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Integrated Development Plan for the Barak Valley : An International Development Perspective - By Mr. Baharul Islam

 

It is a legitimate desire for any region like Barak Valley in Assam (specifically Cachar, Karimganj & Hailakandi districts) to mobilize its intellectual resources and technical expertise including those in the diasporas, to plan for growth, equity and economic development of the area. At the dawn of the third millennium various regions and communities around the world have weathered the storm of economic and social crises that have been the order of the day ever since the mid seventies. However, due many reasons, social, political and economic, Barak Valley region doesn’t have any such perspective plan. Sons and daughters of the valley who hold various high professional positions in India and abroad often feel a deep urge to work for the development of the area but in the absence of any institutional civil society platform, such desires remain isolated. Looking ahead into the coming century, it is with great optimism that some groups of people from the valley have started to think of breaking down into discrete but technically feasible objectives, the pronouncements-cummission objectives of an integrated socio-economic development plan for the valley. On taking over the reigns of South Asia Development Gateway early 2007, undertook a mission to incorporate an Integrated Development Plan (IDP) for this region. It is to elaborate, propose and initiate such an exercise within the civil society platforms such as G C College Alumni Association (NCR), I take this opportunity to put forward some of the potential plans that we can put together to develop the region.

Development is all about people, how they live their daily lives, how they attain self-realization and how they improve on their living standards. The preliminary work from which an Integrated Regional Development Plan emanates is through discussions at all levels of society, the plan can therefore validly be said to represent the aspirations of the local people. This article covers some of those critical developmental sectors for Barak Valley that are capable of showing the most leverage on our endeavor to improve our position on the collective income ladder.

In an integrated development plan for the Barak Valley, the social sectors should be given the prominence they deserve. Health, Education and other Social services form essential pillars of Human Capital development. Without a coherent and consistent Human Resource Development strategy, “a decent standard of living for one and all" as aspired by the people of the valley today would not be attained.

However, perhaps a word of caution will help dissipate some concerns that people here and there, may evoke on important matters not featuring in the document. The idea of presenting a possible integrated development plan for Barak Valley is a specific developmental perspective and as such constitutional and other legal matters are best dealt with outside such a document that proposes to be blue print for guiding economic and social policy formulation, implementation and monitoring. Implementation strategies do not also feature in this document but are already under discussion as to the optimal strategies and monitoring arrangements. In order to pilot such an district level integrated plan, Karimganj district administration in collaboration with the South Asia Development Gateway has formed a District Level Integrated Development Committee under the Chairmanship of the Local Deputy Commissioner and an expert from the UN Economic Commission for Asia (Bangkok) will visit the district in late December, 2007 to have a detailed consultation with the stakeholders.

An Integrated Development Plan for any area comprises three inter-related documents, namely:

  1. A Policy Framework Paper (PFP) that spells out the strategic thrust, the strategy content and the budgetary and institutional framework within which various projects and programmes will configure, explicitly linking the region to the national Vision 2020;
  2. The Operational Framework of the area Development Strategy which takes the form of a Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). The MTEF is linked to the Macroeconomic Growth Strategy through the PFP, the latter reflecting the objectives of national Vision 2020; and,
  3. The Action Plan for the target area, which highlights the Implementation Strategy, the Participatory Plan and the organizational setting within which strategic action is implemented, monitored and evaluated.

In line with the international development goals, a Barak Valley Integrated Development Plan (BVIDP) will be in tandem with national and international efforts towards the achievement of poverty reduction targets, such as:

  • A reduction by one-half of the unemployed population in the valley.
  • Enforced Universal "employable life-skill" Education in
  • Equality and empowerment of women by eliminating gender disparities
  • Access through the primary health care system, to reproductive health services for all people of appropriate ages as soon as possible
  • The implementation of a regional strategy for sustainable development so as to ensure that current trends in the loss of environmental resources are effectively reversed
  • Creation of economic opportunities for the poor in order to substantially reduce income and
  • food poverty and the general feeling of insecurity related to food and income poverty; and,
  • Development of a fully fledged participatory government based on the consent of the citizenry and a strong social-audit system.

The programme areas in the BVIDP will include macroeconomic growth strategy, income generating activities, re-distributive activities, social service delivery, food security, improving public resource management, creation of an accounting framework for poverty reduction interventions, improving participation in local decision making, coordination and monitoring and information, education and communication.

The foregoing brief highlights the potential implications of a proposed Integrated Development Plan for the Barak Valley that will be piloted in Karimganj district. We have discussed this plan on various platforms and consultations to determine the readiness of the stakeholders with a view to project a road map leading to the structure of a development strategy for the area. The outcome of these consultations were largely encouraging and attracted valuable inputs which were enlisted to excel the draft Integrated Development Plan that will be adopted after further discussion as final. The approach taken in the formulation of the strategy is participatory since all stakeholders will be provided the opportunity to contribute to the fundamental design of the strategy based on the guidelines provided.

On a concluding note, it will not be out of place to mention that among many promises of the digital revolution is the potential to strengthen democracy and make governments more responsive to the needs of the citizens. An Integrated Development Plan is the use of information and communication technologies to transform the way Government conducts its business, which includes: Providing grater access to government information; Promote civic engagement by enabling public to interact with government officials; Make government more accountable by making its operations more transparent and thus reducing the opportunities for corruption; Providing development opportunities, especially benefiting rural and traditional underserved communities.

Let us now dream to establish “The Barak Valley Incorporated" as the Integrated Development Plan aims at a full-fledged private sector that is responsible to the development needs of this area and that can play an active role in the domestic economy. Government will ensure that market mechanism function smoothly within a free market and a stable macro-economic environment. On the external front, the maintenance of a steady exchange rate between the valley and major foreign trade agencies as well as the implementation of agreements signed with International Financial Institutions will ensure a more positive insertion of the economy into the international scene.

 
 
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