Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju has been a passionate advocate of greater integration of the Northeast with the national mainstream. Rijiju, 44, who handles several key divisions of the ministry, including Foreigners Division, Northeast and Border Management, seaks to Yatish Yadav on a range of issues, including crackdown on NGOs and various issues in the Northeast. Excerpts:
Haven’t India’s neighbours suddenly become a concern in the backdrop of the Manipur attack and reports of insurgents operating from Myanmar?
On the contrary, now we are getting much more coordinated support from our neighbouring countries—Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar—in terms of intelligence-sharing and tackling issues of our concern. Home ministry is satisfied with the way neighbouring countries are cooperating towards our concerns in the eastern sector.
Do you see China and Pakistan’s footprints in some recent incidents?
We have no issue with China in terms of insurgents who are taking shelter in other countries, mainly in Myanmar and some pockets of Bhutan. There are some areas in Bangladesh as well, but the present regime in that country is taking strong action against these outfits. As far as Pakistan is concerned, the ISI is actively involved in creating trouble in the Northeast.
What have been the changes in terms of security policy from the UPA to the NDA?
We are much more focussed and committed. Security scenario in the Northeast is changing although we are facing some challenges now because we have started taking action (against insurgent groups). We have a two-pronged strategy: first is to be tough with those who are determined to harm national interests, but we are soft on those who have surrendered and returned to the mainstream.
Are we seeing change in intelligence strategy?
Earlier, there was some lack of coordination in intelligence-sharing. Now there is a marked improvement in terms of real-time intelligence-sharing among various agencies. The coordination between Central and state agencies has also improved. We need to integrate human intelligence and technical intelligence, which is happening now.
Are you open to initiating a dialogue in the present situation?
Yes, we will welcome that with open arms.
There have been a series of crackdowns on NGOs, and there are allegations that the present government doesn’t want to have voices of dissent.
In the last so many years, the functioning of NGOs in this country was not properly scrutinised. There was some amendment in the law but that wasn’t effective. No doubt, there are some good NGOs but there are also NGOs involved in fraudulent acts. We need to rationalise from the point of view that no good NGO should suffer because of the bad ones. We need to encourage good NGOs by taking proactive steps and come down heavily on those NGOs who have committed fraud.
There are serious concerns in the Northeast about welfare schemes being delinked from Centrally sponsored programmes. How does the government plan to tackle it?
If you look at the last 13 months of the NDA government, states are more independent in deciding their economic policies. The spirit of federalism remains a priority. There are some concerns for Northeastern states because they have less resources and are still dependent on the Central government. Some states have requested that funding for police modernisation should continue by the home ministry. Let us wait for a response from the Ministry of Finance.
What do you think is the main reason for under-development in Northeastern states?
The region only gets attention in Delhi during announcement of packages and subsidies. But, in true sense the real component of the development has eluded the region and this despite the fact that the Northeast is most important strategically for the government of India.