Looking Northeast

Ashvita Singh

Accommodation Times News Service

No matter how haphazard or threadbare the process is, there’s no denying the fact that India is growing. Equally non-contestable is the notion that this growth is anything but all inclusive. Our nation’s North East, for the longest time now, is one such exclusion – overlooked and undermined despite having unparalleled resources for both – industrial and socio-economic development. This coupled with the upper hand it has in comparison to rest of India owing to its strategic location (the region is a gateway to and for the South-East Asian markets), should all but make the region a powerhouse of holistic growth – something that is a far cry from reality.

The north east, which comprises eight percent of total area and together contributes 2.64% of India’s GDP, has faced so much neglect from the rest of the nation that it ended up taking body blows in terms of infrastructure and access to mainland. Amongst region’s myriad shout for help, a widespread concern is the need to upgrade the connectivity beyond Silliguri corridor-a passage that continuously damages the regions much-needed dalliance with the mainland.  Also termed as ‘Chicken’s Neck’, this narrow stretch of land is the only available passage through which all land trade coming through and from the region enters the rest of India. While transportation through this land-stripe is seen constantly being affected courtesy the harsh topography of the area – to make matters even worse – there arises also the issue of having only a single line available for ferrying of all rail-based freight across Silliguri. Add hilly terrain and uncertain rainfall, along with insurgency amounting to unrelenting conflict to the broth and it comes forth as the perfect recipe for attaining nationwide obscurity.

Additionally, the region is battling from abject poverty and widespread unemployment. In Manipur, for instance, 36.89% of the population lives below the poverty line, as per the poverty estimate for 2011-2012. In terms of unemployment, Tripura stands at the peak with highest unemployment rate in urban areas at 25.2% in 2011-12, followed closely by Nagaland with 23.8%, and Manipur with 7.1%.

That is not to say, however, that North-east is static in terms of advancement. The region, of recent, is displaying signs of progress with states like Meghalaya (India’s fastest growing state) and Sikkim growing at the rate of 9.7% and 7.6% respectively (2013-14). With growth comes employment and given how much hinges on money, occupation fashions demand.

Concurrently, there is an abundant market for demand in these eight states, particularly in real estate sector, even if the supply is comparatively at a slower pace. One might venture to argue that central government overdue emphasis on infrastructural development with its ‘Look East Policy’ will augur well for the realty development in the region.

But even among these states, the uniformity in growth is missing. It is estimated that 35% of the urban housing demands are from the seven sisters and the only city to match up with these ever rousing demands seems to be Guwahati, Assam. As one news report claimed, the Lokhra region, along with Jorhat, Tinsukia and Dibrugarh, which were once thought to be a secluded location of Guwahati has now received a facelift with burgeoning number of malls and residential colonies.

According to Residex by National Housing Bank (NHB), which tracks housing prices in 26 cities, Guwahati, saw an upward trend of nine per cent in property rates. It could be well contested that a part of this development has to do with union government’s decision to convert Guwahati into a smart city.

In the similar vein, while the infrastructure remains poor and employment being few and far in between, the centre’s decision to convert the towns of Namchi (Sikhim), Imphal (Manipur), Shillong (Meghalay), Kohima (Nagaland), Agartala (Tripura), and Aizwal (Mizoram) will likely bring them on par with Guwahati and, simultaneously, the rest of the nation.

Other government policy like affordable housing will also help in providing repose to the home seekers, throughout the eastern region. For instance, four Manipur towns, namely, Jiribam in Imphal East district, Lamshang in Imphal West district, Kakching and Sugunu in Thoubal district, have been selected for the first phase of the central government’s ‘Housing for All’ scheme  by 2022.

However, along with the sweet promises of realty progressing by leaps and bounds in the long run, also comes the current sharp knife of demonetization as it is severely affecting the realty market for now.

“The real estate market is very poor here. Demand for homes has definitely gone down. Like buyers are worried how to purchase, I am concerned about how to sell these flats. Let’s hope next year brings some stability”, a developer from Subham group, a realty biggie in Guwahati said.

While showing steady inclination to rise up on the graph, property rates in north east are relaxed when compared to other major cities throughout India. According to an online database portal Numbeo, Guwahati being one of the developed cities of north east has property rate per square meter at Rs. 30,494.49 when compared to Mumbai’s Rs. 503,144.65. Imphal per square meter rate is Rs. 41,261.66.  Simultaneously, Shillong is at Rs. 41,261.66 and Agartala at Rs. 40,000.00. The average rent per month for one bedroom apartment in city center in Guwahati is 6,333.33 Rs in comparison to Mumbai’s Rs. 35,584.55. Imphal and Agartala are at Rs. 4500.


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