By Rachna Baruah:
The last trip to my hometown struck me with an epiphany. I was standing on the cloudy roof of my office as I casually glanced through the horizon. I noticed, for the first time, the timid beauty of this humble place.
Despite my birth and considerable time of adolescence being spent in Guwahati, I had never bothered noticing or even appreciating the beauty of the lush green valley. It was at this recent moment when I was struck by profound awe of the place. So, I decided to go downstairs and search a little on the Northeast India. To my utter surprise, the scenic pictures could be credited to have been taken in some virgin land of the great Europe. But as reality strikes, it is not an all’s well situation there. During my stay, all I could think of this place was as a temporary refuge before my further studies. And I am not the only exception.
My generation and the one which well precedes me, had the same thoughts. When I was younger, I distinctly remember the Anglo-Indian culture still lingering around everyday life. But as time passed, I saw the changing and ever evolving society. This society, unlike others, degraded instead of developing. While there has been growth but the small changes of development is hardly visible. Also, growth does not suffice for development. There has been growth in terms of illegal immigrants, corruption and a decaying moral system. This, as I speak, is not a unique problem of my hometown but may speak out for many other towns and cities of the Northeast.
Northeast India is that part of our nation which has direct connections with the international border like no other state. It comprises of eight states namely Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Sikkim. Connected by what is called as the “chicken’s neck”, northeast is a part of India for it’s patch of the neck, which is around 21-40 kms wide. These 26 kms on the average defines us north easterners as Indians. The cultural diversity is immense and often distinct from the mainland. While the region is excessively gifted with nature, flora and fauna, it could never sow the seeds of basic infrastructural development. I might be inept to comment about the detailed financial segregation and implementation on the region, but what I can be right about is the natural feelings of the people there.
As a north easterner myself, I see things there differently compared to others. While others may see Northeast as an exotic land of Chinkis and primitive tribal people, I see a society which longs to be accepted by the fellow mainlanders. While others see this region as a hub for drugs, sex and rock music, I see the youth frustrated without any future. While others see the land as that of tribes still living in tree houses, I see competent minds hoping for a developmental miracle to happen.
What this region lacks is proper allocation of resources in the correct social institutions like education. Education plays the foremost role in uplifting a society out of its plaguing menaces. Northeast, though sees the presence of a few sprouting institutions, has the lack of premier institutes which actually may create employability. The various menaces in this region are the tiring army conflicts since 1950s, secessionist tendencies, insurgency, lack of educational institutions, skyrocketing figures of corruption, illegal mining and corruption in Forest services. The list can go on and on but instead of focusing on what weakens northeast, I want to focus on what can be done to strengthen it.
The foremost initiative, as I mentioned, should be allocation of resources in educational institutions and creation of a Special Economic Zone. The region is gifted with bio-diversity, hydro-potential, minerals like oil and natural gas, limestone, dolomite, coal, graphite, quartzite, sillimanite etc. which has either been manipulated by illegal hands or not been utilized to their fullest extent. Further, the region should focus on the natural beauty that it has been endowed with. Northeast and its ethnic heritage can be an exemplary example of flourishing tourism. Instead of most derelict heritage sites submerging into oblivion, immediate initiatives to restore them are required. Further, it is time India actually activated and implemented the ‘Look East Policy’ to acquire more tangible profits of globalization and at the same point nourishing the North East with the development which she needs.
The problems mentioned above are not the only ones which actually plague the North East and certainly cannot be articulated in a mere cluster of words. Despite of the problems, the region has reasons to celebrate, like Mizoram’s literacy feat is commendable, but we still have a long way to go. We all want to reconstruct the dynamics of the region and create a better future for those who have long suffered the pangs of depravity. But can decades of political instability reach a future of brighter possibilities? How would you address the pertinent issue of North East?