance and rural development.

  • Infrastructure development: With 96 per cent of the borders of the NE Region constituting international boundaries, it is necessary to factor “new inputs” in foreign, defence, internal security and international trade policy. To this end, the immediate priority is to build the required infrastructure right up to the border areas, establishing connectivity and communication links to the cross-border points.

The road ahead

The government has already started taking steps in this direction. Invest India, the Government’s investment promotion and facilitation agency has been entrusted with implementing the programme at the ground level and it has already started connecting with stake-holders from various indigenous industries in the region, handholding them towards making their product global. If this works, and there are high hopes that it will this time around, it could pave the way for a new dawn for Northeast India and its people, provided the balance between over-commercialisation and indigeneity is valued by the government and its agencies.

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