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H. Kham Khan Suan

By Rakhee Bhattacharya
Foundation Books, Delhi, 2011, pp. 176, Rs.695.00

Edited by Hans-Peter Brunner
Sage, New Delhi, 2010, pp.215, Rs.695.00


Rakhee Bhattacharya’s Development Disparities in Northeast India and Hans-Peter Brunner edited North East India: Local Economic Development and Global Markets are welcome interventions in a grey area of research. Both gainfully adopt an integrative approach yet their focus is distinct in that while Bhattacharya locates North East India against the development trajectory in mainland India, Brunner painstakingly explores the possibilities of relocating the region into the central nodes of global markets. Bhattacharya examines development disparities within and across the North East in particular and in mainland India in general. She attributes this to complex and trans-historical problems, a glaring example of which is the colonial legacy of creating an extractive resource base in the periphery which persists in the postcolonial period. She contends that ‘the Nehruvian model of rebuilding India’s economy with industrialization, nationalization and a policy of import substitution’ fails to address regional disparity even as ‘it created extensive and haphazard urbanization’ (p.7). While this leverages what she calls a ‘permit and license raj’ and propped up a ‘channel of corruption’, uneven allocation of resources under this raj fails to break the colonial legacy and over time widens the gap between ‘developed’ urban areas and the ‘underdeveloped’ rural areas. This inbuilt bias favoured regions/States which have relatively strong political and economic backgrounds. In the post-liberalization era these States, driven by the buoyant secondary and tertiary sectors (p. 54), have been able to advance their economies while the ‘other India’, based as their economies are on primary/agricultural sector, continues to be steeped in backwardness, poverty and squalor. Against this backdrop, Bhattacharya examines how ‘rising India’ has failed to particularly incorporate its North Eastern periphery (p.vii). As a result the region not only remains in the ‘backyard of India’s modernization’ but most conspicuously ‘development’ has ‘shied away from its own people’ (ibid.). She faults New Delhi’s ‘idealistic and romantic’ policy of ‘preserving the region’s ethno-culture and tribal identity’ which is at odds with the actually existing political economy of the North East (ibid.). Bhattacharya painstakingly shows how despite preferential treatment under special category States’ status, creation of a separate Ministry for the Development of the North East (MDONER) and rich natural resources endowment, the region has continued to be underdeveloped and backward. Notwithstanding massive central assistance from New Delhi, the States in North East India have not been successful in augmenting their resource base ...

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