The North Eastern Region (NER) of India includes eight states, the so-called “Seven Sisters” and Sikkim; the “Seven Sisters” are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura.
With its geo-climatic conditions varying from subtropical, tropical, and temperate to alpine zones, and with more than 60% of its geographical area under forest cover, NER also represents a region of mega-biodiversity. More than half of the 15000 flowering species occurring in India are found in NER; of the 1300 species of orchids reported from India, about 700 species of beautiful, ornamental and rare orchids are found in NER alone. Identified as one of the two biodiversity “hotspots” of India (the other being the Western Ghats), with its rich bioresources spread across diverse ecosystems and nurtured by indigenous communities, NER offers ample potential for growth and development.
In the year 2001, DBT established a permanent institution in NER, namely, the Institute of Bioresources & Sustainable Development (IBSD) at Imphal (Manipur) with a mandate for bioresources development and their sustainable use through biotechnological interventions for the socioeconomic growth of the region. More importantly, DBT has adopted the approach of proactively engaging with the scientific communities of NER and facilitate their interaction with the leading institutions in the rest of the country. This approach has helped to evolve and implement collaborative or network biotech programmes that are aimed at harnessing the region’s rich bio-resources for the development of the region.
Recognizing the importance of this mission, DBT created a special cell in 2009-2010, the North Eastern Region-Biotechnology Programme Management Cell (NER-BPMC), functioning through Biotech Consortium India Limited (BCIL), for conceptualizing and implementing need-based and region-specific biotechnology programmes in the northeast India. The NER-BPMC works in close cooperation with various Government Ministries/Departments/Agencies at the Central and State level along with universities and Research and Development (R&D) institutions towards the common goal of developing and executing quality R&D and extension biotech programmes, including human resource development (HRD), research capacity building, training and entrepreneurship.
An unprecedented growth in the field of biotechnology makes it imperative to create awareness about it at the school level and also to provide an environment of access to a well-equipped laboratory. Recognizing this need, DBT has initiated a scheme for establishing “Biotechnology Labs in Senior Secondary schools (BLiSS)” across all eight states of North Eastern Region.
An online human resource repository of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics Resources of North East India (BABRONE) has been created and located at College of Veterinary Sciences (AAU), Khanapara, Guwahati (Assam). It is a freely accessible e-learning server developed as a common platform for uploading learning materials, sharing of information and as an online discussion forum at www.babrone.edu.in.
DBT has also initiated a “Visiting Research Professorship (VRP)” Scheme to utilize the expertise of outstanding biotechnology professionals for bringing advancement in the Biotechnology and Life Science related activities in various institutions of research and higher learning in the NER States of India.
DBT’s proactive policies have given rise to a number of high-quality programmes in various areas of biotechnology. This has not only laid a strong foundation for future growth of biotech R&D and industry in the region, but also has created a wave of enthusiasm and optimism among the young investigators to think of undertaking high caliber innovative projects and finding global solutions for local problems.