Connecting India’s Northeast and Unlocking Opportunities
ECONOMY & POLICY

Connecting India’s Northeast and Unlocking Opportunities

Its boom time for the North-East, and how! Reports indicate that Rs 384,426 lakh crore has been spent on several infrastructure development projects to improve – road and air connectivity, railways network, waterways, telecom, and power. Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh termed the Union Budget 2023-24...

Its boom time for the North-East, and how! Reports indicate that Rs 384,426 lakh crore has been spent on several infrastructure development projects to improve – road and air connectivity, railways network, waterways, telecom, and power. Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh termed the Union Budget 2023-24 as growth-oriented; that it will help in achieving the government’s goal of making India a $5 trillion economy within a few years. The Budget for FY2023-24 envisaged a total outlay of Rs 4,503,097 crore. Of this, Ministry of Defence has been allocated a total Budget of Rs 593,537.64 crore, which is 13.18 per cent of the total budget. A release from the PIB (Defence Wing), Government of India, indicates that from the Budget, “Capital allocations pertaining to modernisation and infrastructure development of the Defence Services has been increased to Rs 1,62,600 crore representing a rise of Rs 10,230 crore (6.7 per cent) over FY2022-23. This increase is a reflection of the government’s commitment towards sustainable augmentation in the area of modernisation and infrastructure development of the Defence services. Also, Ministry of Defence is committed towards infrastructure strengthening in the border areas, particularly the Northern borders. Accordingly, the Capital Budget of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been increased by 43 per cent to Rs 5,000 crore in FY23-24 as against Rs 3,500 crore in FY22-23. Also, the allocation under this segment has doubled in two years since FY21-22. This is expected to boost the Border infrastructure thereby creating strategically important assets such as the Sela Tunnel, Nechipu Tunnel, and Sela-Chhabrela Tunnel, and will also enhance border connectivity. Undoubtedly, the North-Eastern region of India has been garnering attention for reasons more than one – be it for defence infrastructure or developments to enhance transport connectivity across roads, railways, airports and inland waterways. The government’s investment of over Rs 10,000 crore across roads, railways, airports, and waterways has led to the development of many critical infrastructure projects in the region. For instance, investments towards developments of the road network in the North-East has improved connectivity in remote areas along with opening up a new door of opportunities for trade and commerce. What’s more, the development of airports and railway lines has further improved connectivity. And the government’s focus on developing waterways has opened up new avenues for transportation and trade, thereby positively impacting the region’s economy. Development is going to be an ongoing story in the northeast. The region is strategically located bordering several countries including Bhutan, China, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, and the current growth only increases its possibilities to become a hub for trade and commerce. What also makes it an investment destination in the energy sector is its wealth of natural resources such as oil, natural gas, coal and limestone. Hence, the government’s focus on developing infrastructure is only set to unveil the region’s potential and boost its economic and social well-being. The next question comes around as to how is construction and infrastructure development set to play a significant role in the North-Eastern region’s development. Why not, considering the significant growth witnessed in recent years along with the current investments that the government is making in the infrastructure projects. For instance, the laying of almost 900 km of broad-gauge railway tracks and the development of several airports display the big infrastructure opportunities for the construction sector. Also, the Eastern Waterways Connectivity Transport Grid project, which is currently underway, is set to offer seamless connectivity upon completion, not only between the Northeast and the rest of the country but also in the sub-continent. It will offer nearly 5,000 km of navigable waterways to and from the region. However, every opportunity brings along a set of challenges, and the North-Eastern region has been treated with a bulk of it. Developing infrastructure in this terrain is not the easiest; there are some unique challenges as the area’s rugged terrain and limited transport infrastructure makes it difficult to transport materials and equipment to locations. Also, the geographical and logistical challenges in the Northeastern states are quite different. Furthermore, the renewal delay of the North East Industrial Development Scheme has hindered potential investors from entering the region. And sustainable means of construction would also help curb carbon footprints while proving cost-effective. Despite these challenges, there has been great progress in recent years and this is only set to continue. Reportedly, the World Bank has invested over $1,160 million in different projects in the Northeast, and would further expand its footprints in the region. What’s more, road construction has more than doubled, rising from just 0.6 km of national highway being laid per day to 1.5 km per day between 2014-19. Improving and modernising the transport sector is the Meghalaya Integrated Transport Project, and under initiation are 13 projects worth Rs 547 crore, including the construction of three major bridges. Evidently, the North-Eastern region has opened its great door of infrastructure opportunity for the construction and allied industries. The government’s renewed focus on infrastructure development across various segments presents a huge opportunity for construction companies to capitalise on. To delve into the opportunities, CW reached out to Border Roads Organisation; National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation; North East Frontier Railway; Airports Authority of India, North Eastern Region; and North-East Regional Advisory Council, FICCI. Read on to know more from the experts. It seems to be a promising time for the construction and infrastructure industry to invest in the region and contribute to its growth and development – we agree. Read the interviews of these experts for their views on the infrastructure development in the Northeast: Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry, Director General, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) Chanchal Kumar, Managing Director, National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) Sanmukh Jugani, Regional Executive Director, Airports Authority of India, North Eastern Region Anshul Gupta, General Manager, North East Frontier Railway Ranjit Barthakur, Chairman, North-East Regional Advisory Council, FICCI

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