“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, a Northeastern state of India, is being strangled. The land of the brave once resisted the expansion of the Mughal Empire by defeating their military from establishing rule in the region. However, these chronicles of Assam history are camouflaged. ‘Majuli’, 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, who was awarded the Padma Shree 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. Assam is an oil-rich state, with its globally recognised rich biodiversity, coal and tea. The Assam government raises revenue mostly from the tourism sector. The state is a gateway to Asia and therefore, crucial for India and its ‘Act East Policy’.
Assam, today, is facing three considerable crises; flood, EIA, and 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 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 the 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 pandemic, the government broadcasted its new neoliberal strategy. This EIA draft is pro-industry and anti-people, and might cause obstacles substantially. 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 Covid-19 pandemic has affected millions without exception. Considering the flood in Assam, the impact had worsened while the masses are striving. Essentially, the tribal communities or locals reliant on craft making and arts are in distress. The substandard workers of tea gardens are debilitated, at present, the manufacturing of tea is in jeopardy. The tea industry is one of the mainstream industries of Assam that is labour-intensive and largely an organised sector. With the thriving concern of the tea industries of Assam, the pandemic has tormented many lives.
Assam is the land of the one-horned rhinoceros. Due to the large scale destruction caused by floods, animals are more vulnerable. It is estimated that more than 100 wild animals, including rhinos, died in the recent flood. The rhinos are facing extinction today because of extensive poaching, whilst, 85% of the national park strains underwater every year in monsoon. Besides, the ‘Majuli’ island is facing erosion from flooding and local communities do not have proper access to healthcare facilities. They have to cross the river in case of severe health difficulties and it has become worse during the pandemic.
For instances, the Assam separatist movement, led by the United Liberation Front Army (ULFA), was prominent during the late 20th century and aimed to protect land from exploitation. The ULFA was a powerful and violent insurgent group of Southeast Asia. It bolstered support from the locals as the Centre overlooked the problems of Assam. Even today, national media neglects issues of Assam.
History repeats itself; the Center should keep in mind the facts of a postmodern world and not let the same mistake happen twice.
The people of Assam need essential things such as 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 of Assam are lagging behind socially and economically; they have no access to digital platforms to study during the pandemic. Assam needs more research and development institutions for scientific solutions to these problems. The government should have focused more on such issues rather than taking advantage of the pandemic and drafting 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 the coronavirus and the governments should invest more in human resources and technological advancements in the 21st century.