“A traditional Englishman drinks tea to the point where his blood has long-since been replaced with an infusion of Ceylon, Assam, and Darjeeling.”
― Fennel Hudson, A Meaningful Life
Assam, the Northeastern state of India is strangling. The land of brave once resisted the expansion of the Mughal Empire by defeating their military from establishing rule in the region. The chronicles of Assam History is camouflaged. ‘Majuli’ which is the largest River Island in Asia is in Assam, a culturally rich land with oodles of heritage sites, in conjunction with five National Parks as well as 18 wildlife sanctuaries. Molai is a man-made forest by Jadav Payeng, awarded with Padmashree entitled the ‘Forest Man of India’. Assam is a land of diversity; it dwells different tribes that cohabit as the Missing tribe, Rabha, Sonowal, Kachari, Koch, Tiwa, etc. An oil-rich state along with coal, rich in biodiversity, its tea is globally recognised besides; the government can solely raise revenue from the tourism sector. The Northeastern region of India is the gateway to Asia and therefore it is crucial for India and its ‘Act East Policy’.
Assam today is facing three considerable crises; flood, EIA, and the COVID-19.
Firstly, the Assam flood has affected 27.64 lakh people in 26 of 33 districts and the death toll is rising every day. In Dhubri district, over 4.69 lakh people, 4.49 lakh in Goalpara district, and more than 3.5 lakh people in Marigaon and Barpeta Districts have been affected by the flood. The River Brahmaputra during the monsoon brings catastrophe every year destroying lives, people, crops, animals, etc. The heavy rain in the state of Assam causes Asia’s largest rivers to overflow. The seed of the extermination lies in;
The inevitable socio-economic problem emerges like a trend as partly due to the underestimation of the problem. The negative implications of the illegal migration have further retarded the structure. Subsequently, the Baghjan incident at Tinkusia District afflicted thousands of families; yet not under compliant. The public sectors should be monitored to avoid such circumstances. The tragic shutdown of Hindustan Paper Limited was an unforgettable event.
Secondly, the government’s decision to implement CAA and now EIA is preposterous. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) draft of 2020 is fundamentally against the environmental law and devalues the order of the National Green Tribunal. In the middle of the global Pandemic, the government broadcasted its new neoliberal strategy. This EIA draft is pro-industry and anti-people might cause obstacles substantially. The local communities will be affected along the legal extortion of forest. The draft of EIA intended the clearance of illegal coal mining in the Elephant Reserve but it asides the necessity of public consultation. The Dihing Patkai is the last spot of lowland rainforest in Assam and the EIA 2020 poses a significant menace to ecology. The design of the EIA 2020 draft denies social, political, and legal forums to its citizens to safeguard the environment and contrary to the unethical decisions made by the government. For example, China transformed the Shenzhen fishing village into a modern city causing environmental degradation and pollution. Therefore, China ought not to be an ideal example of development.
Thirdly the affects of COVID-19, the pandemic without exception affected millions. Considering the flood in Assam, the impact had worsened while the masses are striving. Essentially the tribal communities or the locals reliant on craft making and artists are in distress. The substandard workers of the tea garden are debilitated, at present the manufacturing of tea is in jeopardy. The tea industry is one of the mainstream industries of Assam which is labour-intensive and largely an organised sector. With the thriving concern of the tea industries of Assam; one of the oldest of times due to the pandemic and lockdown has tormented many lives.
Assam is the land of the one-horned rhinoceros. Due to the large scale destruction caused by the flood, the animals are more vulnerable. Estimated more than 100 wild animals including rhinos died in the recent flood. The rhinos are facing extinction today since the extensive poaching whilst, 85% of the park strain underwater every year in monsoon. Besides that, the ‘Majuli’ island is facing erosion from flooding and the local communities do not have proper access to health care facilities. They have to cross the river in case of severe health difficulties and it has become worse during the pandemic.
For instances, Assam separatist movement was a reason lead by United Liberation Front Army (ULFA) was prominent during the late 20th century that aimed to protect the land from exploitation. ULFA was a powerful and violent insurgent group of South-east Asia. The ULFA bolstered support from the locals as the centre overlooked the problems of Assam. Even today the National media neglects the issues of Assam. The history repeats itself; the center should keep in mind the facts of a post-modern world and not let the same mistake happen twice.
What does Assam need? The people of Assam need basic things like jobs, healthcare, proper education, development with respect to environmental laws, and a solution to the flood predicament. People want their promises to be kept by the governments without becoming victims of a repressive system. In Assam, Institutions should be managed properly, funds for development in the agriculture sector should be released faster, and corruption should be reduced so that the benefits are secured. The rural tribal communities are lacking behind socially and economically; they have no access to the digital platforms to study during the pandemic. Assam needs more Research and Development Institutions for scientific solutions to the problems. The government should have focused more on such issues rather than taking advantage of Pandemic and draft the EIA 2020. The students’ community in Assam is more active and fighting for the cause, helping those in need during this tough time in Assam. The world today should be prepared for unconventional threats like a pandemic and the government should invest more in human resources and technological advancements in the 21st century.