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India’s laggard states need attention, too

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Indian farmers prepare their agricultural field for planting paddy seedlings on the outskirts of Guwahati city, India, 20 July 2014. (Photo: AAP)

In Brief

A handful of India’s regions have marched ahead economically, while others have been left behind.

India is heavily dependent upon a few states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. But states in East and Northeast India have, for various reasons, not seen the same levels of growth.


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The emphasis put on promoting tourist attractions in these states has also been lacklustre in comparison. Some have become popular tourist destinations, while other potential tourist spots have not got the attention they deserve.

Prime Minister Modi has often emphasised the need to make sure that the gains from growth are more equally shared by India’s regions. In his recent trip to the Northeast, he reiterated this, but also suggested that the vision for the Northeast needs to be more ambitious. He suggested that the Northeast be developed as a tourist destination, with an emphasis on better connectivity with the rest of the country, as well as better overall facilities. The Prime Minister called the region a ‘Natural Economic Zone’.

India could learn from the rejuvenation of China’s provinces, such as Yunnan, to help the transformation of its regions into economic centres and tourist hubs. Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, has rapidly transitioned to a strategic and tourist hub, becoming a key point of connectivity for Myanmar and a key proponent of the BCIM Corridor (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar). Kunming also hosts an annual South Asia Expo.

Kunming has made rapid economic strides in the past few years. It has also emerged as a tourist destination for residents of neighbouring countries. Increased efforts to promote the local culture of the province has led to an increase in tourism. Kunming is home to a ‘Yunnan nationalities museum’, but also a village which showcases the art and crafts of the region.

It is time that India too looked for its own Kunming — that is, a well-connected hub with strong tourism potential — in the east or northeast of the country. India’s northeastern states are well connected to Myanmar and Bangladesh. India’s federal and regional governments need to cooperate. The state of West Bengal in East India, for example, could be used as a bridge between the Northeast and the rest of the country. Its geographical proximity to neighbouring countries is also beneficial. The growth of West Bengal, however, will not just require the creation of world class infrastructure, but a more professional approach towards the promotion of tourist attractions.

Small northeastern Indian states like Tripura and Assam which are strategically located also require greater attention and investment. They have been showing interest in emerging as important economic destinations and also have immense potential as tourist destinations.

It is not just respective state governments, but also the central government which will have to take the lead in developing these cities as important economic and tourist hubs. More will need to be done than just holding investors summits. Promoting the tourism industry will also be critical. There is a growing realisation that growth in western and southern India is not sufficient. Rather than waiting for a trickle down to other regions, the central government must go the extra distance to promote and develop regions which have so far been neglected.

Tridivesh Singh Maini is a Senior Research Associate with The Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University Sonepat.


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