North East India is a key region to India’s ‘Act East’ policy. It has its significance not only for its strategic location but also for developing connectivity with the East Asian countries. The economic development of North Eastern states is therefore of utmost importance for economic prosperity as well as National security of India.
However, over the years, because of the difficult terrain, unique problems of northeast India, and underdeveloped infrastructure in the region because of the need for preserving the natural resources, the economic development of the region has not occurred. The youth of North Eastern Region (NER), even after receiving the education has not been able to secure jobs to bring about prosperity in the region. The standard of living of the people in NER is significantly lower than the national average.
According to Census 2011, only about 4% growth in workers was observed in the span of a decade in Mizoram. It stated that three states – Mizoram, Nagaland, and Sikkim – were below the national average of 20% growth in workers from 2001 to 2011. Moreover, the states of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh witnessed a decline in the number of total workers during the same period. The census data highlighted that the proportion of unemployed persons (per 1000) for persons of age 15- 59 years in Nagaland was as high as 129, as against the all India average of 16.
Despite the need for it, not a lot of CSR funds are allocated for the development of this region. With an aim to change that, NABFOUNDATION, the not for profit arm of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development Bank (NABARD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dalmia Bharat Foundation to develop a unique skill mapping programme for unemployed youths in all the North-Eastern states of Assam, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura.
Through the collaboration, the programme titled ‘Project NEW’ (NER Entrepreneurs’ World) is launched. The project is set to work in two phases. In the first phase, an online portal along with a smart app will be set up to capture skill gaps and aspirations. This data will be collated into state/district/block level data sheets and will be the first step towards developing the first-ever such database for the entire NER. This data will be shared with NGOs, NABARD, banks and policy framers in the bureaucracy. In the next phase, a concerted effort will be made to develop tailor-made skilling programmes based on skill aspirations.
The programme is designed to specifically address unique challenges of the North East Region (NER) such as poor infrastructure, the impossibility of large industry and difficult terrain and the resulting impact on the region’s youths and their progress. Dalmia Bharat Foundation, NABFINS and NABSAMRUDDHI have stepped forward to provide their CSR support for this unique initiative which aims to capture the data of at least 1 lakh unemployed youths over a period of 12 months.
Sanjeev Rohilla, CEO, NABFOUNDATION has stated, “This project is an audacious attempt which leverages the power of technology to map the skill aspirations. Household based surveys are an impossibility in NER for want of both funds and time. The support of Dalmia Bharat Foundation, NABSAMRUDDHI and NABFINS is proof of the power of organizations coming together to make a meaningful change in place which need this support most”.
He added, “Almost every study has stressed upon the fact that the youth of NER alone holds the key to drive a meaningful change. But involving the youths in a sustained and meaningful manner has been a challenge within itself. Project NEW is a unique initiative which attempts to solve this very dilemma”.
Vishal Bhardwaj, CEO, Dalmia Bharat Foundation (DBF) commented on the collaboration and said, “DBF has had a special relationship with the entire North East for a long time. Our efforts have covered key sectors like ecology, women empowerment and skilling. Through this MoU, we aim to work with NABFOUNDATION for the employment of youths across the North- Eastern Region by providing them with sustainable livelihoods. DBF aims at promoting skilled occupation to the youth of the country. This joint programme will help in bridging the employability gap and creating a specialized, skilled workforce to build Atmanirbhar Bharat.”
The people of NER often face prejudiced for their physical appearances that resemble the east Asian countries. This was escalated even more during COVID-19 as people took them to be Chinese and believed them to be carriers of the virus. Such behaviour is disgraceful and causes division within the country. In order for the holistic economic development of India, it is important to focus on socio-economic integration and development of NER.