As Manipur hosted the eighth edition of Young Leaders Connect 2022 in the state capital Imphal, several leaders highlighted Northeast India’s potential for a much bigger and vital role that it can play in India's economic growth.
Organised by the North East Leaders Connect (NELC), the Connect-8 was held under the theme "Northeast India 2030: Towards India’s Innovative and Sustainable Growth" at the City Convention, Palace Compound.
The Connect seeks to converge and design reforms and strategic ties that will reshape the economies of the region, thereby connecting economies, cultures and companies, and explore ways to help businesses and people to excel, align with what the communities are currently building and connect with their aspirations.
Addressing the gathering as the chief patron of the eighth edition of Young Leaders Connect, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said, Biren said, "A richer understanding of the realities would help reshape Northeast India with a shared vision for the region’s progress".
Pointing out that the region is blessed with abundant natural resources, rich cultural heritage, skilled human resources, colourful tribes and tourist attractions for NE to become another growth engine for the country, Biren spoke on the need to meaningfully realise the region’s inherent potentials in different fields.
Young leaders of the region need to collectively forge a vision and lead a coordinated response, he said.
Biren also reiterated his government's commitment towards inclusive and sustainable development and is continuing its efforts to harness the dynamism of youths. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has taken epochal strides toward promoting start-ups, ushering an environment for start-ups never witnessed before, he said.
In the Northeast too, the emergence of many talents has empowered locals while continuously pushing the wheel of innovation to newer destinations, he said.
Manipur Start-Up has transformed the entrepreneurship ecosystem and said that the state government has extended various support and assistance to a total of 5,796 entrepreneurs for a total project cost of Rs 110 crore to provide ample room for growth of an entrepreneurship, he added.
Acknowledging that Information Technology is one of the core strengths, he also informed that the First Building of Manipur IT SEZ will be ready soon and is expected to create employment opportunities for about 1,500-2,000 persons.
"With improved connectivity infrastructure in Manipur and improved law and order situation in the state, tourism and hospitality sector is also picking up, generating gainful employment opportunities," Biren said.
He also recalled the past decades and stated the entire Northeast states were facing insurgency problems which affected many sections mainly tourism.
Perhaps taking inspiration from former US President John F Kennedy, Biren said that the people of Northeast, including those from Manipur, have this idea or concept that the Centre or the state should be providing when it is the citizens who should be thinking about contributing for the growth of the state or the Centre.
"The entire Northeast people including Manipur have adopted this one idea that it should be the state or the nation providing on a regular basis for us while we have probably never thought nor asked ourselves what we can do or contribute for our state or nation”, Biren said.
Appealing to the people of Northeast to think of what we, as a citizen, have contributed to our country, he said such change in the concept of thinking will increase our contribution to the country’s development.
Biren said the North-East Leaders Connect (NELC) has been paving the path as a facilitator for growth and development in the Northeast region. The platform provided by the NELC will continue to facilitate in designing reforms and deepening strategic ties to unlock the full potential of the region, he added.
Highlighting that the share of exports from the Northeast Region is abysmally low when compared to total exports from India, he expressed hope that such conclave would facilitate in streamlining bottlenecks leading to exponential rise in export numbers in the coming years.
This would also be a stepping stone towards strengthening partnerships and forging sustainable collaborations in the region, he added.
Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu, who is also a governing member of NELC, stated that the time has come for the Northeast Region to play an important role in the country’s resolve to achieve the $5 trillion economy. He also mentioned that the region’s rich natural resources and fragile ecology must not be compromised by various growth paths taken up.
Informing that the Northeast states has 8 per cent of the country's geographical area with 4 per cent of its total population, Khandu mentioned that the region contributes only a small share in the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP), India’s total foodgrain production, domestic and foreign tourists and India’s total export.
The Arunachal CM stated the need to discuss how to increase the region’s contribution to the National GDP, which sector to be focused on, measures to increase the foodgrain production, to attract more tourists, and industries to be prioritised.
Khandu mentioned that various developmental works have been taken up in the Northeast Region under the initiative of PM Modi.
Certain measures for resolving issues regarding insurgency, drugs, interstate boundary disputes have been taken up in a mission mode, apart from building infrastructures for conducive business environments, he added.
Continuing that human resources quality would be the next key asset, he said that we should sincerely endeavour to nurture it.
Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha and NELC Governing Council Member, Gaurav Gogoi stated that Northeast states have a promising future with its potential youths, talents, culture and diversity apart from violence and insurgency which are things of the past.
Gogoi informed that the NELC was born out of common love and passion for Northeast which would continue to grow and create friends not only among the Northeast, but also with the rest of India. He mentioned that for Northeast, economy means its people and as such the potentials of our people should be harnessed to achieve growth and development.
During the programme, N Biren and Pema Khandu launched the project NEW (Northeast-region Entrepreneurs’ World). Short videos on Star Education Manipur and theme song of Young Leaders Connect were also shown.
Cabinet ministers of Manipur, MLAs, members of NELC Governing Council, chief secretary, Manipur, senior officials of the state government, entrepreneurs and many potential youths also attended the programme among others.
The inaugural session was followed by Panel discussion on “Unlocking the Economic Roadmap for North East India”, “What will be the Key Sectors that will drive Inclusive & Sustainable Growth in North East India” and conversation with young leaders of North East India.
During the event, the ‘North East Young Heroes Awards 2022’ were conferred to members under the categories of – healthcare, administration, tourism, entrepreneurship, sports, media & entertainment, education, and social innovation.
An annual conclave, the Connect unifies young change makers and leaders from the region to share their ideas and experiences in order to visualize where they would like to see North East vis-a-vis India in the future, plan a roadmap, and strategize on interventions at the grassroots and policy level.