(27. August. 2014)
A bursting bubble and reality check
The recent articles of former Chief Secretary of the state H K Paliwal titled "Precarious
Financial Condition of the state and way forward" made an intriguing piece. The former
bureaucrat and the current Chief Advisor to Arunachal govt suggested mass dam building
to rescue the 'alarming, horrendous, wobbly' financial conditions of Arunachal Pradesh.
The financial figures to be made from these dams were mouth watering.
But what yours truly found interesting was the fact that the article revealed that
the financial status of the state is not healthy at all while the politicians have
been able to convince us not to worry as it is not as bad as it is being perceived.
The contrasting statement from the political leadership and former top bureaucrat
seems to suggest that one of them is not aware of the realities. Which one do we
Meanwhile, the logic defying suggestions of the Chief Advisor of the state regarding
the hydro power in the state imply that he is not aware of the problem the projects
have run into.
Most projects have not even been awarded clearance as yet.
One prime example is the 3000 Dibang MW hydro power project which has already been
rejected by the statutory green panel, Forest Advisory Committee, atleast twice already.
The diversion of 4577.84 hectares of biodiversity rich forest land and the felling
of 3.24 lakh trees is not acceptable to the panel. It appears that, it was not projected
in the DPR.
Almost every project has the same story to tell.
Of the 94 odd projects with a combined capacity of the 41,000 MW, which have been
allotted by the state government, almost all of the projects are stuck in some sort
of hurdle. A project is supposed to take up to five years to start construction
from the time MOU is signed. But in case of Arunachal, the proposed time limits have
run out already. The chief minister met the project proponents on August 12 because
of the delay in implementation.
The way things are moving it seems like the hydro bubble has burst and time has come
for a reality check.
On the other hand, the centre is keen that projects takes off soon as tapping of
hydro power is seen as a tool to counter growing Chinese hydro business in Tibet.
It was reported that the cash strapped state government is supposed to contribute
upto Rs 16000 cr as equity to the 41 projects totalling 35000 over the next ten years
in the state in order to ensure speedy start of the projects.
Apparently, the state shares of the cost are to be adjusted against future revenues.
Under such circumstances, it is unlikely that the state will be swimming in hydro
dollars any time soon. It looks more like we will be submerged in debt instead.
On the other hand, the non start of projects have come as a relief to many indigenous
communities and organisations who are suspicious of big power projects. The sheer
numbers of projects have intimidated many, including yours truly.
Under such circumstances, perhaps it is time to look at other more viable alternatives
like horticulture, tourism, human resources, agriculture and animal husbandry which
are real life, doable projects instead of unrealistic ones. The people would be in
more direct control of their economy. Tea and rubber, vegetables, fruits could turn
around the local economy, if enough emphasis is given. To start with, the government
sure can help in training as well as finances for the local farmers.
(20. August. 2014)
Greed, nature and impending catastrophes
The human and nature conflict in Capital Region and elsewhere has come out in open
with the arrival of the monsoons. There are reports of death and destruction because
of the landslides caused by incessant rain. And sadly, the scenes of death and destruction
will be played out every monsoon because we have not been careful while dealing with
Disregarding everything, we have flattened and destroyed Itanagar-Naharlagun beyond
recognition. The demolitions have been very rapid and massive in the last 20 years.
We possibly cannot undo the enormous damage already inflicted but efforts must be
made to ensure that more lives are not lost and no more properties are damaged.
How did we manage to turn this once beautiful, cloud kissed and green town into a
The administration always has knee-jerk reactions and issues orders whenever there
is damage and destruction not realising the fact that it has to share the blame.
Because of its shortsightedness and wobbly administration, citizens basically have
a free run. Who cares even if uninitiated citizens are digging their graves by constructing
houses where it should not be? Government, always quick to announce compensatory
amount, as usual is clueless about the real problems facing the people. Master plan
for the capital city is like a recurrent bad dream that keeps coming back, without
The greed of the people could have been controlled to an extent, if the administration
and government had been a bit strict, a bit sooner.
Because we totally disregard safety measures and nature’s course, it has come to
trouble us. Nature usually is not so ruthless-if it is given enough space and acknowledged.
The recent order of the Capital Complex administration “discouraging” construction
of buildings with more than four stories has rather come very late. We can only
hope that the order will be implemented properly and won’t be forgotten as soon as
the rain goes. But on the other hand, have the government followed its own rules
and notices? Have they been fearless enough to act?
Right now, we can barely figure out where the roads end and the construction begins.
Mountains have been chopped off literally to make way for buildings.
The other day, a hillock near a petrol pump in Papu Nallah literally fell off right
in front of the people, blocking the highway for more than five hours. The mountains
cannot be stitched together again but if we take control of our greed and have some
amount of regard for safety, certainly we can stop impending catastrophes that lurk
The fence sitters, bloom and a high five
[ Tongam Rina ]
The recommendation of the state government to go for Legislative Assembly polls simultaneously
along with Parliamentary caught everyone by surprise. After reports of rebellion
within the Congress party, the government was left with no option but to propose
a smart face-saving measure in the form of the simultaneous elections. Imagine the
discomfort and apparent embarrassment of those who were inducted in the Tuki ministry
just days before the declaration of the elections!
But sometimes something is better than nothing and this was a prime example.
With the issuance of election notification, there was high political drama played
out in full view of the public as prospective candidates vied for tickets from various
political parties. It was not about ideology or political affiliation anymore. With
very few exceptions, the Congress party is said to have allotted the seats to highest
bidders, the non-Congress ones jumped from one party to another looking for tickets
from established national parties. A rejection from one party was not a deterrent
as party hopping continued till the last day of filling of nominations.
Eleven got lucky as they were elected unopposed. But the same thing cannot be said
of the poor electors who not only was deprived a chance to vote but kept out from
making some extra quick buck and festivities. If one believes the grapevine, crores
of rupees and promises even more than that were exchanged and brokered. Yours truly
wonders whether it was democracy or enforced democracy at work.
The Congress this time will not have to deal with problem of plenty as they are projected
to get barely 35-odd seats and having to deal with two groups within the party as
it is a divided house; the Congress and the opposition Congress!
The BJP on the other hand will have a good number but having issued tickets based
on win-ability rather than known affiliation to the party, it has a tough job on
hand as it will have to keep off the possible poachers.
On the other hand, the Election Commission of India did a commendable job of conducting
peaceful elections in the country; it failed miserably in their efforts to control
the flow of money and liquor in Arunachal. Though it was not flooding liquor like
other years but nonetheless it still flowed a river. Do we say more about the crores
of rupees spent even though the ECI has put a ceiling of Rs 20 lacs? We read everyday
about the money seized. With flying squads everywhere, there were restriction on
amount of money one could carry but there were innovative ways of transportation.
Yours truly was informed about a candidate transporting money in a coffin while another
put money inside a car tyre. The car tyre obviously was not as reliable as a coffin
as it was caught. It must have hurt a lot to have big amount of money confiscated.
With no ethics and agendas in place, it would be foolish to hope for a drastic positive
change in the State. Now as the fates are sealed in EVMs, we can only hope that at
least a stable government is formed. But then if precedents are anything to go by,
everything in the state will be decided by what happens at the Centre, by money and
by the fence-sitters. Till then we can only wait and watch to see whether the flower
is going to bloom or its going to be a high five.
The border and wandering mind
It was indeed a big relief to hear from the President of India that “Since Arunachal
Pradesh has common borders with three countries; the development of border areas
is also vital and must receive our utmost attention".
Other than massive militarization, there really has been no improvement in road conditions
or other infrastructure along the border, much in contrast to the story on the other
All roads leading to the borders - be it Tawang, Upper, West Siang or Anjaw are in
unstable conditions, often cut off for weeks together during monsoon with Tezu-Hayuliang-Chaklagam
being the worse affected.
Needlessly to say that all-weather road connectivity would be huge relief not only
for the military forces but also for people living in these areas.
The first step to secure the border; good roads are a must.
Though the ambitious Trans-Arunachal has already started in some portions of the
state, it has also caused the neglect or spoiling of existing roads, making it an
arduous task for daily commuters.
One hopes that soon, not only the border but the whole state has all-weather roads.
On the other hand, ugly exchange of words between China and India soon followed the
visit of President Pranab Mukherjee.
The usual rhetoric was not unexpected.
“Arunachal is integral and important part of India” is the line we hear every time
a dignitary comes calling from Delhi. The repeated line makes one wonder whether
they are trying to reassure themselves that Arunachal is indeed part of Indian Union.
Yours truely find these statements akin to a grandfather visiting once in five years
to reassure the by now irritated grandchild that indeed they belong to the same family.
Reassurances are good once in a while but if it is turned into a routine, it is rather
perplexing when one repeats what we already know.
Having to live up to the expectations as a “Hindi-speaking patriotic people” is already
tiring and hard enough.
The President’s visit and reassurance of course was rebutted by the Chinese as usual.
For China, parts of Arunachal is South Tibet, thus under “illegal Indian occupation”.
Do we say more about where we belong when the fact is that we vote every five years
and send three elected representatives to Indian Parliament?
Easier said than done. But it is time both countries come to a conclusion on the
contentious border issue. One hopes for an agreement similar to the one carried out
in 1996 on Line of Actual Control.
While we wait for a border agreement mutually agreeable to both countries, in the
meantime instead of usual rhetoric, it would be a step forward if Border Personnel
Meetings are made more effective and spread to all border posts in between the two
nations. After all, these are a supposed platform for strengthening friendship and
peace along the border.
It is a well known fact that there are intrusions along the India-China border and
if these border meetings are made more effective, other than becoming just customary,
it could go a long way in controlling the intrusions from both sides.
And one other major impediment is stapled visa issued to the Arunachalees and people
from Jammu and Kashmir by the Chinese. The worst affected have been the sportspersons
who are often turned away from the immigration counter.
Few notable objections apart, yours truly is not sure if there is any Indian initiative
on this worthy to be reported or informed to the people of the country.
In the long run, however it will not be the visa or the border problems alone that
will be the cause of concerns. There is already growing disillusionment among the
young people because of lack of livelihood options, so perhaps it would be advisable
to also look into problems of unemployment. “Jai Hind” or speaking Hindi is not going
to feed the hungry mouth or wandering mind.
(04. September .2013)
The Silence of decay
Everyone watched in horror as the Delhi Paramedic gang rape case unfolded last year.
The unthinkable violence inflicted on the young lady numbed everyone and the country
erupted in protest forcing tougher laws against rapists.
Many had hoped that with tougher laws, situation would change for better. It was
not to be. Every day there are reports of rape from every corner of the country.
What is extremely horrifying is that barely eight months later, another rape case
In Mumbai, dubbed the "safest city" in India, a photojournalist was gang raped. Because
of intense media coverage, rapists have been arrested and identified. One of them
is reported to be a Police informer.
While we read reports of rapes happening elsewhere in India, a shocking case of rape
and molestation was to unfold at our own backyard.
No one had any clue while a teacher at Green Valley School, Likabali abused children
After initial shock, there is anger. The school authorities as well as parents were
obviously unaware of what was happening and young children had no idea how to deal
with the monstrous paedophile.
The trauma these children had undergone will last a lifetime.
It is important for the parents, authorities, society at large to ensure that they
are not traumatised yet again when they testify against the offender. The police
and judiciary need to be sensitive to the fact that these are young children, emotionally
scared. Parental as well professional counselling of the young ones is very essential.
The case has to be fast tracked and a maximum sentence should be given because it
would be too dangerous to let out a paedophile in the guise of a teacher.
While we grapple with what happened, one also is reminded of the fact that this is
not the first time, such a heinous act has been carried out in schools in Arunachal,
which points to systematic failure on the part of everyone involved.
Many parents, in search of better education send their children to boarding school
when they are as young as 5 years old. There are horrifying tales of abuse but these
tales rarely go out of our living rooms. At best, parents take out their children
from the school but no one wants to talk about it any more.
Saddening but many children are not safe even in their own homes. It invariably is
an uncle or an aunt, cousin, a household worker or a friend's relative who target
children and sexually abuse them. The psychological scar remains but then we simply
do not have the environment where any one can share these horrifying experiences.
We live in a society that is judgemental and have a false sense of honour.
We have to let go of the collective silence and start responding to the issues that
we are confronted with.
According to Arunachal Pradesh Police website, 49 rape cases were registered during
Sept 2012-Sept 2013. East Siang Police registered 9 cases, followed by Lohit with
seven while Upper Subansiri reported six cases. The numbers of cases indeed are alarming.
The National Crimes Record Bureau (figure of 2011) says a woman is raped in India
every 20 minutes. Statistics could be much higher as marital rapes and molestations
by family members are rarely reported to the police.
No one wants to deal with societal pressure little realising that in the long run,
our choice to keep quite is going to eat into the very core of our society and decaying
its very soul.
(05. June .2013)
Way of life
Itanagar witnessed yet another death. The sheer brutality was numbing. One is left
wondering how the family of Late Bomjen Gapak must be coping with this mindless violence.
As one battles anger, there are many questions that come to mind. A young man was
brutally murdered and another injured. Why are not our streets safe anymore for anyone?
Why cant we go out as and when we wish without having to worry about our safety?
Where are the Police and administration?
We have seen spate of violence in the last few years. Yet, nothing moves the government.
Are they in touch with reality?
On the other hand, Police can’t be forever blaming lack of resources for their failure.
They have repeatedly failed themselves and us.
And what about the judiciary? Why is that even after charge sheets are filed, it
take ages for the courts to come up with a verdict.
One has to accept that things have changed and Arunachal is not the island of peace
anymore. Today it is one of the most violent places.
Intimidations, threats, violence and revenge killing have become a way of life and
many families are affected. We can’t brush aside these as personal problems. They
are not personal anymore. It is a disease today with no treatment in sight.
How do we stop this from happening? There must be a way out.
For a change, the government must wake up and atleast try and figure out what ails
our society. To start with, the government has to admit that it has failed to provide
security to the people of the state. And it cannot afford to remain as a mere spectator
to the growing violence in the state.
Most recently, an APCS officer was beaten up. There are no arrests made.
Were those responsible for the death of a person during Panchayat elections in Kurung
Kumey ever taken to task?
For how long the family of young engineering student has to wait till those responsible
for his death are arrested?
Yours truly wait for answers.
Perhaps people at the helms of affairs will not bother with a response but as a citizen,
I will still ask. Those people who are paid to look after the security and the wellbeing
of the citizens have to ask themselves whether they are genuinely doing their job
or satisfied blaming the system and lack of resources for their miserable failure.
Police has a job. Its job is to ensure security to the common people, not VIPs alone.
At its best, Police in Arunachal play the role of negotiators. If they fail, they
harass the victims with all kinds of theories while they let out the perpetrators
Sometimes one is left confused at the role of the police. This time the apparent
excuse is that there are no CCTV footages. Blame is on the Power Department. But
even in cases where there are clear footages, the police have not been able to come
up with anything worthwhile.
One can only hope that there is some coordination between the law keepers and enforcers.
We cannot afford to ignore violence anymore. If guilties are not punished, it will
only embolden criminals to commit more crimes and violence will become a way of life.
(29. May .2013)
Democracy at the grassroots?
As expected, the people have given a clear mandate to the ruling party in the recently
concluded elections of the three tier Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs).
PRIs are made up of wonderful mishmash of people from different backgrounds. But
more often than not, most people who are elected-selected as members of these institutions
are people with money. The moneyed class in our state usually are the student leaders,
government officers and their wives, politicians and their cronies and relatives
who become rich overnight. There is no competition to glamour that money brings and
we all stand in completely awe! No matter what the outside appearance is but the
ones pulling the strings are the moneyed and those with connections.
The onus, now is on the Congress party and the government to strengthen the PRIs
in the state to enable it to be part of decision making process. So far everything
has been in paper and successive state governments have been very reluctant to share
power which is contradiction to the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, that came
into force in 1993 which was meant to provide constitutional sanction to establish
“democracy at the grassroots level as it is at the state level or national level”.
If development process has to be truly inclusive, it has to start from the grassroots.
And for that to happen, it is essential that PRIs are part of all developmental process.
The PRIs are capable of being an agent of change; however bureaucracy and politicians
have ensured that it remains toothless and powerless.
Though many things have been said, Arunachal is yet to fully devolve 3Fs (Finance,
Functions and Functionaries) to the PRIs. It would go a long way in not only strengthening
the PRIs but will also enable them to discharge their constitutionally stipulated
So far, policy decision has been top-down approach which has not given affective
results. We all cry that babus in Delhi take decisions which are not relevant for
our state. However, those at the corridors of power, exactly replicate that in our
The Rajiv Gandhi Vidhyutikaran Yojna, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna and Mahatma
Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act are some of the examples which have
horribly gone wrong in the state. These were meant to be schemes to benefit villagers
to ensure jobs and better roads and power connectivity but even these schemes have
ended up in the hands of very few people who have not only monopolized on it, but
have gone on to take full advantage of loopholes in the system.
The Gram Sabha could change it all. It is one of the ingredients for powerful and
effective PR Institutions so communities need to guarantee that these meetings are
held on a regular basis to keep a track on what is happening.
Atleast in MGNREGA, they could bring in a remarkable change as the Gram Panchayats
have a direct say on upto 50 per cent of funds.
Another important factor for making a success of PRIs is social audits. In a state
where accountability is nil and dependent on funds from centre, the task will be
huge but there is no harm in trying. Even if funds are not raised by the PRIs, they
could start by asking what happens to the funds received from the centre.
During the elections, everybody gets involved, only to realize that it was sheer
waste of time and money.
Yours truly is under the firm impression that PRIs in the state has been rendered
ineffective by politicians and bureaucracy reluctant to share power but it is hoped
that with time, things will change. Ideally, the powers and functions should have
been handed over to PRIs without them having to demand but if past experiences are
anything to go by, even this batch of leaders will not have much luck. Promises are
easy to make and we make them quite often. What is difficult is delivery.
The elections were dirty and left many wondering why so much is put on stake, including
lives. We can only hope that a start is made, a positive one.
SSA teachers in the state are on an indefinite pen-down/tool down strike demanding
regularisation of services at one go of some 550 teachers recruited in 2003. The
government, on the other hand has threatened to impose ‘No work, No pay’. Confrontation
is inevitable as both seem reluctant to budge from their respective positions. Needless
to say, thousands of students will suffer because of the adamant stand of the teachers
and the Education Department.
Many of us are sympathetic to the cause of the teachers as they are unsure of their
future even after serving the state for close to a decade. It would be asking for
too much if we expect a worried teacher to serve the society.
The Education Department on the other hand is cash strapped. There seems to be no
way out for the department unless state government comes to the rescue with requisite
Despite 80-90 % funding from the centre for all centrally sponsored projects, on
many occasions, state government has been rather indolent when it comes to pitching
in its share.
Credit however must be given to the government that it has considerably raised the
salary of the SSA teachers amounting to more than Rs 180 Cr per annum. Now it’s
a different matter that monthly salaries sometimes become quarterly.
In such a situation, where teachers and the department are on a warpath, no one is
a winner. But we for sure know who loses out in the race. The faith of the poor parents
and students must not be broken. The teachers and the department concern should come
together and chart out an amicable solution. Let ego subside and get to the negotiating
table. Priority must be given to the future of the children. There has to be a way
forward for their sake.
The education department has already said that services of the SSA teachers would
be regularised in due course of time and that a committee has already been constituted.
The Committee formed in February reportedly met in Nov this year to decide how to
go about regularisation of SSA teachers of 2003 batch! The teachers off course need
to keep a tab and ask how long it would take to reach the ”due course of time”.
On the other hand, teachers, however hungry or angry have to show the way since they
have chosen a profession where they have to lead by example. Remember children learn
from their teachers more than they do from their parents. Teachers would certainly
not want to teach their students how to extract deals by choosing the path of confrontation.
A one day token protest is loud enough.
The recent arrest made in the Arunachal Pradesh Rural Bank robbery case and nabbing
of assaulters of Echo of Arunachal journalist has come as a relief to the people
of the state capital who are helplessly witnessing the gradual break down in law
While most cases go unreported and brushed aside as personal disputes, there have
been several cases that reflect the general lawlessness and absolute disrespect for
the law of the land.
While browsing the newspapers of the recent weeks, yours truly was left astounded
at the number of assaults not only in the Capital but elsewhere too.
A young member of the Arunachal Pradesh Civil Services was assaulted in a remote
corner of Kurung Kumey, a district where even government officers dread to go- and
now we seem to know why. After much hue and cry, two persons are reported to be arrested.
In another case, two Police officers are assaulted in West Kameng. So far there are
no arrests made.
While the police struggle to figure out growing cases of mayhem, Itanagar and Ziro
were completely paralysed as All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union started its election
activities. The students have said it’s not responsible for the extortion and subsequent
shut down. However, the denial did not stop extortions, forcing us to wonder what
the future leaders are up to. Extortionists using the name of a student organisation
to extort business community and government officials are bad enough and it calls
for the students to seriously retrospect.
On the other hand, the shutter down in Capital town was another sign that individuals
have to ensure their own safety. Despite flag marches, the shops remained closed
sending a clear message to the administration, police and the state government that
common citizens, business communities do not trust the state machinery. If law and
order were in place, we should not have felt the total sense of insecurity in the
And Media has been the favourite target of assaulters. In one month alone, two senior
journalists were assaulted and office of the Echo of Arunachal was vandalised. Though
the city police have arrested those responsible in vandalism of the Daily, it remains
to be seen what punishment are meted out to the perpetrators of crime and most importantly
how long it would take the police and law to hand out justice to the newspapers.
From previous experience with other cases, one cannot expect much.
The esteemed readers are aware that there have been five instances of attack at the
office of Arunachal Times since April this year. And police have not been able to
do anything apart from few cursory arrests. What does it say? It’s a message to the
trouble makers that they can do pretty much what they want while police will do what
it does best in Arunachal; blame the lack of facility and human resources.
One can only imagine what happens to others if such repeated attacks are meted out
to organisations and individuals who at least have a space to share what they have
been forced to undergo.
While we silently watch the horrid assaults and threats, it would be so much better
if the Chief Minister gives more attention to the Home department.
The Parliamentary Secretary Home appears to be otherwise occupied with a legal battle
concerning his election. Perhaps someone with lesser problems could assist the Chief
Minister and help bring in some amount of stability.
And to top it all, the police department today doesn’t have a DGP yet! That’s the
ultimate icing on the cake for the lawbreakers.
The government must remember that however stupid and nonchalant citizens may appear,
after a point, they will not be satisfied with assurances alone. What will happen
then is anybody’s guess.
Green Pioneers in A Garbage City
The stench along one part of the normally used National Highway connecting Itanagar
via Holongi acts as a prelude to the dirt that welcomes visitors to state capital
Urban Development department responsible for the upkeep of the township dumps the
waste along this high-traffic route; ironically very near a garbage treatment plant
that is under construction for the last many years. Adding more to the innovation,
the department burns the garbage, destroying the vegetation in the area and leaving
an unmistakable “welcome” stench for first-time visitors.
Unlike most of us who adds to the garbage problem by littering at every possible
place, a group of citizens organized themselves through a social networking site
and took up the responsibility of cleaning the city.
The Green Pioneers, comprising of people from all walks of life and all age groups
have symbolically cleaned up many landmarks in the city instead of depending on the
undependable dept. It was expected that this would be a wake-up call to all concerned.
Sadly, the garbage grows by heaps and bounds in the city despite such efforts by
the citizens. Two problems stand out dramatically. We as residents of the city do
not think of cleanliness beyond our doorstep. As long as we drop the garbage at some
point elsewhere, we are okay. And to top that, we are yet to learn from what district
headquarters are doing in segregating types of garbage for proper disposal. So how
does one ensure cleanliness and prevent littering?
Now, we can’t expect the Green Pioneers to clean up every week! One solution is
to encourage adoption of locations or stretches of road by institutions, businesses,
NGOs, numerous sector groups and students who can organize a clean-up every week.
In addition to keeping the city clean, it will also give the adopting institution
a lot of goodwill!
But that is just one part of the story. Would the administration be kind enough to
pitch in? Yours truly was truly amused to read a news item about the Capital administration
organizing cleanliness drives on Bandh days! With Bandh happening almost every alternate
day, maybe it’s not a very bad idea!
With the Holongi route closed to traffic for a massive road re-building program,
one was of the view that “welcome” stenches were a thing of the past. Only to be
reminded of reality near the block point at Karsingsa - that our Garbage City needs
Coming Back To What?
How does one begin? By saying many thanks to uncountable well wishers and friends
whose prayers have stood by me and my family in the time since that evening of 15
July, or by screaming out loud in anger and frustration?
One thing is for sure; life will never be the same again.
It is disturbing and miserable for me to be lying on a hospital bed for days on end,
unable to do anything by my own - depending on people even for small, everyday things
like having a glass of water.
I keep thinking about what has happened to me. Can't figure out why I am here. I
don't ever ask 'why me?' but rather why something like this should happen at all.
Why would someone just come and shoot at another human being, not in anger, not in
the heat of an argument, but in a cruel planned manner.
The fact that a young person, with no fear for his own life, would do this and strike
without any known motive has shaken me. For someone who has always believed in communication
and communicating, yours truly is deeply saddened.
What is on the surface a cowardly act for an individual to shoot an unarmed and defenseless
person, is to my mind alarm bells ringing for our tranquil world. We can’t ignore
what happened that quiet Sunday evening and ask what does that say about our society.
Where have we gone wrong? Where have we failed? Why does our society, at one time
in only recent history the perfect example of solidarity and peace, today allow such
things to happen? Why have we begun to give breathing space to these elements who
are out only to spread terror? Where have we as a government and as elders and parents
failed, where today our young, the ones who will lead the State in the future, do
not hesitate in doing such things.
I then realize that these fringe elements who go around shooting people, burning
buses and vandalizing property thrive and feed on our fear. The moment we as a people
come out and stop acknowledging their presence and stop being afraid- they will disappear.
That said, one must also point out that there is the other side too. It is only a
few young people who are out there destroying lives of others and their own. But,
a greater blessing is that there are many more who are shaping society, giving voice
to reason and truth. When I see pictures in the newspaper of young people in protest
marches, their faces passionate with a quest for justice, I see there is hope yet.
Many have asked me where do I go from here and when do I come back? I really don’t
know. Writing is too much of a passion- you don't just let it go of it.
One last thing. When my father was informed of my shooting, he turned to my mother
and told her that while we go with hope, we must be prepared for the worst too: “…we
may bring back only her lifeless body.”
If there is anything I ask of god or anyone today, it is for no mother to be ever
made to hear the finality of these words.
Summer woes of a town
Capital Town of Arunachal is not a very nice place to live in any more. Unplanned
growth, earth cutting at every possible inch encouraged by the blind administration,
bad roads, erratic power and water supply and sky high prices of vegetables are just
few examples that are adding to the woes of already harassed common citizens.
The roads are unsafe with potholes every half a metre and lack of drainage system
has resulted in flooding of roads and sectors. Situation has gone from bad to worse
since the rain started but no attempt have been made to mend the roads.
Notwithstanding bad roads, since the 2009 elections and with easy loan options, the
numbers of vehicles have gone up drastically and traffic has become unmanageable
with vehicles of all shape and size jostling for space. It’s a nightmare for pedestrians.
To make matter worse, the VIPs in their expensive SUVs and most of the young bikers
are always on a rush and have their own traffic rules. It would be a good idea to
have a separate lane for them when the touted Trans Arunachal Highway comes up to
decrease the nuisance and accidents on the roads.
The sector roads within the twin township are another cause for concern. It’s so
congested that in an event of any disaster, relief and rescue vehicles will never
As if the problems were not already overflowing, bandhs have come as a chief tormenter
in the state capital.
One remembers a time when bandhs were few and far in between and only the odd political
party or pressure group would call and enforce one. Then we slid into mayhem. At
present they are going as rapidly as the seasonal raindrops- too many and too rapidly.
Consecutive state govts have been reduced to alternately appealing against them and
then issuing notifications of their illegality. In a sense any organisation, however
small or big, recognised or not recognised or even individuals seem to hold a right
to call a bandh. And bizarrely, no one has a right to call a bandh.
So what is the status of bandhs, really? The law holds them illegal, the constitutions
in its solemn misty reality gives space for it as a way of protest and citizens have
a love-hate relationship with it. For sure, two categories of people love it- errant
govt employees and lazy school children who celebrate it as a holiday. Two categories
of people surely hate it- daily wage earners and overworked police personnel.
So do bandhs succeed only because of these reasons? Not really. A complex web of
political machination, self-promotion and underlying agendas ensure that they do.
This leads naturally to the next query- will bandhs ever end? They might. Only if
we as citizens come out strongly against them, regardless of the fairness of the
issue, and show our objection to this form of protest by coming out on bandh days
and going about life normally. There definitely is a fear for physical safety in
this, but there really is no other way.
A chapter in this can be taken from the example of Guwahati that at one point in
time was a bandh call paradise. But today, most bandhs called in that city go unheeded
as people, tired and frustrated with them, go about living their lives with all its
worries. But of course, one thing must be said- Guwahati does not have adjacent safe
jungles where bandh callers and their paid “volunteers” can run to and hide in after
pelting stones at unfortunate motorists!
(28. Mar .2012)
There was a time when many of us sympathised with the cause of the Naga freedom movement.
Unwittingly, we even gave space to the factions of NSCN to operate in our state.
Though these organisations continue to operate in our state, the time has come
for us to actually understand their presence today.
Though the world and govt of India continues to take them seriously, one wonders
why we would entertain a bunch of confused people who do not have an ideology whatsoever.
Yours truly might have to eat her words, but the fact remains that Independent Greater
Nagalim is a lost cause. Today it has been reduced as a fiefdom of few.
But the sad fact is that much importance is attached to these organisations, which
have effectively lost their standing because of their own doing, by people in power.
The politics is such that they survive and thrive because of few people among us.
It’s a complex business of power, violence and money. With such deadly combinations,
it is unlikely, there would be any endings. To ensure power, the flow of violence
and money would continue for a very long time and we don’t have dearth of takers
of such games.
No matter what or how we wish for, NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) remains active in Tirap
and Changlang and newly created Longding, the homes of Other Naga tribes. And intriguingly,
these organisations literally run a parallel government in these three districts.
Even though Tirap and Changlang have been effectively declared as insurgency affected
areas. India continues to entertain the two factions. While we watch the drama enacted
by the governments of Arunachal and India, people in these three districts are not
so lucky. Caught between the intimidating presence of ultras and Army, citizens live
in constant fear.
Respective state government have been silent. Apart from few sweeping statements,
none of the Chief Ministers have been strong enough to take any concentre step to
reassure the citizens. One would want to know from the state government how many
Arunachal Pradesh Police personnel are posted in these districts and what policies
have been adopted to rehabilitate the young people who have given up arms. We need
not go any further.
During a recent visit to these districts, yours truly met up with few cadres of both
factions of NSCN who agreed to speak. Though they were disappointed that the ‘reporter’
was not carrying a video camera, none the less they agreed to talk. Most of them
spoke passionately about a Naga homeland. But what stood out were issues of livelihood
and security. More than the freedom, these young people spoke about insecurities
and lack of opportunities. With limited and unproductive education, their options
are easy; join security agencies in India or get absorbed in either factions of NSCN.
While yours truly teased them about the lost cause, their fake Nagamese accent and
guns, in return they incessantly teased about the reporter who had no camera, but
what was saddening was the fact that while I go back to the comfort of an office
and family, their options were few.
We parted ways but not before one of the boys told me the difference between the
IM and the K. Apparently the former is called Mama (Uncle) and later Kokai (Brother)!
Sadly, both of them have a stake to claim.
(21. Mar .2012)
We Didn’t Start The Fire
Due apologies to Billy Joel for this line from his 1989 release of the same name,
but perhaps no other song carries more meaning for residents of capital complex presently.
In the last week we have seen the forest fires that burnt on tirelessly as the state
administration and fire services watched on helpless, unable to do anything because
of the near impossibility of the situation. Numerous reports and enquiries have revealed,
as expected, that the fires were caused by human greed and in the following of the
traditional practice of jhum (slash and burn cultivation) carried on by communities
since “time immemorial” and even to this day when settlements have come up around
the periphery of the capital complex, adorning its ridges like an embellishment.
The government, to its credit, has been making the right noises and has set up work
groups to look into the causes and remedies to the problem. As a matter of fact,
even as yours truly is shaping these lines, reports of govt action are already coming
in. Predictably, there is talk of aerial surveys, sensitizing programmes and even
the ‘nabbing’ of 8 offenders and booking them under appropriate forest laws. All
of us wait with bated breadth and earnest hope that these, and the other actions
initiated, do bring fruit at the earliest.
And yet there is a persistent afterthought about two things- about the practice of
jhum cultivation itself and about these “offenders” who have been nabbed.
Numerous agriculture scientists and researchers have worked on how jhum is a practice
that is best abandoned for purposes of soil and eco-system health. And yet, these
same researchers accept that it is almost impossible to abandon the practice given
the circumstances. How do you eradicate, only on the strength of laws and punitive
action, a practice that has traditionally been taken up by communities- more so when
there are no viable opportunities being offered?
This brings us to the issue of the “offenders”- people who have been forced by circumstances
to leave the security of their ancestral lands to seek settlement in an already crowded
and difficult place like Itanagar. Is it because there are not enough opportunities
for growth and livelihoods in the rural areas that we see such a large-scale migration
of people to Itanagar? And when they do come here, and find life even more challenging
and equally without opportunities, what option do they have left but to take recourse
to what they know best- cultivate for a living.
Issues are many. Weaning people away from jhum and sensitizing them about it definitely
is foremost. But equally important is for the need to create livelihood opportunities
for people where they live- if at all we are to control the migration to a capital
already bursting at the seams with the problem not only of forest fires- but fires
of many kinds.
There is a strong need to understand why people are leaving their homes and to find
a solution to that. There is a need to assess if Arunachal’s much-touted “growth-trajectory”
is only about growth in its towns, or equally in the last reachable villages?
A word also about the fire services department that has been attempting bravely to
fight these forest fires as well as colony fires. Plagued as it is by almost-obsolete
fire fighting technology and equipment and limited manpower, the unplanned town layout
with the narrowest of roads and no fire hydrants to speak of makes their difficult
job impossible too.
To come back to the chorus of the song, there is a lesson hidden there too when it
says “No we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it”.
Have we really?
(14. Mar .2012)
A blanket state?
Winter seems to have passed us as the heat and rains are setting in. Yet we in Arunachal
seem to be wrapped up in blankets of many kinds as we move to the financial year
ending on Mar 31.
First there was the much discussed gift of blankets to state awardees at the recent
Statehood Day celebrations. While done in all good intent, one was just unable to
understand why recipients of a prestigious award like the state award was conferred
blankets and not the traditional shawl or even a jacket. If nothing else, carrying
them home must have been quite cumbersome!
Then we heard news of the blanket of smoke that enveloped the state capital as Dariya
hills burnt away for few days. While weaning away people from Jhum cultivation and
towards settled agriculture is a task that successive governments and scientific
committees have struggled, the fact that this happened in the doorstep- rather in
the courtyard of the flagship capital comes as a point to ponder.
When we are unable to dissuade people from burning forest right under the noses of
the state administration, what can we expect in far off districts and circles?
While, we need to introspect on the issue of jhum cultivation and livelihoods, we
also have to take into the account the blanket earth cutting that is going on in
the state capital. As the rains settle in during the monsoon, yours truly can only
shudder and imagine where all the loose earth and slush will go and what it will
mean for the ordinary citizens who will be blanketed with blocked roads and drains.
As if these were not enough, we have been witness to the defiling of the statues
of no lesser than the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi and that of the father
of Panchayati Raj in Arunachal, Daying Ering- at a time when we talk loudest about
What causes concern about the incidents of the decapitation of the statues of these
luminaries was that these happened right in the centre of town, supposedly under
the security blanket of this oldest town of the state that only last year celebrated
Speaking of security blankets, yours truly is also reminded of the much hyped incident
at Borduria village where there was a gun-fight between the warring factions of the
NSCN, when in true Hollywood fashion, the Honourable Speaker of the Legislative Assembly
was whisked away to safety in a helicopter, I presume leaving behind a blanket of
dust and fear in the other citizens who could not be airlifted and have to live their
ordinary lives, covering their ears with their blankets to shut off the sound of
The only proverbial silver lining in the dark cloud is that the blanket industry
must be doing very well in Arunachal these days, as we citizens await the next metaphorical
blanket to buy.
(04. Jan .2012)
The politics of power
Apart from the Chinese interest in Arunachal, one thing that has kept us in news
is humongous amount of Hydro electric projects (HEPs), ranging from few Kilowatts
to thousands of Megawatts. With some 132 projects amounting to more than 28000 MW,
Arunachal has been projected as answer to India’s power need. Experts say Arunachal
is capable of generating some 50000 plus MW of power.
What these experts don’t tell us is amount of environmental destruction it is going
to cause us apart from massive influx of workers from outside, dislocation of indigenous
Even if these facts are hidden from us deliberately, there are already ample examples
in the state to learn from.
Before someone accuse those raising voices against power projects of being anti development,
let us take a look at three examples that the government of Arunachal and centre
must not forget.
The Chakma and Hajong communities in Arunachal, who are unwanted and unwelcome refugees,
deprived of basic facilities, did not pop out from nowhere just like that. These
communities were displaced because of coming up of Kaptai hydropower project, which
subsequently led to internal conflict including communal riots forcing them to flee
from Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Closure home, 2000 MW Subansiri Lower Project is one example. For those of you who
have been to the project site, it is for all to see, how absolutely nothing has changed
for the common people. Apart from few contractors who have made huge sums of money,
most people continue to live in abject poverty.
During a visit couple of years back, yours truly was told there were just three children
from nearby villages in each class at a central school somewhere in Gerukamukh. The
school anyways was very intimidating with barbed wires across its boundary. It’s
a good example of corporate social responsibility.
Another example is those living downstream of the Ranganadi Hydro project. In villages
near to Kimin, Sher, people live in continues fear. More so in summers since they
never know when the water is going to be released from the dam. The water dramatically
dries up in winter and there is deluge in summer. To add insult to the injury, the
North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) actually served a notice to the
villagers some years back stating that it would not be responsible for human and
livestock casualty in case of excess release of water.
If it was anywhere else in the world, the project would have been asked to shut for
good the day notice was made public. The dreadful and unimaginable happens only in
this state run by greedy politicians and spineless technocrats and bureaucrats who
are such a waste.
Governments have come and gone but every Chief Minister in this state has in unequivocal
terms have come out in support of power projects in the state. Off course we understand
the need of power projects but the question is how big? So far there is no opposition
to minor projects which is a clear indication that people do agree to the fact that
the state need power to sustain itself.
The recent statements by politicians including an MP regarding alleged funding of
anti dam activists by China and Maoists support was another indication of how desperate
some people in power are when it comes to HEPS. Given the fact that these allegations
pertains to national security, we would want to know what steps the centre and the
state takes to counter such threats.
It is easy to brand anyone but who is going to address the real concerns of the people
set to be affected by mindless power projects?
(28. Dec .2011)
The need to fix responsibilities
In October alone, 21 people lost their lives and numerous others were left maimed
for life following collapse of two bridges in the state.
On October 2, six people were washed away when a wire rope suspension bridge over
Tawang Chu connecting Gyamdong village collapsed. According to reports, two wire
ropes snapped from the anchor bolt of the bridge. The bridge was under the care of
Jang PWD division. Shrouded in mystery and secrecy, no one exactly knows the status
of the bridge as yet. If finished, why did the bridge collapsed and if it was under
construction why the people were allowed to use it?
The conflicting report emanating from within the authorities is clear indication
that no one wants to take responsibility.
While the state was still trying to figure out what went wrong, 16 precious lives
were lost when an old wire rope suspension foot bridge over Kameng River at Seppa
snapped on Oct 29.
Imagine the plight of a mother
who sent her child to the bridge to collect Tari so that they could share the delicacy
for dinner only to be told that the child will never came back alive.
Who takes the responsibility for the lifelong pain of a mother whose child was so
cruelly taken; a husband who lost his wife, a sister who will never see her brother
again and a friend whose life will never be the same again?
These citizens paid with their lives because of negligence from all quarters. Government
departments can’t put the blame on citizens alone and escape from responsibilities.
In case of Seppa, the authorities had put up a warning that only six persons will
be allowed to cross the bridge at a time. Did the authorities take any other step
to keep people away from the weak and dilapidated bridge when it was for all to see
that the warning was being overlooked?
Seppa and Tawang tragedies were avoidable. And tragedies like this will continue
to happen, unless we fix responsibilities.
Apart from an arrest in Tawang, none of the officials of the PWD have been taken
to task thus giving these officials a license to kill with their carelessness and
inefficiency. Heads need to start rolling.
While we try to let go of the anger, pain and frustrations, there is yet another
report of a bridge collapse over Deopani in Roing. Thankfully, there was no human
casualty but the latest incident reflects the fact that bridges in the state needs
a thorough review.
Just putting together few rods and cements over a river and leaving it to sustain
itself is akin to handing out death certificates to the citizens.
All central and state government departments including the PWD, which has handed
out two killer bridges and contractors need to start learning the technique of building
bridges that are worthy of use.
Apart from going back to technical schools to learn a thing or two about how to build
a bridge that are safe enough, these engineers and the departments need to oversee
safety measures at regular intervals.
When it comes to precious lives, lack of fund or inadequate knowledge or for that
matter any anything else should never be an excuse.
Perhaps, the first lesson the departments should start taking is memorising the nursery
rhyme ‘London Bridge Is Falling Down’ where it states that
“Wood and clay will wash away,
Bricks and mortar will not stay,
Iron and steel will bend and bow,”
Tragedies do not announce their arrival but to a large extent it can be prevented,
more so when it is manmade disasters.
As the New Year approaches, yours truly wishes everyone the very best. More than
anything, let’s just hope that every one of us is safe.
(21. Dec .2011)
A fabled land!
In absence of strong media and civil society organizations and other supervisory
bodies in the state, things go unnoticed, unreported and many of us do get away with
lot of things.
A very good example is the fees levied for obtaining information under RTI Act. Rs
10 is charged per page, which is highest in the whole country!
Where else in India could we possibly witness such audacity by the government?
The rate enhanced from Rs 2 to Rs 10 per page of information was officially notified
by the state Govt vide AR-99/2010.
Under Section 27 of RTI Act, the states have the power to fix rate of fee and cost
payable by notifying in the official gazette. Expensive Arunachal did not miss that
RTI Act, anyways in the state is grossly misused and has ended up becoming a tool
for the unscrupulous to make money. Today we have a whole section of society making
a living by misusing the provisions. This only explains the depth of corruption at
Those who use the RTI Act know where to extract money and the corrupt part away with
ill gotten money.
Perhaps one of the few exceptions have been the recent case where few of the candidates
who appeared for AE (civil) examination conducted by the Arunachal Pradesh Civil
Service Commission unearthed some interesting facts using the Act.
We are yet to know what course the Commission will take to rectify the errors but
none the less we got some insight into the workings of authority in charge of the
searching talents for the state and what the RTI Act, if used in right earnest can
But sadly, we seem to have missed the bus here too. With few exceptions, we have
not been able to make use of something as powerful as RTI Act which can alter the
course of the state.
On the other hand, yours truly can’t help but marvel at the contradictions and workings
of various organizations in the state.
Somewhere in a research paper; it was written that Arunachal has the second highest
numbers of registered and unregistered organizations in the whole country. Uttarakhand
with some 13000 organisations was at the hallowed first place! If memory serves
right, we were trailing by a few hundreds.
But this does not come as a surprise since we have a tradition of achieving dubious
distinctions in almost all fields. To name a few, we are a state where a person consumes
upto 24 kg of iodised salt per month and a bike carries at least two quintals of
rice per trip.
To be lenient, organizations, more so community based organizations including students
wings, in Arunachal are a nuisance.
To think of, media too need to pull up its socks. Perhaps we should make use of RTI
Act more often but then people in media including yours truly have a habit of blaming
others for all things wrong and when we are unable to deliver. And Arunachal Pradesh
State Information Commission, by not protesting the government decision to raise
the rate gave us a golden chance to make an excuse of not using provisions of RTI
But then ours is a fabled land indeed where nothing is bizarre anymore!
(30. Nov .2011)
Arunachal and its boundaries
There is a beautiful saying that “you can’t see politi-cal borders from space”. But
the tragedy is that it’s confined to space and perhaps with changing technology the
saying would soon be a thing of the past.
For long, we have lived amidst disputes along the borders. Facts and fiction related
to border with China has almost become part of the folklore so has boundary with
Assam. Unfortunately all we get to read and hear are stories of skirmishes resulting
in displacement and sometimes death.
With the state precariously located along the international border and with a greedy
neighbour like China, it is understood that our state will always be the bone of
However it is not only China that is cause of constant tension.
The British found us but as India gained freedom, we became part of it and since
then have been involved in avoidable wars with our own.
After independence, a subcommittee headed by Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi was appointed
by the Constituent Assembly of India to recommend the future pattern of the administration
of North East Frontier Tracts.
The Committee recommended that govt of Assam take over. However this recommendation
was overlooked and centre administered North East Frontier Tracts as “excluded area”
through the Governor of Assam.
Subsequently, according to available documents, Balipara and Tirap Frontier Tracts,
Abor Hill and Mishimi Hills Districts were transferred to Assam. In 1951, the units
of the tracts were however reconstituted. After the introduction of the North East
Frontier (Administration) Regulation, 1954, it was designated as the North East Frontier
Agency (NEFA) and brought under the administration of Ministry of External Affairs.
In 1965, NEFA was brought under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs. This
continued till it attained the status of Union Territory in 1972.
As India reorganized its states, there have been problems as allegedly the division
was done taking into account the plains and hills!
After ugly squabbling, Supreme Court intervened in 2006 which led to setting up of
a Boundary Commission by the centre to resolve the boundary dispute among Assam,
Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
While the Boundary commission goes on at its own pace and the states sticking to
its point, it is unlikely that we would see solution yet but the citizens more so
in Arunachal have faced repeated dislocation and threats from Assam often resulting
Interestingly, the root causes of such problems are not the people themselves. Often
it has been the handiwork of the government officers and disgruntled politicians
who had a score to settle. Never the less, the government of Arunachal needs to act.
Apparently, there is a Department of Border Affairs. Now yours truly don’t know the
composition of the department, but it would save a lot of heartache if it acts on
time instead of just showing its presence after atrocities have been carried out.
The recent boundary skirmish in Sango village of Papum Pare district is yet another
reminder that government really needs to act and initiate talks instead of waiting
for the Local Boundary Commission to give a decision. People can’t be made victim
because of indecisiveness of those who are authorized to take decisions. Status quo
is too repeated a word to be respected.
(23. Nov .2011)
Amidst unparalleled violence and high drama, Nabam Tuki took charge as the seventh
Chief Minister of Arunachal on Nov 1.
After two long weeks, his ministry was formed. However, the wait is not over yet
as even after completion of 22 days; Arunachal unfortunately is yet to see a functional
government as the allocation of ministries is yet to be formalized. Even if the Chief
Minister is efficient enough to oversee the whole of the departments in absence of
full functional ministry, the delay is certainly worrying for a geo-politically sensitive
While the AICC and fickle politics drag on, there are reports of skirmish along the
border areas in Tawang and Anjaw. Everyone predictably is quick to deny any such
occurrences all in the name of national security. One would perhaps never know what
kind of a national security we are talking about.
While everyone including the media choosing to maintain a stoic silence, with financial
year almost closing, one wonders whether the state would actually be able to meet
the deadlines. It’s for all to see that apart from few inaugurations, this government
is yet to move an inch.
Under such trying circumstances, one is bound to question All India Congress Committee
for the delay. While state capital burnt and rest of Arunachal watched in horror,
the party high command kept quite. The silence of the party was broken only after
a youth lost his life and citizens moved out of the Capital amidst unprecedented
If we recall, AICC did not step in for four long months while the Congress party
in the state was divided in two camps forcing a halt to all developmental activities.
One group was locked up in Chief Minister’s official bungalow while the other group
was in Delhi.
The collective silence of all the 60 representatives sure was a lesson for the people
of the state. They say a state gets a media it deserves. Perhaps it’s true even for
our elected representatives.
To put it mildly, they don’t deserve another chance to represent us in their life
While the Congress MLAs fought at the cost of peace, security and development of
the state, the rest of the elected representatives were mute spectators.
While we and their money decide who represents us in 2014, it is worrying that Arunachal
does not figure in the agenda of the Congress or the UPA government.
For those who follow the workings of the Congress party, it won’t come as a surprise
as AICC usually do take longer than necessary to decide for states that does not
have the requisite numbers and the resources. For us in Arunachal, the recent happenings
were good testimonies about where we figure in scheme of things. A state dependent
on centre for all its funds and to make matter worse with just two mute MPs, we are
a lost case.
In the meantime as Buddy puts it, people of the state alternatively look Delhi-wards
and heaven-wards for answers.
(05. Oct .2011)
Congress versus Congress
The joke making the rounds in the state capital is that one has to go through AICC
in order to get in touch with the Congress legislators from Arunachal.
The joke is not devoid of truth. The power struggle within the party is so overwhelming
that everyone is left wondering what exactly is happening within the party that calls
itself a “family”. It’s so divided that one camp is in New Delhi while the other
camp is in Itanagar!
Both obviously are out of touch with common citizens.
Even when some members of the other camp turned up from New Delhi for the Legislative
assembly session, they camped at a hotel in Naharlagun. The other camp too was not
far behind. They choose the Chief Minister’s residence as the meeting point.
The drama did not end there. As the legislative assembly session ended, citizens
learnt that a minister was “kidnapped” and an MLA “abducted”.
Bizarre and incredible it may sound, but all these happened within the warring two
factions of the Congress party.
In some other circumstances, we would not be bothered what happens to which camp
but situation is such that we are left wondering why the party would not even try
to figure out the differences for the sake of the citizens and the state. But then
citizens never really figured in their schemes of things and it would be too romantic
to even start thinking that they care about us.
In absence of an inquisitive media in the state, one has to read newspapers published
from New Delhi and Guwahati to know about the political drama and power struggle
in Arunachal Pradesh. More we read about allegations and counter allegations; we
are left wondering why we elected a bunch of people who not only disrespect themselves
but us as well. They are not only making a fool out of themselves, in the process
they are dragging the whole of the state.
While the two factions ridicule themselves and us with one antic after another, one
is pained at the absolute absence of governance. While yours truly respect inner
party democracy within the Congress party but not at the cost of the people. It should
not supersede the functioning of the state. We are today caught in a situation where
the Congress’s supposed inner party democracy workings are affecting the governance
and administration in the state.
As of now, it is unlikely that the All India Congress Committee will intervene. With
the party facing one crisis after another at the centre, Arunachal obviously does
not figure anywhere. Even if AICC does intervene, it is unlikely that we would see
any change from what the state is currently undergoing.
On a lighter note, one must thank the Congress party in the state for giving us reasons
to laugh because of their antics.
While we make a feeble attempt to laugh, yours truly is also pained at the same time
at what is happening at the state because of the infighting within the “family” who
we gave mandate to decide for us. Though some organizations and individual might
make the most of the situations because of the problems within the Congress party,
there is absolute and total disregard for the common citizens.
(14. Sept .2011)
The state of affairs
After the death of Late Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu the state particularly the Capital
Region has witnessed many incidences which have pained many of us. Some instances
could have been avoided had there been some kind of proper communication channel
and respect for common people. But with all those who take decision for us remaining
adamant and sticking to their grounds unwilling to move ahead, there is an uneasy
The recent All Nyishi Students Union sponsored bandh call on Teacher’s Day in protest
against Times of India report about Nyishi community saw violence and destruction
of government properties and files. While the rest of the state celebrated Teacher’s
Day, the students Union decided to show their respect and reverence for the teachers
by calling a bandh in Capital region. It is reported that main function held by
the state government to honour teachers was allowed to go ahead but many schools
had to postpone their celebrations. While it is for the students to ponder amongst
themselves on their choice of dates for the bandh call, the action of the state government
was questionable too. It provoked those in support of bandh by announcing the deployment
of 2500 personnel through the media.
The government should have known that the citizens of Capital region might not respect
anyone but past experiences have shown that it respect bandhs more so if it is on
a Monday. After the provocative action, the government had no idea where to look
when supporters of bandh indulged in violence. There was no police deployment in
vulnerable targets instead Police is being accused of using unparliamentarily words
while dealing with a group of protestors. No matter how provoked, violence in any
form by either Police or protestors is condemnable and it calls for strong action.
On the other hand, Times of India issue refuses to die down even after passage of
so many months. One wonders whether enough effort was put by the state government
and Nyishi Elite Society to resolve the issue. War of words using the media is acceptable
but atleast it was expected that apart from verbal bashing accusing the other of
betrayal, a logical conclusion was drawn respecting the sentiments of the people
of the state. The standoff continues. Given the situation, it will continue for
a long time unless those involved in finding a solution respect each other and keep
the communication channels open. Till now, it looks more like confrontation rather
than finding an amicable solution. For the well being of the state, it is expected
that at least some forward steps are taken.
One more shocking incident was the violent attack on a Law Professional Taba Tagum
and his family and alleged retaliatory attack at the residence of an office bearer
of Itanagar Market Welfare Association. The Police seems confused as it yet to make
any arrests in the cases and act on the FIRs lodged in police stations by both sides.
Tagum allegedly was attacked for taking up a case. One is forced to wonder whether
the home ministry by not taking any action so far against his assaulters is justifying
the attack on a lawyer who carried out his duties. For the record, the department
is yet to act against those responsible for the attack on the IMWA office bearer’s
residence as well. Have the Home department left it on to the people to settle their
On one hand we expect some actions from all concerned, one is forced to question
the absence of some Congress MLAs holding important positions within the government
from Itanagar for so many months and frequent trips to Delhi by those who choose
to stay in Itanagar. Yours truly know that the party is fiercely defensive about
its affairs but citizens who elected 42 Congress MLAs deserve to know what is exactly
happening. We need to know why a section of govt offices is being run by legislators
sitting in resorts in Gurgaon and why those who choose to stay in Itanagar is silent
on all issues. Perhaps we will never get an answer but it is about time we see some
developmental activities in the state.
(27. July .2011)
Disaster and management
The perennial flash flood and landslide causes large scale destruction in the state
during monsoon season almost every year. This year too, the story is repeating itself
and citizens in many parts of the state are already facing the consequences.
With onset of monsoon, the Capital Region too had its share of destruction and deaths
this year. Four deaths were reported while dozen more were injured. Hundreds of
homes and major portion of road infrastructure were destroyed because of landslide
that hit the state capital and essential services thrown out of gear. As usual the
ill prepared state government and Capital Region administration was caught unaware
this time too and it had no idea what to do.
It is ironic that District Administration sent out a warning note asking citizens
to move to safer places after the landslide had already caused considerable destruction.
The administration also suddenly realized that rampant earth cutting was the cause
of such large scale destruction and in typical ‘we told you so’ tone, it brought
out an order banning earth cutting. It was not too long back that administration
had issued a similar order. But then no one took note of it and earth cutting went
on unabated. This time too once the rain stops, rampant cutting will start again.
An order after all is just an order and it really does not require much of our attention.
The ones who took out the order will forget about it until the next tragedy strikes
and ones for who the order was taken out too will forget it. Collective amnesia till
the next tragedy.
On the other hand, when the new state government had taken over, it launched an ambitious
disaster management programme to face any eventualities. But apart from announcing
assistance after the recent landslide, nothing much was witnessed. One wonders whether
the programme itself need rescue from being a disaster.
They say disasters and nature’s fury do not come announced. But the recent destruction
due to landslide was a tragedy that was waiting to happen. We knowingly extended
our invitation to it. It’s a different issue that we forgot about the invite all
To a large extend such tragedies can be controlled if the government and its people
are serious about it. But greed knows no boundary. In Capital region, it is unlikely
that there is any plot of land that has been spared by the government and the people.
All of it has been encroached and almost every one of us is dealing with the consequences.
As the population increase, we are leveling more and more hills. We are even diverting
the flow of rivers and streams according to our wish. The end result is for all to
Capital region will see many more tragedies and the magnitude will be much more bigger.
And people at the helms of affairs need to take disaster management and preparedness
seriously. Yours truly would not want to elaborate on what need to be done since
everyone is well aware of it.
But to start with, it is advisable that administration shift people from dangerous
locations to safer places. Easier said than done, but somewhere a start must be made
before the next tragedy strikes.
(22. June .2011)
RTI Act and Arunachal
During a government sponsored workshop on Right to Information Act for Public Information
Officers and Assistant Public information officers, the participants were almost
unanimous in their opinion that the Act interfered with their work and disturbed
the pace of development and was being used as a tool to blackmail officers! The
reactions were understandable given the fact that culture of secrecy has always been
a part of government establishments. Till the coming of RTI Act 2005 which overrode
all existing Acts, Laws and instruments, the Official Secrets Act 1923, an archaic
British law ensured that there was no transparency in government dealings.
While elsewhere in the country, RTI Act has been used widely to curtail culture of
secrecy and fight corruption but the same cannot be said of Arunachal.
Accept in few cases where it has been used to fight corruption and unearth perennial
problem of illegal appointments in government departments, the citizens, civil societies
and media have not been able to affectively use this very powerful tool.
The Arunachal Pradesh State Information Commission Chair said that only 10 percent
of the applicants seriously make use of the Act. This says a lot as there have been
many instances where officials have been harassed and blackmailed based on the information
received. But citizens alone cannot be blamed. If the officers and departments are
clean in their dealings, such problem would not crop up at the first place.
With vicious circle of corruption so deep-rooted in every walk of life in the state,
unlikely even RTI Act would be a redeemer.
One would have liked that the Act which has been so successfully used even in neighbouring
Assam made some impact in Arunachal too. Sadly it is the other way around. Today
it has become a very lucrative business for many and it is being widely used as a
tool to extract money and favour.
Even the countable few, who have tried to make use of the Act, with whatever motives,
are at the receiving end.
On the other hand, even the appointments of APSIC members including the Chairpersons
have not been made according to the laid down rules in the state. It is mandatory
that at least one month notice is given prior to the appointments to enable the citizens
to take part in the appointment process.
On the other hand, the fee for per page of information is Rs ten. We agree that the
money we have today is not necessarily hard earned but at least a chance should be
given to all to procure information without having to spend so much.
However despite loopholes credit must be given to the APSIC that, today it is regarded
as one of the most effective commissions in the country. It is a pity that the citizens
have not been able to make full use of it.
While we hope that some of us would take the responsibility, yours truly is reminded
of an incident involving a citizen. The gentleman dropped a thick folder containing
information received under the Act. For a lazy journalist, such files are god sent.
The editorial desk was excitedly going through the report, when a phone call interrupted
the proceedings. He told us that we could not use the information. Even before we
could photo copy, the folder went back to the rightful owner of Information! There
was another phone call to confirm whether the folder has actually been taken back
by the information seeker. We don’t have to tell our smart readers who made that
second phone call!
(25. May .2011)
A comment and our rapport
Many were taken aback when a Delhi based journalist declared that Nyishis do not
share good rapport with other tribes of Arunachal. One can’t help but admit that
some people have in them the capacity to come up with such sweeping generalizations.
After initial anger and disbelief at the journalist, frustration set in.
As a fellow journalist, yours truly is left wondering how a journalist could possibly
write something as unpleasant. Individual differences apart but dragging a whole
community is in extreme bad taste that deserves condemnation from all. A class one
student would know that though we elect our representatives, we have no say in who
becomes the Chief Minister. The Nyishis or any other tribes do not elect a Chief
Minister. It is the elected representatives that decide who they want as a leader
of the state.
Reactions were bound to happen and anger of the citizens of the state was justified
too. But then how and where it happened left yours truly saddened and disgusted.
No matter how hurt we were with the comments of a person who seemed to have picked
up a wrong profession, taking out anger in Itanagar for what someone sitting in Delhi
wrote is uncalled for.
A media house was vandalized on May 8 as a repercussion to the news item and related
issues. It is yet to hit the stands and it is unlikely that it will soon. How does
one justify such angry outburst?
Media in Arunachal is used to such bullying tactics but than what is utterly disheartening
is the total silence by the self serving civil society organizations, community based
organizations, which more or less has communal agenda and government and the students
including the Arunachal Pradesh Students Union and North East Students Union. Does
their silence mean that they justify violence and deliberate chocking of the media?
After repeated assault like this over the years and deafening silence that follows,
one must admit that it is foolish to expect any support from any quarters.
On the other hand, ANSU which have been spearheading a movement against the journalist
have taken up the issue at the right earnest. Though the Union has taken up the
issue but the approach it has adopted has diluted the issue itself.
If an FIR has been filled either in Delhi or Itanagar, law will take its course of
action. It is just a matter of time that the journalist in question will be arrested.
Union need to put efforts to ensure that law which walks on a snail pace is made
to hurry up.
But then demanding the shifting of a newspaper out of Nyishi dominated area and Capital
complex, for whatever reason and calling a bandh is questionable and absurd.
The journalist in all probability must be basking in glory in the fact that Itanagar
is burning and every Arunachalee that read local newspapers know who he is and where
While the issue continues to make headlines, the politicians and political parties
have maintained stoic silence. Not that we expect much from them since they are much
smarter than we think they are, but there are times when we wish that they show some
leadership quality and come out and take a stand. As someone said with power comes
responsibility but than our trust and their responsibility seems misplaced.
(04. May .2011)
For some reason, it appears that India and Pakistan inexplicably share the same fate-if
we see the sequence of events in the last one week.
The United States of America (‘God Bless America!’) came and virtually over-shadowed
Pakistani forces and annihilated perhaps modern world’s most wanted figure, while
during the same time, India could not trace a Chief Minister of its most strategically
located state who has been missing for the last four days. Both countries are apparently
unaware of what happens in its own air space. Indeed an uncanny fate.
Even after four days, we don’t have any clue where the Pawan Hans chopper that flew
our Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, his security officer and three others is. And we
live in a country that takes pride in its satellite technology and defense capabilities!
The last 90 odd hours have shown that at least for the people of this state, these
so called prides are heavily misplaced.
Questions abound. Rumours outdo them. Yours truly is left wondering what or who to
believe and what or who not to. Bottom line is that our Chief Minister is untraceable
and we seem not to be able to do anything about it. Each passing hour scares our
hopes. How we wish that search operations are successful.
Have we acted responsibly? Unverified ‘safe landing’ reassurances by none other than
the Governor of the state, a former Army Chief, coupled with sheer lack of information
and coordination by the state government perhaps tell us that we did not act responsibly.
The non-committal press conference by central and state ministers after four full
days was no comfort either. Is it too much to expect our government to tell us where
our CM is? Or, in this time of uncertainties, it is too much to expect anything at
Arunachal perhaps has never seen more difficult times. One expected that with a missing
Chief Minister, search operations would be of the highest priority level. Is it?
One can never say. All that yours truly knows is that “the sentinel of the east”
has questions that no one seems bothered enough to reply.
To its credit, people of the state have shown incredible courage and resilience so
far by not burning down the Pawan Hans hangar or anything as stupid. However, considering
the wide spectrum of delayed or missed action, one cannot be faulted to expect that
it’s time for heads to roll.
But then our heads are so hidden in our little toes and literally it never rolls.
In the meantime, what we are left with are stories of hope and faith. We believe,
perhaps naively, that the many unnamed defense personnel, flight pilots and concerned
citizens will bring back our Chief Minister.
Yours truly can only empathize with what the families must be going through. At times
like this unspoken concern perhaps works better than spoken sympathy and action.
In Pakistan, there was a closure of some kind. Can we expect ours? The state, in
the meantime, waits.
(27. Apr .2011)
When even pain fails to move us
Apart from near misses mid air, India’s aviation history is filled with stories of
tragedies that could have been avoided.
With liberalisation of economy, the aviation Industry in India took a major leap.
Every year more than forty million Indians take the air route, aided by the low costs
private airlines which accounts for 60 percent of total travelers. While the private
airlines is going from strength to strength despite many hiccups including questionable
recruitments, the government run Air India refuses to learn. The only thing that
Air India has to its credit today is connecting smaller towns in its worn out planes.
India has had major airline disasters and most of it involves Air India. The former
subsidiary of Air India, Indian Airlines and Alliance Air, Pawan Hans Helicopters
Ltd. (PHHL) accounts for worst airline mishaps. More than thousand people have lost
their lives involving Air India. This excludes the crashes like AI flight between
Montreal-London-Delhi caused by terrorists which left more than 300 dead.
With such track records, there is bound to be questions at the safety measures. Why
the national carrier has almost become a on air coffin?
Yet again, there was another tragedy involving the national helicopter company of
India. This time it was at home.
The recent chopper crash in Tawang not only devastated the family members of those
who died in the tragic mishap, it has made us question whether air travel is a safe
bet in Arunachal. While we mourn the dead, the crash has raised numerous questions.
We don’t have answers today but somewhere we have to figure out to ensure that such
tragedy never happens again.
Today, air travel in many states in the North east is synonymous with Pawan Hans.
Jointly operated by the Government of India and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation,
Pawan Hans mainly operates in Northeast regions and ONGC project areas.
Two crashes in Arunachal and one in Shillong involving Pawan Hans comes to mind.
Accidents, they say are accidents but then some accidents can be avoided or impact
The impact of tragedy in Tawang, if one believes the eye witnesses could have been
lesser if we had the right fire fighting equipments in place. It’s too painful a
topic to even write about, but could the government make effort to ensure that safety
measures are implemented.
Could we ground the planes that need to be grounded on time, take a relook at safety
Instead of writing letters about safety, could we ensure that we don’t put lives
of air travelers at risk. After every accident, a probe is set up. If we go by the
record, these probes are usually reactive, never preempted or proactive. That’s also
the time when blame game plays out like musical chairs.
Somewhere responsibilities need to be fixed. It is about time.
(13. Apr .2011)
Can we dare to dream?
There are two images that I will carry in my heart for a long time of the visit to
Roing as part of the Arunachal Indigenous Tribes Forum (AITF) peace initiative. Two
young men, one a mere school boy, sharing their stories of how they suffered during
the recent communal clashes between their two communities. The stories were uncomfortably
similar. One’s parents house was vandalized, their life uprooted and forced to shift
away from a place where they hold deep memories. The other, shot in his shoulder
and today, not certain if he will ever recover, not the least because his family
does not have the finances to treat him at Vellore where he has been referred.
Young men who had dreams in their hearts - today caught in the middle of this communal
turmoil. Yours truly still cannot decide if they are poster boys of their communities
or victims of it.
One is shocked by the intolerance that has become a buzzword in the Arunachal that
we live in - we can’t seem to tolerate anyone who is not in our circle. And it is
not just about ethnic or tribal identities. Politicians cannot tolerate RTI activists,
bureaucrats cannot tolerate inquisitive public, businessmen cannot tolerate unaccommodating
officers and factions cannot tolerate another in the same union. As we have moved
on in life, on this path of ‘development’, intolerance has crept into our lives almost
Community and individual aspiration have always been part of our society. We have
heard stories of raids on each other, conflicts and even small scale wars. But there
have always been traditional institutions that have shielded and helped in conflict
resolution. But given new equations, they seem to have lost whatever teeth they have
had and no one seems to care - until the next major crisis!
Today we reach a point when we must realize that without cooperation, things do not
move. Whether it has been resolving incidences of kidnapping, border disputes or
factional rows. Time and again, we have been made to see that we must stand with
We must respect, understand and tolerate the other - if we ourselves are to survive.
The initiative of the AITF is a prime example. A conglomeration of community organizations,
its intervention has shown that it is still possible to nourish our aspirations yet
at the same time give space to others to nourish theirs. In fact, yours truly feels
this is the only way.
What will happen in Roing next is only for the Adi and Idu communities there to decide.
AITF has been a bridge, but to cross it is in their hands and minds. To their credit,
both communities have shown exemplary understanding in the series of meetings that
were held. But will this peace hold? The stories of the two young men point to only
one thing- our young cannot be damned because of our lack of foresight. And this
is not just for Roing but for our state as a whole.
On the way home from the helipad, I saw a girl pillion riding on a bike with a t
- shirt which proudly said “Dare to Dream”. I smiled and yet had to wonder, are we
giving our youth that opportunity?
One last thing, the person whose parent’s house was vandalized is today at the forefront
of the peace efforts. Are we with the likes of him?
(06. Apr .2011)
This coin has three sides
Regional parties foraying into Arunachal territory is not new. More recently, we
have five MLAs representing Trinamool Congress, which is basically a Bengal based
party. Politicians in the state have not really cared much about parties as long
as it gave them a platform to represent themselves and perhaps the people as well.
Them representing the people is contentious though!
We are a state, where party affiliation or loyalty is least of concerns as long as
we get to hobnob with those in “power”. Our loyalty lies in switching loyalties!
However, the formation of Arunachal branch of Naga People’s Front, the main ruling
regional political party in Nagaland was rather ill-timed, given the social and political
mindset of most people of Arunachal.
With trouble brewing in Tirap due to factional fights among the NSCN, one would have
expected some amount of sensitivity from the NPF, no matter how thin veiled.
NPF had earlier attempted to field candidates during the last assembly elections
in Arunachal. Later, the plan was unceremoniously dropped.
Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio is reported to have said that the main intention
to expand the party beyond his state was for the interest of the Naga political issue
and to create harmony with other regional political parties.
One is not sure whether harmony has been strengthened with the formations of Arunachal
and Manipur branch of NPF but it sure has become an issue to talk about.
With peculiar social and political settings in the state, questions are bound to
be asked at the formation. For long, people of Arunachal have been struggling to
deal with the complicated Naga identity issue. The problems have been compounded
by the aggressive presence of the factions of confused NSCN in Tirap and Changlang,
who have been using guns to do their talking.
As usual, most of us, who are in a position to have a say have decided to maintain
silence at the development apart from All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union. For whatever
they are worth, the students have at least asked some valid questions. With time,
we will have to deal with the decision of NPF, not because of anything but for the
fact that we are still battling our own issues. Do we really have space to accommodate
all? More importantly, are we ready to give space to others issues?
The region long troubled by militarization, separatist movements, corruption and
identity issues, the last thing we need is any party trying to make inroads in the
name of a “political issue”.
We don’t have to wait for time to tell us how politicised the move is!
(30. Mar .2011)
Who Will Guard The Guards Themselves….?
The recent Daporijo MMS scandal, involving the debasement of two young people by
representatives of the so called upholders of justice and security is another reminder
that we have come a long way, discarding all moral ethos, which until recently formed
a part and parcel of the tribal way of life. Today we don’t have any qualms about
anything. There is absolutely no fear- not of god, of society or even of authorities.
We live in a sense of false confidence that we can get away with everything and anything.
Aided by the powerful, our moral corruption has reached such a level that we don’t
think twice to rape, murder, indulge in corruption of every hue, colour and weight,
which even includes usurping and selling off rice meant for poorest of the poor.
It is impossible to even think about what the young people in the video must have
gone through and will continue to go through all their life. Similar inhumane atrocities
were committed by the prison keepers of Abu Ghraib, which we well know of. Difference
is that in Daporijo the perpetrators were our own.
Apart from those policemen involved, even officers who booked them under easy-to-manipulate
sections should also be taken to task for negligence and professional misconduct.
At least, they could have worked hard and booked those criminals under the strictest
sections within the relevant provisions of law. The lapses are so obvious that it
is apparent to all that the police seems to find its strength from the moral breakdown
that has engulfed the department in recent times.
Why is that almost everywhere, police seems to be running into problems with citizens,
incident after incident? Department might brush it aside as isolated. But if the
department cared at all to cross-check, these ‘isolated’ cases have become too regular
a feature to dismiss it.
Is the unbecoming behavior of Police personnel any reflection on the society that
we live in today?
There was a time, when people in khaki commanded a lot more respect compared to those
without it. But with time, the equations have changed. These days most police personnel
manage to evoke in us utter disdain, which perhaps is a reflection of society we
live in. Earlier, we could do without police. But today citizens are demanding that
police be deployed even in the villages. This is a departure from what it was during
even the 90’s.
The video clip has travelled far and wide. Now, as citizens really concerned about
these two young people, the first thing we should have done was delete the movie.
But then, on one hand, we condemn the act and demand punishment for the culprits,
and on the other, we continue to circulate the videos.
Not long ago, there was clip of a young girl being mercilessly afflicted with violence
by group of women, allegedly for having an extra martial affair. The video found
its way to the internet, which was promptly shared by many on social networking sites.
No doubt, police needs disciplining. They need to be told that they are not above
law and that law is equal for all. There should be no leniency at all. Those heading
the department should ensure that whatever little credibility it has today is saved
before society itself turns away in disgust from its protectors. Black sheep in the
department who seem to have outnumbered the rest, need to be reined in before the
department’s reputation is. One thing that will reassure citizens of the department’s
integrity is immediate arrest and persecution of those involved. But we have seen
before that this is more a wish than a reality.
But also important is to think-have we looked at ourselves? As long as we willingly
share such images with no thought of its impact on real people and real families-nothing
will change. Cases will be registered, bails will be given, stories will be forgotten.
The guards will guard us, but who will guard the guards? Surely not the insensitive
government or its equally insensitive people that we have become. Like yours truly’s
grandfather said long back-it is difficult to figure out who is pointing a finger
at whom because there are just too many hands to count!
(23. Mar .2011)
Amidst troubled times
Amidst chaos, violence and unrest in Tirap and communal tension between the Idus
and Adis in Roing, the tabling of gender budget in Arunachal Legislative Assembly
came as a welcome relief.
Even though gender budgeting is not an end in itself; it is a powerful tool to achieve
gender equality and empowerment of women.
For those of us who are new to the term Gender budgeting, there is no need to panic!
The Gender Budget is not about dividing the budget - 50% for women and 50% for men.
Roughly, it involves analysis of actual expenditure on women and girls as compared
to on men and boys.
The state government and Finance Minister and all those officers and officials deserves
praises for the path breaking decision, even though only 12 departments have been
included in the gender budget.
The inclusion of gender budget in the state budget is a noteworthy achievement for
the women’s movement in Arunachal. Arunachal Pradesh Women’s Welfare Society, the
premier organization has been appealing for the gender budget for years.
Despite changes world over, it was in 2006-2007 that government of India actually
woke up to the need of Gender budget and showed some basic improvement in the presentation
of gendered expenditure. It is only now that the Gender Budgeting is carried out
department wise in the country which traditional put all the schemes for women and
children under the Department of Women and Child Development.
A start has been made and yours truly hope that more efforts would be put in place
by the government to ensure that planning process includes all sections of society.
While hope runs high, one is let down by the communal clashes in Roing. It could
have been avoided had the leaders from both communities and administration acted
on time. Roing always had history of deep mistrust and intolerance between the two
communities. No matter, what the bodies representing the two communities say regarding
the present ongoing clashes, the ongoing conflict is a result of intolerance. One
feels sorry for the two communities who have lived together for ages, yet do not
miss a chance to indulge in activities which is destructive not only for themselves
but for the whole state. The blame game has deepened further. It is not going to
help anyone, more so the common people caught in the middle of it. Media will find
a new fodder soon to fill the pages and communal clashes will be just another story.
It is the communities who will have to learn to live with differences. They know
what is best for them and it is about time, efforts are put in. Trust once broken
is difficult to mend. But there is always a way out, more so when there is involvement
of two communities. They have to figure out what suits them the best and move forward.
Rest of Arunachal can only hope that peace is restored.
(16. Mar .2011)
The divine intervention
The letter by NSCN (K) to this daily and Assam based media houses calling for withdrawal
of support to Congress led government by legislators from Tirap and Changlang did
not come as a surprise to many of us. Though we may have never talked about it openly,
Naga insurgency groups do have a say in every sphere of life. So much so that one
of the faction had the courage to dictate terms to the elected representatives.
But the core issue has been sidelined by our leaders and organisations. More than
the issue, the authenticity of the letter is in question. Who are we trying to fool
Government has said that it would investigate into the authenticity of the letter.
We are all looking forward to the outcome of the investigation since the outfit itself
has not come forward with anything about the mail.
While Tirap continue to burn, all dramas are being played out in the media, more
so in this daily. The NSCN (K) and (IM) are still battling it out for supremacy and
number of Indian Army has been raised. Don’t be surprised if there are more fresh
turf wars in Tirap in sometime.
Citizens continue to bear it all while those sitting in the comfort of Itanagar are
waging a war through the media.
One would wish that instead of all these well orchestrated dramas in media, thereby
killing the core issue itself, some concrete actions were taken.
What exactly is the government stand? Apart from the letter, that has created ripples
in the political circle, one is left with no choice but wonder whether our elected
government is serious about the problems in the two districts, more so in Tirap.
On the other hand, the collective leadership of NSCN, currently in talks with government
of India is too confused to put forward their demands and ideas since they cannot
stop fighting for supremacy. But then it has not stopped them from making Arunachal
their battleground, where they dance to their chosen tunes and makes us dance as
Sadly, our state has ended up as the favorite battleground for insurgents without
a cause and Indian Army.
Citizens will continue to pay the price because of wrong decision taken by self serving
and myopic politicians. Tirap is just an example today.
While we continue to debate and discuss, this office was not surprised to read the
letter threatening a legal action from Chief Minister’s secretariat. Thankfully,
we have been warned in advance that legal action will be taken against us, unlike
the other time by our one time favorite politician Kiren Rijiju.
We are not sure whether he has actually decided to sue us but we did get a notice
from his lawyers informing us that he plans to sue us if information required was
not given to him. All we did was make space for a letter calling him the Rasputin
of Arunachal for his role in getting power projects in Arunachal. We are not very
sure what happened to the MOUs, though govt documents do say almost all the politicians,
irrespective of their political affiliation did write to the Chief Minister recommending
While we discuss the problem confronting the state in leisure, one of the ministers
in the present government has blamed all the wrongs in the state to bad omens, while
addressing the media some weeks back.
Maybe, we all actually join in him doing the necessary Puja to ward off the bad omens.
We do need some divine intervention!
(02. Mar .2011)
Deafening silence and Tirap
After a report was published in this daily about citizens caught in the ugly turf
war between two factions of NSCN, there was an expected phone call, accusing yours
truly of being a no good arm chair journalist.
Good or no good, as a journalist, who makes a living reporting, yours truly better
write! Tirap, laden with problems which was rather invited from outside, is today
in a precarious situation. Respective State governments have been silent after the
creation of Department of Tirap and Changlang by fluke. Citizens have no idea what
this department is doing or whether funding, if any, is being used at all.
Why are people’s representatives so reluctant to come out in public with problems
confronting the district and the solutions taken? We would want to be reassured.
Tirap’s problem is not hers alone. It is the problem of the whole state.
It’s not that Tirap is deprived of any good leaders today. In the forefront is the
powerful Speaker of the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly Wanglin Lowangdong,
one of the few well-informed politicians, the entire North east region has today.
While we wait for the leaders to reassure us, one is left flabbergasted at the ways
of both factions of NSCN. They have no business to take the whole district to ransom
because their greed has crossed all possible limits. Just because they have the gun,
they have a say. But more than these bunches of people, who have no ideologies whatsoever,
what is frightening is the way centre and state government’s handling of the whole
What is the exact stand of state govt on Tirap problem? If the govt does not accept
Greater Nagalim theory, it is surprising that the ceasefire is being allowed in district.
Caught in the entire jam are the citizens. Its not only the salaried people, even
the villagers are extorted. Imagine a situation where your pigs are taken away just
to feed a bunch of brainwashed criminals, in the garb of freedom fighters. It’s sickening
to even start thinking what they do in the name of a separate country. All for their
cause, we sacrifice our pigs!
The Arms Forces Special Power’s Act is in place in the district. But if we go back
in time, the Act is applicable on the people, not the happy gun triggering militants.
Security forces are mute witness to torture and killings.
At the most, they are happy organizing surrender ceremonies. Who are these people
Apart from the villagers, government officials too are caught in the entire situation.
Even though the government has surrendered to the designs of the militants, it is
the government employees who are working against all odds. They not only face constant
threat and abuse, but they part away with 2 % of their salaries. To make up for the
loss, they either indulge in unfair means or don’t remain in station. We can’t force
or expect them to be fair, when life itself is at stake.
As one of the friends, posted in Tirap suggested if the govt has indeed surrendered,
let the lives of the employees be insured or pay them life risk allowances. Apart
from that government should reimburse the employees the 2 % annual tax they pay to
All said and done, the question remains why ultras have been allowed to regroup,
strengthen and embolden over the years. We are told that numbers of security forces
have been increased. But for what and who?
The long wait
When formal announcement of Pasighat Centennial celebration was made, not only the
people of the beautiful town but almost whole of the state endorsed and welcomed
it. Little did we realized that celebration would soon run into controversy over
the repeated postponements and worse still the renaming of the bridge over Siang.
But the best was yet to come! Apparently, the celebration has been postponed over
and over again because invited central leaders have not been able to find out free
time from their busy schedules!. In such a situation, yours truly wish these chief
guests were as considerate as us. But priorities are clearly very different.
It is typical Arunachal syndrome to depend on others for every little need, but it
has crossed all possible limits. Even to celebrate something as important as the
hundredth year of a historic town, we have to wait for their presence and endorsement.
The citizens, their preparations and expectations have all been tossed aside.
Yours truly, as amnesic as any other journalist worth his or her salt had actually
forgotten about the celebration.
It took a very engaging desktop calendar, brought out by the Department of Tourism
to mark the event to remind her about the celebrations! If calendar is any indication,
the celebration should be a grand success. But after having waited for so long, the
interests and excitement have dwindled. Now it almost borders on anger and frustration.
She would not dare mark the dates of celebration on the calendar and dirty it good
Why can’t the citizens be given the chance and freedom to celebrate something as
momentous as hundredth years of a town. As someone said, why do we have to stick
to tried and tested phenomenon of pleasing others? In our effort to continue the
policy of appeasement, innovation has died an unnatural death. We even did not bother
to give it a decent burial.
The efforts of a simple villager who prepared the apong, gathered the ekkam, and
celebration committee members, whose daily routine has gone haywire, does not matter
to us. What matters to us is the presence of someone big and important as Chief Guest.
One could easily conclude that it’s almost obsessive. Going by the practiced norm,
it’s not about the event we celebrate, its rather the presence of the chief guest
who takes the centre stage of any celebration. It’s the felicitation of a chief guest
that matters, not the importance of the event or the mass participation.
Yours truly would wish that celebration actually happens before the next batch of
apong is wasted, ekkam dries, and the potholes adorned the roads once again.
It is for the government to ensure that dates are announced and celebration goes
ahead with or without the hallowed chief guest.
Blatant hijacking of landmark event is not something we would like to associate centennial
celebration of Pasighat. Citizens would rather celebrate her courage; recall her
contribution to the state and her never ending resilience. That would be the ultimate
tribute to the place which ushered in a whole new era in all spheres to the state.
A Chinese new year gift
Issuance of stapled visa to weightlifter Yukar Sibi and Indian weightlifting Federation
official Abraham Techi came as huge surprise, given the fact that China considers
Arunachal as its own. Even as China maintains there is no change in its stand towards
Arunachal, it is a clear policy shift if we go by precedence. The latest move should
come as a relief to the country and jingoistic Arunachalees. If it is anything to
go by, atleast we have been upgraded from being “theirs’ to “disputed”.
Until now, China has issued stapled visa to people from Jammu and Kashmir which it
considers a disputed territory.
Notwithstanding the fact that we have a democratically elected government under the
Indian Union, Arunachal is considered a province of China!!
On the other hand, China does not have a consistent visa policy for Arunchalees.
There have been contradictions as it refused to issue visa to IAS officer Gonesh
Koyu, which prompted pulling out an entire high profile Indian delegation while a
delegation of women leaders including Jarjum Ete, Komoli Mossang and Dipti Bengia
visited the country on normal visas. There are other examples too where its lack
of policy stand exposed.
These instances clearly show lack of clear cut policy. But whether China has a policy
or not, it has always managed to upset Arunachalees more than the Indians!
In one instance, All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union courted arrest in Delhi upset
at the claim while the Indian leaders busy with their usual jobs had no time to meet
In this case too, its been the Arunachalees who have gone overboard including burning
of effigy of Chinese premier, upset at the Chinese move.
The Indian media made a brief mention of it while Ministry of External Affairs issued
a meek statement.
Like it or not, every time China says something, it irritates Arunachal more than
rest of India. Maybe it’s a case of wearing our patriotism on our sleeves, but do
we really have to? Maybe a meek statement would more than suffice.
China will not stop being an irritant. But India has to look for options to tackle
On November 12, 2009, the Ministry issued a travel advisory, cautioning Indian citizens
that Chinese visas issued on separate papers stapled to passports would not be considered
valid for travel out of the country. It basically means that people of Arunachal
and Jammu Kashmir will not be allowed to visit China. We can do without visiting
that country, but will India react more strongly than just stopping its citizens
from travelling to China. With increase in trade relations and opening of traditional
trade routes with Tibet, India needs to come up with a pragmatic approach.
A tit for tat is not going to work as it will not help thaw the volatile relations
the two countries share. But we sure would not want a situation where we have to
be embarrassed by China’s treatment of us and India’s complacent stand. Arunachal
would be watching the next move of Indian government.
PDS and non-delivery system
For an average citizen dependent on Public Distribution System (PDS), it does not
matter whether the quintals of food items are transported through motor bikes or
head loads as long food reach them on time.
A hungry citizen would not be bothered whether Food Security Bill actually takes
shape. We would not want to know whether Special Investigation Cell looking into
anomalies in PDS has any plans to wake up from its deep slumber. We don’t even care
whether the state government is still in the process of streamlining PDS delivery
system as promised some five years back. Citizens won’t even question the quality
of rice as long as it fills the stomach. With such backdrops, it is unsettling that
food depots in many places in Arunachal are empty.
For a state hugely dependant on Public Distribution System, it is a rather uncanny
that people of the state has to wait for their monthly quota of food grains. It’s
even more incredible that after we made it to the national headlines because of the
notorious PDS scam, Food Corporation of India, state government and the contractors
seems not too bothered whether essential items actually reach us. To make the matter
worse, everyone seems to be blaming everyone else for such utter incompetence and
What stops FCI and the state government from giving us something that has been kindly
allotted to us by the centre?
Is another scam waiting to be unearthed? What could be the possible explanation for
empty food depots? We come across as a society that’s not bothered about others as
long as we are stuffed.
If the people’s first government really cares, it is about time FCI is made to explain
to the people of this state the reason for empty depots. It would be a welcome change
if the FCI makes news, for once, for good reasons rather than constantly being in
news for corruption and inefficiency.
FCI and state government must ensure that responsibilities are discharged on time
so that people get to eat on time. Blame game does not fill a hungry stomach.
Time for a reality check
As we were getting ready to welcome the New Year, there was a heart breaking appeal
from Sanjay Kumar’ family for his release.
A supervisor with APMDPCL Coal Mine, Kharsang, Changlang, Kumar was kidnapped on
November 24 while he was on his way to the coal fields. There is no news whatsoever
from any corner apart from assurances that efforts are being put to secure his safe
On May 13 last year, an Indian Forest Service Officer Vilas Bardekar was kidnapped
in Arunachal Pradesh by the suspected National Democratic Front of Bodolannd. He
was released on August 1 after centre and state government of Assam and Arunachal
threw its force to secure his release.
Unlike Bardekar’s case, where the agencies had clue right from the beginning, in
Kumar’s case, the scenario is different. No one seems to have any idea who kidnapped
Is it one of the factions of NSCN, active in Changlang district who picked up the
Supervisor or is it some individuals who have a stake in mining sector in Arunachal?
There seems to be too many contradictions and possibilities as well.
The people of the state are patient but it would soon want to know why someone should
be kidnapped while he is in Arunachal and why there is total silent from the investigating
agencies. We would want to see that kidnapped official is safely released and reunited
with his family members.
Kumar and Bardekar’s abduction are indication that all is not well despite tall claims
by the govt. Though the state might not have to deal with home grown armed rebels,
there is no denying the fact that Arunachal continues to be used as a hideout by
militants from outside the state. Not only these rebels use this state as hideout,
they operate with impunity.
NDFB has a clout in at least four districts bordering Assam while ULFA, despite Chairman
Arabinda Rajkhowa’s arrest and subsequent release has its presence in Lohit and Changlang.
On the other hand, Changlang and Tirap continue to be the favorite playground of
both factions of NSCN.
Its not very clear why NSCN has come all the way to Tirap and Changlang, which is
home to the Tangsas, Tutsas, Noctes and Wanchoos, who share the same ancestry as
some tribes of Nagaland and Burma. NSCN was formed with an aim to secure a separate
Naga nation. It’s a different issue that with time the whole greater Nagalim issue
seems lost in some quagmire as both the factions can’t seem to decide what it really
wants for itself and for the people who it claims to fight for. On the other hand,
Indian government is having the last laugh while the factions fight among themselves
and the Indian Army. Ceasefire has a completely new meaning here.
However, Tirap and Changlang continue to suffer. In the name of Naga nation, it’s
the people of these districts who are the worst sufferers. Apart from living in utter
confusion and fear, dealing with massive unemployment, drug addiction, the whole
process of development has been derailed. A huge chunk of fund is taken away by these
organizations and government employees part away with at least 2 percent of their
salary every month. The problem does not end here. There is utter lack of accountability
which has lead to widespread corruption in all institutions. Its time, we and they
do a reality check.
Resolutions and wishes
An avid follower of the Gregorian calendar, a dear friend celebrates Christmas religiously.
Apart from attending church services, she ensures that she invites her friends and
extended family over to celebrate the festive occasion.
With mouth watering delicacies, laughter, positive energy and good humour in abundance,
one wishes Christmas was an everyday event. While we enjoy the food, she asked each
one of her guests, about their New Year resolutions and wishes.
It came very easy to many but yours truly found herself struggling. Unable to come
up with anything worthwhile, she just brushed aside the topic with an excuse that
we don’t need an occasion to come up with resolutions or wishes.
But then I could not help come up with a list of resolutions and wishes as I left
her place. Unwittingly but very conveniently, yours truly found herself with resolutions
for others. We trick ourselves so well! On one hand, we would not want to put ourselves
in trouble; on the other, we do come up with a long list to be accomplished by others!
Yours truly is no exception.
As we welcome a new year, with or without resolutions, yours truly just wishes that
this state is at par with any other developed state without compromising with our
core values, identity and environment. A state that’s stable, peaceful, safe and
healthy for each one of us.
A state where everyone is accommodated and allowed to take a pick for the greater
good; a state which has the heart to listen to the opinion of others; a state where
everyone is given an equal opportunity, where hard work is appreciated and respected.
A state where citizens take the responsibility to shape it in a way that everyone
would be proud of. A state where the youngsters do not stray for want of proper guidance
from teachers, parents and elders; government policies and support required. A place
where our elders are looked after with respect and love, where children are safe
and secured, where youngsters are given freedom to dream and the platform to achieve
it, where a professional is given the chance to perform and excel.
A state where corruption is not a way of life; where health care, education reaches
every household. Water and power supply and roads reach our homes without having
to play with nature, where basic essential items are within the reach of common citizens.
Yours truly wishes for a state where policies are not imposed at whims and fancies,
a state which is considerate of others needs.
Yours truly wish that we are given the platform to make our own informed choices
devoid of anger, guilt, frustration, anxiety and selfishness. It’s on us to turn
some of our dream into reality.
While some wishes seems almost unachievable but yours truly must be excused for daring
to dream. She blames the infectious season of hope!
As another year approaches, let’s wish ourselves the very best. Her buddy says we
could at least start dreaming good dreams. Yours truly could not agree more.
The kitchen and media
Yours truly can’t afford to lodge a complaint if the food is bad. “You get to eat
what you buy” is the usual response. “But that’s what the budget allows” does not
work here. If she is in a mood to talk, she would retort “I don’t care what the budget
is. Either increase or eat what I cook or cook”.
The scope of further discussion is firmly cut short. There is no other way out;
either eat or go on a hunger strike. Hunger strike is the usual response but with
an anticipation that she might come up with some magic recipe. But she chooses otherwise.
She is firm in her take that you get what you deserves!
The half hearted antics and threats to go on a hunger strike have been put off permanently.
Before you question why all these trivial kitchen details are being shared, yours
truly would like to draw a comparison between what happens at her kitchen and media
All these years, the media in Arunachal has been trying to do some work, if not hard
enough. In the last five years or so, workings of the media have changed and yours
truly would unabashedly claim that media persons have tried their best in spite of
Journalism is not about solving problems but informing the people; with a hope that
readers, irrespective of who they are would pick up from there. But it hardly happens.
The civil societies, numerous organizations who claim to work for Arunachal and common
citizens is not much concerned at what happens to our state. That’s the ultimate
and sad truth.
It is in fact irresponsible to expect that our society would change overnight. When
we don’t want to take on the challenges and responsibilities, it is ridiculous to
expect one of the members to work on our behalf and bring in changes. Why risk ourselves
and our family members? No matter how selfish we are, putting family members and
their careers and sometimes their lives, at constant risk is not what we seek. Some
hard facts to digest but that’s the facts for many journalists working here in the
Citizens will have to continue reading about appointments of office bearer of some
sector or colony or organisation and opening and closing ceremonies of some weird
and alien sounding government sponsored program. As someone said, you get what you
Forcing media to close down for three straight days, because of deliberate inaction
by the people’s first government and its police and administration is a reflection
on our society too. A society which refuses to grow up and a society used to accepting
diktats and believing what those in power tells us.
Take the recent case of two journalists who were not only obstructed from carrying
out their duties but assaulted in full view of public. The wanted man happens to
be security personnel of MP Takam Sanjay.
Our dear MP, instead of facilitating his arrest sends a message of solidarity to
the media houses. Thankfully, this media house received the message from the MP after
the journalists had already decided to boycott government releases. That saved us
the embarrassment. And his as well, presumes yours truly.
The people’s fist government was too happy to hit the mute button as well. In a society,
not used to any kind of criticism, blind acceptance of failure, hand me downs diktats
and accommodating crimes and making way for its growth, it would be foolish to expect
The new sets of law
Apart from the existing traditional and Indian Laws, if popular trends are any indication,
there are bunch of people, who set new laws according to their arrogance, the size
of pockets, egos and tribal affiliations. Like it or not, these sets of new laws
are recognized and followed. Dare defy it, we are in trouble.
Now the poor citizens have no option but to follow the new rules set by select bunch
of citizens because they know existing Indian law has no relevance here.
This is one state where people get away with crimes like murder, day light extortion
and corruption. We absolutely get away with everything and anything. With such encouraging
precedents, beating someone, looting or maiming and even killing is just like any
day to day errand. Tomorrow is just another normal day.
In short, we are a tribe who has total disregard for law.
No matter who is at the fault, motorists are not only forced to pay after an accident
but they are beaten up too. Beating up doctors, journalists on duty is not shocking
One is left wondering why we take to violence at the very first instance. Is it total
lawlessness or a deeper social problem that makes some of us believe that violence
is a way of life?
Why is that some of us have no respect what so ever for other fellow human beings.
Why do some of us have such limitless arrogance, rudeness, anger that ultimately
results in violence?
As yours truly think about a possible remedial measure, more and more questions come
Why do we choose to be just mute spectators to such unpleasant and despicable acts?
Are we really members of a tribal society that believes in fairness and ethics?
And what about the great Indian justice system?
Is it because law and law makers are blind spectators too?
As a society, somewhere we have to look within ourselves and find solutions. To
start with, we must stand up for what is right and fair. Enough is enough.
Social welfare measures and their schemes
The eighth report on the most vulnerable social groups and their access to food by
the Commissioners of the Supreme Court makes one wonder whether the government of
India’s social welfare schemes is just for the sake of it.
The poor implementation and extreme lack of accountability at the state level and
centre’s inability to do anything is too massive to ignore.
The Commissioners report in bits and pieces on Arunachal is yet another reminder
how major welfare schemes and public distribution system despite all tall claims
by government is nowhere near where it should be.
The Supreme Court appointed the commissioners to monitor the implementation of the
Court’s orders on various welfare measures and schemes as an aftermath of path breaking
public interest litigation in April 2001 by People’s Union for Civil Liberties Rajasthan
known as “PUCL vs Union of India & Others, Writ Petition (Civil) 196 of 2001” seeking
enforcement of the right to food.
Initially, the case was brought against the Government of India, the Food Corporation
of India and six states, for inadequate drought relief. However, the case was extended
with all states and union territories as respondents.
The Commissioners would soon come up with their next report. The performance of Arunachal
this time remains to be seen but the fact remains that lot more need to be done when
it comes to implementation of social welfare schemes and Public Distribution System.
The Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY) aimed at addressing urban poverty
alleviation is a major govt initiative. It stipulates that a 3 per cent reservation
of coverage or finances is mandatory for differently abled people. All over the country
the target is not met. Needless to say, in Arunachal Pradesh, according to official
data it is a stark 0 %.
The supplementary nutrition programme of the ICDS, along with other services such
as nutrition counselling and referral health services are aimed at reducing malnutrition
among children under six. The data of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 3)
says 46% of children under three are underweight for their age in the country. Arunachal
figures in the list of states where the situation of malnutrition among children
under three has worsened.
Emotions do run high when we talk about children but yours truly just pray that we
better our performances by the time the next report comes in.
The report by Commissioners on public distribution system makes an interesting reading
too. The conundrum is such that most of the targeted Below the Poverty Line do not
get food grains and those Above the Poverty Line (APL) do not bother to use the ration
card because of high price.
In Arunachal, identification of BPL families is an interesting issue. There is an
instance where a son of a Deputy Commissioner found his name in the BPL list. This
is not an isolated case. Systematic looting of poor continues unabated.
Audacious attack by NDFB
National Democratic Front of Bodoland’s calculated attacks on citizens this month
did not come
as shock given its past precedents. It is one organisation, which not only threatens
but executes them too.
What was obnoxious was the targeting Hindi speaking section of society in their attempt
not to lose the sympathy of people of Assam and Arunachal. It was a miscalculated
move and no one should get away with something as sinister as this. But what was
more condemnable was total lack of preparedness by Indian Army, Assam and Arunachal.
The organisation had already warned that it would carry out attacks in retaliation
to a killing of one of its cadres Mohan Basumatary in October.
The audacity of NDFB, known to be very close to NSCN (IM) to target an Arunachal
bound bus and cold blooded murder is a message for all of us. It was not only a direct
assault but an announcement that the organisation has a grip in our state too.
As if to mock the Indian Army, the attack of the bus was carried out at a place near
the headquarters of the Army Corps in Tezpur.
It is a known fact that the NDFB has been regrouping along the Assam-Arunachal border
with areas of operation in East and West Kameng and West Siang bordering Assam.
Though the government of Arunachal has been reluctant to admit, NDFB has a free run
in Assam-Arunachal border areas. There are accounts of abductions and extortions
in many places in Arunachal including the Capital region.
After the killing of seven government employees residing in Arunachal by the NDFB,
the knee jerk reaction of the state government was to suspend all night busses, sumos
bound for Assam. There were no takers of the government decision as vehicles continued
to ply in defiance of the order.
It is a different matter that if something goes wrong, the govt can always fall back
on the order and say we told you so. That is the easiest thing to do.
If we go back in history, the faction led by Ranjan Daimary in a loud and clear message
actually had a passing out parade in Bangladesh while another faction was engaged
in ceasefire talks with the Indian government. It was not only a massive embarrassment
for govt of India and intelligence failure but also a clear sign of lack of cohesive
understanding of the core issues by those at the helms of affair.
On the other hand, the liberation movement has not been scripted by the Bodos themselves.
Bodo Liberation Tigers Force that fought for a separate Bodo state within Indian
Union was actually funded by the government of India to counter the growing popularity
of the NDFB, demanding a separate country. We may perhaps never know what actually
transacted but today BLT is a coalition partner in Assam.
Even after Ranjan Daimary’s dramatic arrest, NDFB, which is widely believed to have
carried out 30 Oct 2008 attacks, have continued to carry out atrocious attacks in
Assam. The numbers of cadres have dwindled but it has not stopped doing what it wants.
It is a fact that they have barracks in the forested patches in Arunachal to keep
the abducted. The most recent example was abduction of Indian Forest Services Officer
It is not only the Indian govt that needs to relook at its policies when it comes
to groups like NDFB but also state government of Arunachal that abides by the Indian
constitution to ensure that its lands are not used by someone else to carry out their
The large scale violence in Ziro on Nov 3 after tragic death of a school boy was
shocking to say the least. It almost seemed like a sequel of Roing violence which
was triggered after high handedness of Police force led to a death of a man. In both
incidences, the citizens took out their anger at the administration and left it crippled.
The ill equipped administrations and Police as usual were caught unaware and did
not how to react at the angry outbursts.
Though there are larger issues that had led to violent reactions in recent times
in many places in the state but one just wishes that citizens restrained themselves.
Attacking government establishments might be a very provocative way of challenging
the power and authority. But it is surely not the desired way. Anger is understood
but could we possibly justify attack on the official residence of the DC while family
members including children were inside the house. Unfortunately, there is none. Adults
might have peace meetings and reconcile, but children take a long time to forget
This was not the first time Ziro witnessed violence and this will not be the last
given equation among the tribes who just refuses to respect one another. Good will
cannot be forced. It has to come from within. When there is mutual distrust among
the people, administration cannot do much. It is on the people to deal with it and
decide what needs to be done.
Apart from the issues that we would rather ignore, there are other issues too confronting
A favorite destination, including yours truly, this beautiful Valley had problems
before too, prompting us to question what ails this seemingly self sufficient place.
Blessed with good climate and topography, with amazingly hardworking people, Ziro
has set many milestones. It has given the state some of the best technocrats, teachers,
doctors, administrators and sportspersons and one and only IPS officer.
Apart from the troubled past with its neighbours, before and after we took shape
as a state, there are other issues that needs to be addressed.
People of the valley have worked hard to get where they are today. Ziro is known
today not because of attention of the respective governments but because of the perseverance,
hard work and entrepreneurial skills of its people.
Apart from the district headquarters, when it comes to developments initiatives by
the government, there is not much to talk about.
Some of us might blame it on the infighting among the tribes but Ziro is a typical
case study of inequitable distribution of developmental initiatives by the government.
Left on its own devices, there is simmering anger and tension.
There is enough skilled hands and space. What it lacks is initiatives from the government.
Ziro is one of the biggest assets of the state and onus is on the government how
it shapes this place and its people.
Just sending off high profile visitors for a drive is not the answer.
Child labour and Arunachal
The other day, Ravi, a good friend shared that conditions of child labour in Arunachal
is awful and more need to be done.
While we exchanged these notes and rued how bad the situation is, a report was flashed
across the local print media that City Administration arrested two people for employing
under aged children in hazardous conditions in fabrication units.
While we wish authorities took note that child labour is a serious issue that needs
to be addressed, there is no denying the fact that we the common citizens are responsible
for the mess.
In Arunachal, more so in urban set up, our dependence on domestic helps, mostly made
up of migrant children from Assam is for all to see. With both parents working, in
most homes, the domestic help takes care right from cooking, washing to walking the
children to school or the bus stops.
Not to talk of education, most of these young citizens are deprived of very bare
necessities of life and are subjected to physical violence, psychological trauma,
and even sexual abuse.
But we would never talk about it.
While many of us, including yours truly depend on domestic help to run the kitchen
and literally the whole household, most of the time we do not even deem it fit to
address them by their names.
Child Labour Laws in this country, including the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation)
Act states that children under the fourteen years of age could not be employed under
The Article 32 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes the right
of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work
that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with child’s education, or to be harmful
to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.
Reading these laws give us immense satisfaction, that something is being done. It’s
just that implementation and abiding by the law is someone else’s job.
For a 12 year old, beginning his or her day at six in the morning, running our errands
is hazardous enough, when they should be preparing for schools.
The much touted Right to Education advocates education for all children under the
ages of 6-14. But sadly, children below six, do not find mention when we all know
that children as young as six takes care of their families.
On one hand, children have no other option than to support families by working as
household helps, on the other, working conditions could have been better, provided
we make it happen.
Every day, we read in the advertisement pages of the newspaper about missing children.
The reason why instead of going to the authorities most people end up giving advertisements
is that there are no records. We don’t bother to register and authorities never bother
to ask. Its works fine both ways. At the end of the day, we do not seem to care how
work is done as long as it is done.
With great fanfare, India decided that from October 10, 2006 there would be a ban
on employing children below 14 years of age and liable for prosecution and penal
action under the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986.
There was a short-lived crackdown too!
While yours truly write all these, Rupalee makes a quite entry, with a mug of coffee.
Seeds of violence, mistrust & anger
The violent repercussions of ill-advised govt decision to grant Permanent Residential
Certificate to non-Arunachalees of Lohit and Changlang, residing before 1968 and
subsequent withdrawal is for everyone to see.
The seeds of violence, mistrust, anger and discord have been sown among the communities
that lived in harmony for so long.
Deoris, Khamptis, Singphos and other communities are today dependent on the security
forces to ensure that they do not kill each other or burn down each other’s houses.
Enough post-mortem has been done on the government’s immature decisions but bloody
protest of Oct 23 could have been avoided had the Committee constituted by the government
taken a little more pain to study the mood of the people.
The Committee obviously did not give much thought about the popular mood while it
took trip to two districts on helicopters.
Citizens were not informed about the decision to grant PRC. It was the students
that informed the media and the citizens about the decision of the committee.
Though many of us might have agreed that non indigenous communities do deserve a
certain kind of privilege, the way the government slapped the biased decision of
granting PRC to people of just two districts made us rethink.
Hurriedly, the government withdrew the decision to grant PRC after the students took
to the streets.
A cruel joke was played on APST and Non APST communities alike. The consequences
are for all to see.
However, the saddest thing is that instead of taking the course of the law or confronting
the government, aggrieved non APST communities decided to take their anger out on
the native community.
There is absolutely no justification to the violence that Namsai and other areas
witnessed on Saturday. Those responsible, including the government officers who
miserably failed to ensure the safety and well-being must be taken to task at the
None in Lohit, irrespective of who they are, has gained anything and the violent
outburst has only managed to divide the people.
Though the wounds are fresh and anger deep rooted, it is on the citizens to pull
together. At the end of the day, inevitably the communities will have to live together.
We have to make a start somewhere to bridge the gap and give a chance to peace and
harmony. There is no other way.
On the other hand, the veil of secrecy that the government of Arunachal puts around
itself is not seen anywhere else in the country. The laughable thing is most of its
decisions are blurred and myopic. Decisions are taken and dropped at the whims and
fancies unmindful of consequences.
Its about time the irresponsible rotten spoilt sixty members of legislative assembly
and lazy, scared and yes sir-madam babus give a thought to the welfare people of
the state. Yours truly say no more, because the fact remains that people have gone
on the streets to register their demands and protest. The media houses did not do
a paid photo shoot here.
Heat, debate and the fan
Amidst unlimited rounds of red tea and tamul-paan, discussions on hydro power project,
PRC and PDS invariably take the centre stage at Pasighat. The discussions are so
heated and widespread, it’s almost impossible to escape. Everyone seems to have an
opinion and something to share on the issues.
The discussion on PDS and PRC, most of them said was not for print. Sometimes, even
family members make it a point to remind that some conversations are off the record.
That’s the flip side of being in journalism!
But on hydro power, they were ready to be quoted.
Yours truly could sense that people are deeply divided on hydro power issue. Though
there seems to be consensus that citizens need power, there are different take on
the how big it should be.
Some want, some are downright opposed to it while most tread the middle path and
says that it would be alright to have projects that could cater to the need of the
people without displacement.
It is unlikely that they would ever come to a conclusion that is acceptable to all
but yours truly felt that there should be more room for discussion and people should
be the ultimate authority to take a decision. It should be left on them to decide
whether they want to have thousand megawatt or micro projects. But is there any space
for people’s participation and inputs?
As the heated debate continues, Pasighat, the oldest town in the state is set to
celebrate its hundredth year starting from Jan 14 next year.
But as one get into the town, the extremely bad roads conditions greet you. The only
reason that stops one from swearing out loud is the smiling posters of Toko Teji,
the wonder boy who managed to put our state in the map of Indian television!
As one reaches home fuming and switch on the fan, it refuses to move! Apparently,
there has been no power supply for a long time.
Aunt promptly hands over a fan (meyap) made of bamboo. One can’t help but smile looking
at the forever popular meyaps that’s an integral part of lives of this town.
With unbearable heat reaching its peak, yours truly could not take it anymore and
called up the power department. Before the person at the other hand puts the phone
down, he announces it’s a Saturday.
So? Allegedly it’s a maintenance day! With no power supply in most part of the town
for four days straight, it sounded like a serious joke.
While yours truly gets on to a tirade on how seriously some people take their jobs,
her buddy comes up with a helpful suggestion that “people who needs constant power
supply should not write against hydro projects”!!
Before the sentence is complete, someone says, “that’s why we don’t complain”!!!
That’s the paradox.
While yours truly sit down with a list of complaints at bad facilities, her uncle
informs that roads will be ready on time for the hundredth year celebrations. There
is no sign whatsoever of any work being undertaken. Call it Suresh Kalmadi effect!
How ironical that we have to wait for a certain time to access basic facilities like
good roads and power supply.
As they sing “Munni badnam hui”
As someone said everyday is a surprise. Some pleasant and some very unpleasant. But
it’s a surprise! The other day while on way back home past midnight, we ran into
a group of vivacious boys. They were unloading some stuff from a truck, which they
said was for construction of puja pandals.
The festive season is here at least in Capital region. Every neighbourhood in town
is gearing up to celebrate the festival of the Hindus.
Like elsewhere, the festival is infectious and almost everyone is engrossed in preparing
for the festivities. Though the pandals have come up at all places including right
in the middle of the highway, no one seems to mind. That infectious is the festival.
Most private schools have gone on midsession holidays. Eleven year old Lobsang Wangmu
and four year old Milli Angel and her sister seven year old Ohana are the lucky ones
who would make the most of the holiday period. Apart from catching up with their
home works and mental mathematics classes, they look forward to taking a dip at the
newly inaugurated swimming pool!
In absence of any recreational facilities, a swimming pool, at least in the capital
Region, is best what the grown up people of this state can offer to these young ones.
While yours truly listens to their list of dos and don’ts, mental mathematics sounds
scary enough to mar the festive season!
For many of us, festive season means some break from mundane office work while for
majority, at least going by the trends, means getting in touch, in their own ways
with the numerous gods and goddess.
Even as we race to be a superpower, India is known world over for the highest number
of holidays, designated and restricted. And this state would beat all the existing
records. Every month, we seem to have some kind of holiday, not to talk about forced
holidays like bandhs. Lazy that we are, we welcome them all. Since we don’t seem
to be doing anything productive for the public at large, least we can do is save
on some electricity!
Well, coming back to the festive season, it would not be an exaggeration to compare
the enthusiasm of people of this state to that of Kolkata. We might not get the puja
offers and discounts, but none the less, the festive season engages us all. Call
it acculturation. No matter what we call it, there is no beating the fact that irrespective
of our religious or tribe identity, we all are drawn to the season in some way or
While we play “Munni badnam hui darling tere liye” to the poor gods and goddess,
yours truly feels that its about time we put some restriction on the noise blaring
at all odd hours and ensure that the idols are not dumped to the already polluted
rivers and streams of the town.
Gods and goddess will forgive the lesser mortals like us, dressed in our best costume
singing “yeh paisa bolta hain” and “munni badnam hui dasling tere liye” but we must
have some respect for our rivers and mountains. Mighty they are, nonetheless, they
would not be able to take the load of the dirt, we mortals throw at them so unmindfully.
Maybe we should make a start by making pandal with bamboos and other local products
that’s environment friendly and centrally organize the festival.
Let the citizens decide
It was interesting to note that the novel “Such A Long Journey” by Rohinton Mistry
was dropped from the
Mumbai University curriculum after the Youth Wing of the Shiv Sena objected to the
author’s uncomplimentary observation about the party which is not known for anything
It is depressing to note that University succumbed to political pressure and did
not take much time to strike it off the list. The ridiculous stand did not stop there.
University apparently dropped it from the list because there were no takers! Timing
though was lost on none.
But perhaps, this is true in almost all the universities where politics play a major
role and render the very Institution spineless. When universities cannot stand up
for itself and its well being and become tool for politicians to carry out their
unimaginative and short sighted strategies, it is well understood what happens elsewhere.
Such a long journey was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1991 and is worth a read.
It is worth a read not because of its take on Shiv Sena but because of the conversational
style of narrative laced with humour that is typically Parsi, one of the rare races
that are capable of laughing at themselves.
As yours truly found herself rummaging the bookshelf for the long lost copy of Such
A long Journey, it was not lost on her that we live in a society which is intolerant,
incapacitated and not used to differing voices. Invariably, not to be left out, we
end up being party to those who are in power or influential. We are so terrified
that we don’t even want to write letters to newspapers with our names and addresses.
We know what will happen to us if we ever write anything against the government and
bosses at offices with our real names plastered all over.
Among many incidences, Yours truly remembers one particular incident when a young
citizen was forced to stop writing letters to this daily after the president of a
major political party expressed his displeasure at a press conference and announced
it to the dumb founded media people that efforts are on to track down the young citizen.
The voice was muffled forever.
Even today, people ask why letters without names are entertained in this newspaper.
When citizens are targeted for expressing their views, it is only pertinent that
they come up with pseudonyms. This is the tragedy of a society we live in. A society,
which once boasted of vibrant village democracy where only those guilty were punished.
Today, one could be at the receiving end for expressing views which is not in conformity
with voices of the high, mighty and influential.
But does it mean we stop writing or expressing our views? Well, Yours Truly will
take the easy route and say let the citizens decide. The common citizens might not
have a quick fix solution to all the ills but they do have a say and they know how
to separate facts from fiction. That matters.
People and their agenda
The centre’s detour on Vedanta’s bauxite mining project in tribal inhabited Niyamgiri
Hills in Orissa comes at a time when centre and state governments are mercilessly
pushing developmental agendas undermining environmental concerns.
The centre’s decision came after Forest Advisory Committee submitted the NC Saxena
report which cited violations of environment clearance given to Orissa Mining Corporation
in 2008 including non-compliance with the provisions of the Forest Rights Act.
As we debate whether centre’s stand on Vedanta project is a sign of environmental
consciousness or political agenda, none the less it has come as a big relief for
indigenous communities fighting to save their land from those agencies, including
state governments, for whom revenue generation is top on the agenda.
However the center’s decision on Vedanta, though it managed to bring a certain Rahul
Gandhi to the site who glorified the decision, is no sign that it would go slow on
power projects among others in Arunachal.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has already said that power projects will go ahead
in Arunachal and that there was no room for no dams/projects debate.
On the other hand, even as we concluded that Arunachal Pradesh Package of Roads and
Highways was for the people of the state, as we look deeper into the road projects,
it is rather ensuring a smooth drive for power projects in the state. In a recent
meeting on road projects in North East where Arunachal figured prominently, the ministry
exclusively talked about linking those areas in Arunachal with roads which had a
But since we are not the questioning kinds, the ministry will have its way. It does
not make sense to the centre or the state government where the road comes up as long
as it leads to a power project.
No one really bothers if the people from nearest village will have to walk for some
kilometers to cover the distance from their village to the highway, located somewhere
in the middle of nowhere.
Talking of violations of environment laws, as state government carry out projects,
it does not make much sense either.
Violation of Forest Laws in the state is rampant given the fact that almost all road
projects comes within the designated Forest land. But then when the Recognition of
Forest Rights Act, has not been implemented properly in the state, it is just matter
of time that these projects will come up without any meaningful resistance.
As centre and state takes a step forward on developmental activities in the state,
someone called up yours truly to inform about villagers felling trees so that they
could avail forestation schemes from the centre! This obviously was carried out
in full consultation with the district administration!
Living a monitored life
Imagine living in a state where we need a third party to check and monitor corruption!
For a state dependent on tax payer’s money for every possible need, it’s no mean
Corruption has reached such a sickening level that state government has to keep aside
.5% from total project cost to ensure that projects are implemented.
The state government on Sept 2 made it public that based on consolidated Monitoring
report submitted by North East Development Finance Corporation Ltd. (NEDFi) for East
Siang district for SPA funds 2008-09 suspended BDO Mebo for alleged embezzlement
If records are not twisted, the BDO Mebo officially finds his name written in the
record books as the first victim of the monitoring system.
Many more will find its name in the records book soon if the reports are read carefully
by the government. But given our short memory and shorter vision and selective performance
when dealing with cases of corruption, it is unlikely we would see many more names.
On the other hand, the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India for
the year 2009 is another predictable yet engaging copy to read. If one has the time
to read 176-page report, one would seriously want another third party monitoring
If reports of the departmental performance are put in, yours truly would be accused
of being repetitive. Added burden would be unlimited abusive phone calls, threats
and finally tempting offers! Fortunately or unfortunately the Report is a public
document hence the hands at this side of the table are tied!
Well, the lexicon is all too similar year after year. Embezzlement of funds, doubtful
payment, wasteful expenditure, undue benefit to the suppliers, poor planning, violations
of guidelines, and the list goes on.
Yours truly is just grateful that we don’t have to face taxpayers directly.
It would be too humiliating a time if at all a system comes when taxpayers demand
a direct explanation from us how their hard earned money is being spent. We would
not know where to look leave alone explain.
One must appreciate the patience of the tax payers and centre for letting us get
away with such daring misdemeanor!
Democracy it is!
Given the fact that our state had vibrant village democracy till it was diluted by
Panchayat Raj system and politically appointed Gaon Burah, sometimes it’s surprising
that we don’t have any space for dialogue and discussion.
It’s a sad reflection on our society but one thing that’s conspicuously missing in
our state is debate and discussion.
We always seem to arrive at a conclusion without ever looking for a way out through
discussion or a consensus.
The decision to give permanent residential certificate to communities from outside
the state is one glaring example. The mess could have been avoided had the government
tried to inform beforehand of its intention to give PRC. Citizens do understand
that we elected them to take decisions on our part but at the same time we expect
that they will not take such sweeping decisions where citizens are forced to ask
questions. Not that anyone will actually listen. Worse part is there is not even
a space for them to ask questions.
Since there is lack of space, citizens do come up with their own way of protest.
One example is bandh. In most cases, organisations call a bandh when they want to
make a point, not necessary valid. Reasons for calling bandh vary. Some want to announce
their arrival, which most of the time will begin and end with the space they get
in newspapers while at few times, there are genuine points.
No matter whatever the reasons citizens gleefully play along.
Whether we agree or not with the cause, at least the residents of Capital Region
never misses a chance to enjoy the breaks the recurring bandh brings along.
The bandh call the other day by some unknown organisations demanding the resignation
of Chief Minister managed to shut down the Capital Region. Was the total shut down
any endorsement of the demand or was it an indicator of our total lack of concern
and utter laziness?
No matter what ever may have been the reason, it was just another example that we
don’t have a faculty that’s capable of questioning. The situation is compounded by
lack of debate and discussion.
Yours truly recall two incidences.
A few years back, a group of scholars of repute were stranded in Gohpur because some
of us refused to let them inside Arunachal because we did not agree with what one
of the scholars had to say in a private email on Inner Line Permit. The private mail
was thoroughly circulated and that was the end of it. The seminar never happened.
One more incident happened in Assam where representatives from Arunachal were invited
for a regional consultation. Among the invitees were Chakma refugees. Some members
who were part of Arunachal delegation walked out when the Chakma refugee representative
started speaking. This time platform was the problem. It was beyond our dignity
to share the same platform as the refugees.
Today with grant of PRC to non APST, there is a question mark on relevance of ILP.
Refugees have found their names in the electoral list. To borrow a line, today when
a Chakma refugee sneezes, their lobby around the world catches a cold. So much so
that India will sit up and prescribe a medication. Unlike us, the refugee community
has been successful in sharing what ails them.
Our response would be a state wide bandh. Predictable that will be called a democratic
protest! Democracy it is!
(4. Aug. 2010)
The opt repeated Govt recipe
Even as the state awaits justice for Late Jumchi (Tachi) Nguso who died at the hands
of State Police on July 15, there is yet another report of police brutality that
resulted in a death. This time it was Miti Mepo, a father of four children who died
after being given the infamous Police treatment last night at Roing.
Allegedly, he was beaten up so bad by the IRBn personnel that he died within half
an hour after he was brought to the hospital.
The citizens took on from there. Frustration, anger and despair drove the people
to take out their anger at public property.
Time and again when the justice fails, it is only matter of time people takes law
into their hands because they know unless they use force nothing tangible is going
to come out. Be warned that this is just the beginning.
The People First government and its Home Ministry need to answer to its citizens.
It needs to look beyond opt repeated recipe of announcing compensatory money, a govt
job for the victim’s family and suspension of the erring personnel in uniform and
enquiries that takes ages to complete. The recipe so often used by the government
to legitimise these heartbreaking deaths is almost laughable and it borders on absolute
Going by the precedence, it looks like government is contemplating to create a department
that would exclusively dish out compensatory money for those at the receiving ends
of the Police brutality.
Is the government daring its own citizens or are they on a mission to test the patience
of the people?
IRBn has for long been associated with violence. These young boys who are barely
out of their teens instead of being upholders of law have been in news for a long
time for taking law into their hands.
Intriguingly the government has legitimised the brutal actions of these mindless
young boys by refusing to do anything substantial. It’s about time, government take
control of these boys before citizens start acting.
And going by the Naharlagun and Roing incidents, it’s only a matter of time, citizens
decide for themselves what they want to do to ensure public safety. Gone are the
days, when people accepted whatever they were given.
(18. Aug 2010)
“Should you sit upon a cloud you would not see the boundary line between one country
and another, nor the boundary stone between a farm and a farm. It is a pity you cannot
sit upon a cloud, wrote Khalil Gibran.
Allegedly, 1951 one man Boundary Commission demarcated the Assam-NEFA border sitting
upon a patch of cloud. It sounds more fiction than fact, but the revered Gopinath
Bordoloi, according to the grapevine sat down in his room with a couple of government
officials, armed with a map of Northeast demarcated the boundary of Assam and NEFA
based on plains and hills. Thus the fate was sealed.
On 10 February 2006 the Supreme Court granted three weeks to the Centre to decide
whether to set up a Boundary Commission to resolve the boundary dispute among Assam,
Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
The Commission was set up. Nothing much has happened over these years because the
states refuse to agree to a point. It is unlikely that the hearing scheduled for
August 23 in Arunachal by Local Boundary Commission constituted by Supreme Court
would come up with anything substantial. What has so far happened is hearing and
objection. The façade will continue while the people residing at border continue
to bear the brunt of encroachment after encroachment.
But Supreme Court constituted Commission has come as blessing in disguise for our
politicians. Whenever an encroachment happens at Gumto, Likabali, Shimhokho or Kamkuh
Russa, Kimin, we are promptly reminded that states should maintain status quo.
To add to the woes of the citizens residing in border areas, border skirmish, which
often results in violence among the NE states is not a big enough problem to grab
the attention of the centre. The lack of concern is for all to see.
As if to validate the indifference of the centre, respective governments in Arunachal
have been rather silent when it comes to borders. To take an example, in some portions
of West Siang, people pay land revenue for their agriculture land to Assam government.
Interestingly these phenomena started much after the Arunachal attained an entity
of its own.
Apart from few mentions here and there, border areas and the people living there
hardly figures in the schemes of things. Heeding to public outcry, Border Management
Cell was created. But that was it. The department in an effort to maintain status
quo seems to have forgotten why it was created at the first place. While the people
living along the border fight for their land and property, it is about time government
takes the issue seriously. A onetime reinforcement is not a solution. It must come
up with a tangible solution even if it means give and take. Or else everyone at
the helms of affairs might as well give up and let the people at the border decide
how they want to take forward the issue.
But the fact remains that we are not sitting upon a cloud and there are boundaries
that need be fenced properly.
(27. Aug .2010)
The defining moment to PDS in state
The arrest of former chief minister Gegong Apang in
PDS scam is a watershed in the contemporary political history of Arunachal.
There is a lot of talk on the streets regarding the timing of the arrest, the manner
in which it was carried out and even about possible motives behind the overdramatized
unfolding of events.
As due respect extended to a senior statesman, was the sanctity of the process of
justice upheld, was it law of the land that was followed or the law of the landed
few? These are questions which perhaps time and the court will answer.
The manner in which arrest was done left a lot of bad taste in the mouth. The way
it was executed made Bollywood plots and sensationalist news channels look unintelligent.
To see this happening in an honour-bound tribal value system was hard to swallow-
after all age does need to command respect.
If we step back and consider the core issues in the entire episode somethings remains
unexplained. Why does a PIL filed in 2004 regarding the PDS in the state of Arunachal
raise its head only in fits and starts and that too in well timed moments? That
But the timing of the arrest could not have been more perfect and it deserves accolades
as it managed to divert the attention from some issues. The media in the state had
a field day as the events unfolded. What more, the Assam based media houses so far
busy fuelling tension in Assam and Arunachal on boundary issue too was distracted.
Devoid of media intrusion, at least people along the boundary are talking peace!
On the other hand, Apang was to meet the Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Aug 25. The
meeting was seen important by Congress watchers given the fact that Congress party
elections are just around the corner.
This is not the first time that the Congress party has seen such a crisis prior to
party elections in the state.
Perhaps a mere coincidence but in Dec 2007, Wangcha Rajkumar, a contender to the
party leadership in the state was mercilessly killed.
The arrest also has brought to the fore many questions regarding the functioning
of PDS in the state.
Even though the government would like to believe that PDS have been overhauled in
the state, citizens continue to bear the brunt because of poor delivery system. The
Food Corporation of India is not too enthusiastic at taking over the PDS in the state
even at the request of the government. As the drama continues people are at the receiving
Even as FCI and state government figure out what to do with PDS, Agriculture Minister
Sharad Pawar informed the Parliament that delivery is off track. Apart from poor
delivery of rice and other items in the state, there has been almost 100% diversion
The centre has threatened to withdraw allocation of wheat and has raised serious
question mark on the delivery system. These are larger issues that the government
needs to take in account if it is serious about PDS in the state.
Even though we are made to believe that state does not have a hand in arrest of Apang,
arresting him obviously is not the final solution to the problems confronting the
PDS in the state. One could just hope that the arrest is a catalyst to book all the
guilty as well as rectifying the crisis that continue to hit PDS in Arunachal.
Badge of honour
Anyone who has worked in media in Arunachal would vouch that after a point, nothing
rattles us. We have faced it all. Intimidations, law suits, threats of law suits,
physical and verbal abuses, which are often on a daily basis, are nothing new. We
take it as professional hazards and get back to work. Sometimes the causes of these
threats are so ridiculous, we often discuss it among the fraternity and have a laugh
But there are times when it not only amuses but shock us too. The other day, a gentleman
walked into this office. He pulled a chair and sat down very comfortably. Before
I could ask what it was, he says, “I met you at the Police Station”.
Some two years, we had indeed visited the Itanagar Police Station when an uncle was
killed in a road accident at Bank Tinali. Some citizens had come forward and helped
us during those difficult times. I presumed he was one of them.
But his next sentence took us by surprise. “I am out on bail and you know what it
means” he said.
Truly at a loss of word, I asked him if there was anything we could do. As he took
out a copy of previous issue of the daily, his chilling response was “I could go
back to jail again if you don’t stop publishing this”. He walked out as unceremoniously
as he had walked in.
Here was a man flaunting his trips to jail as a badge of honour!
Apart from the fact that he was a coward, this despicable act made me wonder where
we have come as a society. It’s a reflection on our society which has no respect
whatsoever for the laid down rules and our deafening silence when things go wrong.
As citizens, we don’t have the courage to stand up when things go wrong. Except for
some villages across the state where traditional village councils still have a say
which ensure that citizens not only follow the dictate but strictly abide by it for
the common good, in urban areas individuals often call the shots. Who cares what
happens to the society as long as you have the right connections, muscle power, political
interference and money.
When we should be bending down and still have a say, we crawl. End of the story.
Look at Itanagar-Naharlagun. After so much of hullabaloo by the media, we got the
zebra crossings. But drivers will not stop at the designated zebra crossings even
if there are tens of pedestrians wanting to cross. If there is an accident, we
refuse to go the police stations or insurance company. We would rather ensure that
unlucky one not only dish out money as compensation but pay for mending the car too.
Apart from what happens within the demarcated roads, that look more like river banks,
it is likely that you would end up in someone’s house, once you step off the road.
That’s the beauty of this city. And they say widening of roads, beatification of
the city and action against illegal encroachment is on. But how would one possible
take action when the entire areas have been encroached upon and converted into one
shapeless concrete jungle? Responsible ones are the high and mighty government officials,
politicians and moneyed ones. Almost all the government quarters have been encroached
upon. Even the spaces at ministerial bungalows are not spared. Forget about responsibility
towards the state and Capital Region, going by the records, they are busy being responsible
to their greed and upkeep of their families. That’s a reflection on our society.
We have very conveniently kicked our tribal habit of self righteousness. Instead
of just harping about our tribal identity, where justice was the name of the game,
except in few cases, it’s about time we decide as a society what we really need.
Arunachal Pradesh Police versus the citizens
Unlike other places in North East where Police and Army personnel are epitome of
everything that can possibly go wrong in a civil society, in Arunachal they commanded
some kind of respect. But that came crumbling down on July 15 when APST Bus conductor
Jumchi (Tachi) Nguso died a death no one deserved.
If we believe the media reports, the Police categorically said that he jumped into
the car with an intention to commit suicide. Yours truly might sound as ridiculous
as the Police but anyone in their sane or insane minds would choose other ways of
committing suicide rather than walk on a road specifically targeting a vehicle belonging
to Chief Minister’s Security cell to come hit them.
Speculation apart, the fact remains that Nguso was denied medical attention for two
long hours. Even in bad road conditions, BTM Hospital and Niba Clinic is mere three
minutes drive from where he was hit by the vehicle. The Naharlagun General Hospital
is mere ten minutes drive. Rather than medical attention, the officer took him to
Police station setting a perfect bad example of inhuman treatment and violation of
very basic human right.
We would never know what exactly happened at the Police station unless the Police
come forward which is almost next to impossible. Today honesty is not something we
associate with the law keepers.
Despite SIT, Magisterial and independent enquiries, it is unlikely that we would
ever get the details of what happened in the last hours of Late Nguso’s life.
The public outcry after Nguos’s death was unprecedented. Despite our common Arunachalee
heritage, hardly have we come forward for a common goal. But on July 15, led by students,
irrespective of their affiliations, tribal and non tribal came out in open against
Police. This should be a message for the Arunachal Pradesh Police. When law keepers
do not respect their profession and wear their uniform with pride and responsibility,
citizens will not go out of their way to tolerate them. There may be good men and
women out there in uniform but when the department is subjected to such public humiliation,
something must be terribly wrong.
A couple of months back, the Home Minister Tako Dabi had Arunachalees squirm in acute
embarrassment when he proudly announced on a prime TV channel that it was okay for
Arunachal Police Personnel to have a drink or two while on duty.
Later on the Minister went on to become a hero when he campaigned for the cause of
eunuchs by writing to the Home Ministry that they be included in Police forces.
Yours truly would hope that he campaign for an Arunachal where Police takes an injured
to a hospital and where common citizens could walk on the road whenever they want
to, devoid of any fear and intimidation.
What ails APPSC?
Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Commission must be the only Commission in the entire
country, which is dictated by the aspiring civil servants, other job seekers and
court verdicts. Going by the records, it would be a better option to let candidates,
job seekers and Court search the talents for the time being. In the meantime, Commission
could introspect what stops them from learning from past mistake or take lessons
on how to improve its functioning.
A Constitutional body constituted with effect from 1st April 1988 under Article-315
of the Constitution of India vide Notification OM-15/88 dated 29th March 1988, the
Commission advice the Government of Arunachal Pradesh on all matters relating to
state civil services and publish notifications inviting applications for selection
to various posts as per the requisitions of the appointing authorities, conduct written
tests and interview...strictly based on their merit and observing the rules of reservation
as and when vacancies are reported, says the Commission website.
Yours truly wonders how a Commission so inapt in handling its own affairs can possibly
advice the govt.
The latest in the strings of inappropriate handling by the Commission was rejection
of candidates 27 after they cleared the Prelims of APPSC-2009 Examination.
Six of those who knocked the court of Justice are being allowed to sit in the exams
while the fate of 21 candidates is not known.
How would one possibly justify such irresponsible actions of a Constitutional body?
It is not only a mockery of the Commission itself but tantamount to intentionally
ruining careers of many youngsters of the state.
Due to space constraint and lethargy to rummage through the archives, yours truly
would restrict to 2009 APPSCCE.
Initially, 1735 candidates were rejected to sit for the prestigious exams for reasons
best known to the Commission but they were allowed to sit as pressure from outside
the Commission mounted.
Heeding to some more advice from outside, the Commission took another extraordinary
step. It extended the dates for Mains from May 31 to June 8.
As if it was not enough, the Commission debarred 27 candidates after they crossed
their prelims only to be reprimanded by the Itanagar Division of Gauhati High court
for having separate sets of rules.
Surprising of all is the silence of the government. Maybe instead of waiting for
the advice of the Commission, it’s about time the government remind the Commission
that trips to Court and being dictated by outside force is not part of the job.
The Commission since its constitution in 1988 has a history of committing blunders
when there should be no place even for minor mistakes.
It is about time Commission sets its house in order.
When People first govt looks the other way
The unmindful firing and lathi charge on innocent villagers protesting takeover of
their ancestral home land, once again brings to the fore the debate on people’s right
versus government’s ideas on developments.
The horrendous firing and lathi charge at villagers of Pongging who do not want a
2700 MW power project in their area is not only a shame on the state but a big question
mark on the Congress government.
The People’s First Government did not think twice before allowing the CRPF to beat
up, throw tear gas and fire on air to disburse the citizens who do not want their
resources taken away.
Otherwise how would one possibly explain the lathi charge and firing?
The East Siang district administration had already warned that it would take action
if anyone dare take law into their hands. However, it did not explain what it exactly
meant by taking law into hand. If protest by hundreds of men and women against a
power project means taking law into their hands, the Administration handled it with
apt and accuracy never seen anywhere else in the state.
There has been no debate so far on Hydro power projects in the state. Successive
governments in the state just made sure that MOAs and MOUs were and are signed to
take the state out of its present penury.
Once the projects are inked, it’s on the power developers to take it forward. Coercion
in the name of development follows. Roads, schools, hospitals and financial help
Unfortunately, not all villagers buy it. However going by the use of force currently
being applied, villagers might ultimately have to make away. The cries of human rights
violation do not make sense when powerful corporate houses are backed by the state.
One instance is 3000 MW Dibang project. The citizens stopped at least ten public
hearings but it did not stop the NHPC from going ahead with the project. Though the
construction is yet to take off, the so called social corporate responsibility is
in full swing.
The 2700 MW project has been in news for quite some time for all the wrong reasons.
First undertaken by the NHPC, in the course of time, Government of Arunachal Pradesh
decided to execute the project through private developers and allocated it to M/s
Jaiprakash Associates Ltd. vide Memorandum of Agreement dated 22.02.2006 on Build,
Own, Operate and Transfer basis for forty years after its commissioning.
This was not the end the Jaiprakash Associates Ltd pushed its way through.
It was only after the intervention of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, the
proposed public hearing was called off by Arunachal Pradesh State Pollution Control
Board as the scope was raised clandestinely from 2205 to 2700 MW.
According to information available on government websites, the project spread across
three Siang district will directly affect 32 villages due to the various components
like dam, colony, camp areas, and submergence. Some of the villages set to be affected
are Bodak, Ayeng, Rengging, Rottung, Babuk, Kebang (Radha), Pangin, Pangin H.Q,
Sissen, Pangi, Komsing(Karo), Komsing(Kumku), Yeksi, Lokpeng, Tarak, Koreng, Boleng,
Lileng, Rengo, Parong, Jeru, Pongging, Silli, Pessing, Biri, Jomlo Mongku, Jomlo
Mobuk, Pangkeng, Logum Jini.
According to preliminary studies, total population of affected villages is 12776
and nearly 15000 are expected to come from the outside of region, which is more than
that of affected villages.
In such a situation, it’s just a matter of time people starts questioning.
Instead of resorting to use of force and bulldozing its way, government should at
least make an effort to educate and seek consensus.
But it’s unlikely, given the fact that government is yet to come out with any sort
of clarification on whole lathi charge and firing incident at Pongging. People first
Rono Hills: the fight for supremacy
Nestled in beautiful Rono Hills, for more than two decades, the Rajiv Gandhi University
has churned out many individuals who are assets of the state. But the same University
today finds itself at the centre of controversy and is synonymous with violence.
We would have expected that one of the reputed centres of higher learning in the
whole of Northeast would teach us lesson or two on how to take the state and the
region forward. But sadly it looks like we have to wait for some more time before
the University realizes the huge positive role it can play.
So far, it chooses to be a battle ground of sorts ignoring the facts that thousand
of career are at stake and funds for development of the institution are freezing.
All this is happening because the head of the university and students cannot sit
down and talk. So estranged is the relation they would rather talk it through the
media. This despite the fact that all of them stay at the same tiny campus!
Tragedy struck the University when the Registrar Dr Deepak Pandey committed suicide.
The Police continue to investigate the case, but perhaps we will never know what
actually led to Dr Pandey’s suicide, notwithstanding the three suicides notes.
Even before University could gather itself from the tragedy, came the shameful
event of manhandling of the Vice Chancellor right in front of the whole University.
If Police records are correct, those people who came and assaulted the Vice Chancellor
in the campus were outsiders. The audacity is such.
Some weeks later, the students decided to go on rampage. The police made its entry
after the damages were done, despite the fact that agitated students were on a 48
Citizens would have really liked to see democratic ways of protests and an amicable
solution for the sake of the institution and the state. Instead University was and
is on a warpath. Students and authorities would rather fight it out in open for everyone
to see as if the university was a personal fiefdom. Talking it out or taking the
course of the law does not seem to be an option.
But than future leaders of the state and learned teachers does not seem to be too
bothered about the well being of the University.
Today the Institution which was set with much hope has been reduced to a non entity
as individuals fight for supremacy.
Let them have the last words
More than anyone else, Arunachalees long to be self reliant. We all feel that it’s
about time instead of depending on centre for all our needs; we exploit resources
available with us. Though there are many options, we look at power projects in the
state as ultimate savior to get us out of our financial miseries.
After all, we are sitting on power potential worth more than 50,000 MW!
Now, the debate is not whether we should harness power potential of the state. The
debate is how big. But we would hear none of it. As long as we are self reliant,
forget about seismological threats, displacements of indigenous communities, submergence
of forest and community land. We will dismiss all these as unfounded fear! We would
dub whoever raises any question on the future of state vis-à-vis power projects,
as Anti Arunachal. Chances are we might be booked under National Security Act for
daring to say that we don’t need such big projects generating 3000-4000 MW.
Cajoling and coercion are generously used where ever there is word of protest against
these projects. The project proponents would do anything to ensure that it’s a smooth
sailing. Citizens would recall that the Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh
who also held the Ministry of environment and Forest laid the foundation stone of
3000 MW Dibang project even before it got the environmental clearance from his own
ministry. Protests by students and people of Lower Dibang Valley against the project
were systematically ignored.
Going by records, Environmental clearances and other technicalities all are farcical.
The powerful power lobby has the ultimate say. If they take fancy to a particular
river, a project will come up. It’s as simple as that.
Most of us are not very concerned about these power projects. It is not because we
don’t care but because we don’t know what is happening. By the time, we know, it
is time for public hearings. We know what happens at these hearings. Promises of
compensation for lost forest, jobs opportunities, contract works, roads and civic
amenities. End of story. For a villager who is deprived of even basic amenities,
such allurements are hard to resist. A member of family employed as grade D staff
or a small time contractor supplying boulders is enough.
Of the 104 proposed hydro projects, several of them are Run-of the-River, which the
government says will have less submergence of land and displacement. Citizens would
like to be further enlightened on these projects as experiences have shown that these
have same effects as the projects with big reservoirs and dams.
Environmentalists have already spelt out the cascading effects these projects will
have on Arunachal and Assam. But these concerns have been brushed aside as handiwork
of few with vested interest.
We don’t have to get into a debate on whether power projects with dams or run of
the river are good or bad for the state. But there are few facts we can’t ignore.
The Ranganadi project is testimony. Those living on the downstream know what is to
live in constant fear. River goes dry in winters while the summers spell trouble
because of floods and landslide. Aquatic life has vanished; the land around the
area is not as fertile as it used to be. Those responsible for Ranganadi hydro power
had even issued a circular stating that it is not responsible for eventualities after
the release of water from the dam!
An average citizen, yours truly would blame global warming if anything goes wrong.
One thing that caught the attention of those questioning power projects in the state
was the recent alarming statement of Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu dubbing those opposed
to power project as anti Arunachal.
Whether one likes it or not, in a democratic set up like ours, it is natural that
people will express themselves if things are not moving the way it should. More than
anyone he should know better. After all he is the same man who came to power with
promises of transparency and people’s first policy. One just wishes that people have
the last say.
Smiles to hope for
ITANAGAR, Feb 19: Remember Pinki? The 8 year-old girl from a small village in UP
called Rampur Dhavaia, who was the subject of the Oscar winning documentary "Smile
Pinki" and was at the award ceremony. Born with a cleft lip and palate, Pinki Sonkar
was condemned to isolation and suffering, taunted and tormented.
Her life was magically transformed after a surgery made possible by ‘Smile Train’-
the world’s leading charitable organization dedicated to helping people with cleft
lip and palate. With thousands of partners and programs in 76 of the world's poorest
countries, the organisation’s mission is to help the more than 4.7 million children
in developing countries who are suffering with unrepaired clefts. As part of their
initiative, they provide free cleft surgery to children from poor families that give
children not just a new smile, but also a new life. Now in its tenth year, The Smile
Train will help its 500,000th child this year.
Though not all are lucky to go Hollywood, such success stories are found even in
Arunachal, thanks to the Smile Train's reach in the state.
Two doctors read the stories about the Train and wondered if they could do anything
to help the many children even in our state who are ostracized because of this deformity.
Dr Moji Jini and Dr Nirmali Taba approached the organization and soon they were onboard.
The Niba Smile Project under Niba Hospital in Papu Nalah came up in 2008. So far
116 people, including people from Upper Assam, with cleft lip and palate have been
successfully operated free of cost. The surgery takes less than two hours on an average
and a patient is discharged after three days. For stitch removal they have to report
back after seven days and again after a month for post-operative check ups. Blessed
with a new life, many however do not bother to come back for post- operative check
Dr Taba shares that letters were sent across to DMOs all over the state to refer
cases of cleft lip and palate so that people with such problems avail a chance to
get the corrective surgery free of cost- which also includes the cost of medicines,
operations and stay at the hospital.
A parent whose daughter was born with the problem could not hide her emotions after
she saw the transformation. “God gave me a daughter who was born imperfect. But saviours
on earth have given her a perfect life” she shares.
In the meantime, the doctors at Niba wait for more Pinkis and more smiles to share.
Have we given up on Tirap ?
The arrest of top NSCN (IM) cadres in Tirap has once again brought to the fore some
It is painful to admit, but the fact remains that both factions of NSCN calls the
shots in Tirap. It interferes at every level of governance. No government scheme
takes off without writing off a sizeable chunk to these organizations. Government
staffer part away with a portion of their hard-earned salary every year end.
Unfortunately, despite being aware of these facts, the government is yet to come
up with tangible roadmap for the district.
After two decades since both factions of NSCN made inroads into Tirap and Changlang,
not much have been done to address the problem.
Remarkably, Changlang managed to take control. Though insurgency remains a problem,
people of the district have been resilient. They continue to suffer but they have
not let these forces dictate their lives.
On the other hand, the situation in Tirap is precarious. Today, the state of affairs
is such that in Tirap, both factions are running a parallel government, apart from
doubling up as drug peddlers. Interestingly, the two organizations from time to time,
even serve notices to few users!
The state government in a hurry had created Department of Tirap and Changlang some
years back. But it’s for all Arunachaless to see that department does not seem to
have delivered much. The department on the other hand has become an added burden
for the state exchequer.
The schools continue to function without adequate teachers, hospitals cry for need
of doctors and medicines. What would one do when necessities are absent? Choices
are easy to make more so when lured with promises of better life once they join the
Teenagers walk across the border without a second thought. In Tirap, parents are
too scared to lodge a complaint against such missing children. They know its fighting
two forces at the same time against which they have absolutely no control.
However, unlike other states in the NE, where citizens are often at loggerheads with
Security Forces, in Tirap the scenario is different.
Though use of force by the security personnel is alleged to be widespread, most of
the people still look up to them, more so the 19th Assam Rifles.
Some 2500 personnel consisting of CRPF, Assam Rifles, Indian Army and State police
take care of one lac citizens in Tirap district. This is in stark contrast to some
five hundred personnel engaged to take care of the lives of the precious few policymakers
in the state.
The government must act. The state government instead of shifting the blame on the
centre must initiate something concrete for the welfare of the people. It needs
to rehabilitate those who have returned. A one time surrender ceremony is absolutely
no answer. Financial security should be ensured to these young men and women by
engaging them in productive activities.
Government has to chalk out a road map to deal with the extra constitutional forces
and restore peace and security to the people of the district.
Very soon, people of the state would want an explanation why teenagers just walk
across the border.
To start with, one wonders why a star performer like Ankur Garg of the Indian Administrative
Services who managed the district with super efficiency was relocated to Raj Bhavan.
A big fat smile
The other day, a man walked into the office of this daily with a big infectious smile
and a fat envelope. At a time, when people have forgotten to smile and laugh, the
smile almost called for a celebration.
With smile intact, he hands over the envelope to yours truly. Inside was a smiling
photograph of a politician with a long press release. As mental note was being made
where to place it, the gentle man handed over another fat envelope.
A little tired and irritated at the prospect of another long press release with no
substance whatsoever, yours truly opened the envelope. Dear reader, you guessed it
right. The fat envelope contained no press release or photographs.
“chai pani ke liye..aap log inta kaam karta he hamare liye” he said.
Well, predictably a long lecture on bribery and promotion of corruption followed.
The gentle man fortunately had the decency to walk out with the half-torn fat envelope.
He still had the smile on.
The incident was a shocking reminder on what happens in the name of chai-pani.
Bribery, nepotism, corruption are so deep rooted in our society that most of the
time we don’t even realise it. It is just accepted as a way of life. And it is so
effortless executed that there is no place to complain. At every level there is
“cut” ready. No one actually has to do anything drastic to get that cut. It’s all
earmarked. They say poorer are those who donates it unwittingly.
I don’t have any concrete evidence to support my claim and pray that no one actually
hauls me to the jail and court to substantiate the claims.
Let me share an interesting episode that happened at the Legislative assembly some
years back. An angry member declared, “When we make schemes, some percentage of the
fund should be earmarked to pay as bribes in Delhi and elsewhere. We all end up paying
from fund meant for particular scheme resulting in sub standard work”.
I am not sure whether his words were expunged.
Hope the New Year will usher in something productive for all of us and our beautiful
state. Yours truly just wish some infectious smile for everyone. Hopefully without
having to pay for the smile!