Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman: Infrastructure Development in Northeast India – Examining Inequality and Exclusion in the Development Promise of Progress and Prosperity
The pace of infrastructural development in Northeast India has been on the uptick since 2008. The past development experience in Northeast India has oscillated between complete neglect to sporadic interest based on particular needs of economic enclaves and military preparedness and strategic presence. From a scorched-earth policy of New Delhi in frontier areas such as Arunachal Pradesh, to the Trans-Arunachal Highway Project aiming to connect remote border areas, for instance, exemplifies the shifting priorities. The infrastructural development priorities in Northeast India have seen a lopsided pattern, and this project examines the core questions about the balance between the promise of economic prosperity and social inequalities, especially when India is engaging with Japan to intensify its infrastructure development via its Act East Policy. The social infrastructure requirements for the various tribal communities of Northeast India, along the basic developmental indicators of public health and hygiene, sanitation, education facilities across all levels, access to safe drinking water, banking institutions, markets and job opportunities, have to be strengthened in order to enable the people of the region to absorb the economic benefits in a sustainable manner. The central and state governments of India cannot ignore the apprehensions and fears of local communities about the manner and method of infrastructure development that is being conducted in Northeast India. Infrastructure development in Northeast India has had the effect of coupling unequal spaces within, and the path to ‘progress’ and ‘prosperity’ cannot hop, skip and jump such inequality. This project examines the aspect of building trust and sustain a process of participative development in Northeast India, which is in harmony with local communities’ socio-cultural and economic aspirations and their knowledge of the region’s ecology. Local communities in Northeast India collectively face a democratic deficit in meaningfully participating in infrastructural development decision-making, and this project examines existing/alternate institutional frameworks.
Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman holds a PhD in Development Studies from the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati, Assam. He completed his MA in Philosophy from the Diplomacy and Disarmament Division, Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; his MA in International Relations from the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and his BA in Political Science Honours from Hindu College, Delhi University. His areas of interests include research on Northeast India, mainly on issues relating to transboundary water sharing and hydropower dams, roads and connectivity infrastructures, conflict and insurgency, peace building, development politics, migration and cross border exchanges. His research specialization is on border studies in Northeast India and transboundary water sharing and management issues between China, India and Bangladesh. He is committed to grassroots based alternative community work and development models. He has travelled extensively in parts of Northeast India for research work. He has led research teams in Northeast India, and has travelled parts in China, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Myanmar for research. He has worked as a consultant on many research projects in Northeast India. He has teaching experience as Visiting Faculty, and has participated in several workshops and academic conferences. He is an avid photographer and traveller.