(23, December, 2015)

Chaos and the keys

[ Tongam Rina ]

When Governor of Arunachal Pradesh J P Rajkhowa had issued orders advancing the session of the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly from Jan 14-18, 2016 to Dec 16-18, he probably did not realize that he would not only land himself in a soup but provoke a political drama and utter chaos, never witnessed before in the state.

Because of Rajkhowa's over enthusiastic move, Arunachal had no Speaker for more than 24 hours and for couple of hours, there were two Chief Ministers! The terror of having to handle two chief ministers did not last long due to the intervention of the High Court but we know that the current CM does not have enough support.  Then again there is the issue of disqualification of 14 members. It's never been this chaotic.

During two days of uncertainty,  the State Police and administration stood composed even in the face of provocation from BJP and Congress workers. Had one lathi been lifted, there would have  been violence because both parties were waiting for the other one to start. On the other hand,  Congress leadership and their supporters could have done better than blocking the highway and slaughtering a poor animal near the Raj Bhavan after the CM was 'voted out' in a sitting held in a hotel.

The display of political immaturity and hunger for power by Congress and rebel Congress and BJP have surely gone  down in political history of this state so has the actions of the overzealous governor who seemed to have exceeded his authority.

Now, we have to wait for  Jan 4, 2016 to find out what happens next, but we do know that self- centred  elected representatives need to do better to gain our confidence again. Yours truly will reserve her comments on  not so neutral governor and those workers who bared themselves. Till the judiciary tells us what has to be done, one wonders where the  keys of Legislative Assembly gate and Hall are.

Apparently, Nabam Rebia has the keys to the gate and T N Thongdok has the keys to the assembly hall. As of now, it's suspended animation. Have a blessed Christmas!




(25, November, 2015)

Winter sun

[ Tongam Rina ]

The cool winter evening breeze is calming after bout of humid summer which was followed by heavy rains and destruction.  New paddy has already arrived and so has oranges adding to the riot of colours in the vegetable markets in the warmer parts of the state.  But one can’t stop long to admire the many colours of winter.  Like many things in life, soon one realises that even the warmth of soothing winter sun comes at a cost because of our own doing.  Gusts of dust afflict you and bring you back to reality, in case of twin Capital towns. Forever a dusty and bad construction site, this winter too, citizens are confronted by dust because of road works. PWD and its contractors only know whether it’s worth it for the citizens to bear the dusts hoping for good roads that will last a season, at least. Even an average technologically challenged person can gauge that quality of work is being compromised, even though it is pet project of govt, beleaguered it may be. But we will bear it hoping for roads worth calling road. That’s typical of us Arunachalees, hoping against hope while we annoy each other with arguments how everything should be.

Winter also is time for picnics. Every village will have a picnic by the river, taking a well deserved break from hard agricultural work. As one move to the towns, the excuse to have a picnic gets bigger, ranging from clan to tribe picnics.

Perhaps some sulk and wonder why we would want to go to a picnic inviting just the clan members when we are worried about inclusive pan Arunachal!

It’s not only time for good occasions as winter also is the time, when maximum motor vehicular as well as fire accidents will happen. The comforting winter sun makes us forget the bad roads, as speeding drivers and bikers compete with each other, feeling invincible. But then our reality is that roads are bad and we don’t have emergency medical facilities to deal with accidents.

Fire that comforts us in winter also is a cause of worry, with our houses built so compact. Most places, including towns do not have access to fire tenders. We are very much left on our archaic practices to douse the fire. Ziro,  Pasighat, Aalo and Daporijo are few towns that face major fire accidents every year. Perhaps, time has come for protective mechanism.

In capital region, even though it has access to few fire tenders, in an event of fire accidents, it gets worse as the roads are congested; our own doing and yet again, our feeling of being invincible. We have built houses in every available inch of land. It’s difficult to figure out where the road ends and houses begin.  But then the elements like earth, fire and water have minds of their own, way smarter and destructive than us.

May this winter be better for all of us, minus the dusts, bad road and fire accidents as we celebrate the season with picnics and gorge on fresh oranges from the organic orchards, sitting in sun.

As we talk about comfort of winter sun, there is hope that no one sleeps in the biting cold without a warm cover. Arunachal winter does not last long but let our hope last longer.







(21, October, 2015)

Individuals and power centers

[ Tongam Rina ]

During VC Pandey’s Governorship, the state witnessed a typical political drama, in August 2004 when the power shifted to Gegong Apang from Mukut Mithi, in a very classic Arunachalee style. Overnight MLAs changed loyalties. There were rumours of horse-trading and MLAs being kept in captive in a hotel near Itanagar. Unimaginable today, but a group of unhappy and very aggressive MLAs had landed up at the Raj Bhavan, breaking the tight security cordon. The physically weak Governor was cornered violently in full view of media persons. The act was not only disrespectful to an elderly person but the whole Institution of Raj Bhavan itself, which till than was revered by the people of Arunachal, who are naturally drawn to people and Institutions in power and position. The learned MLAs physically forced the Governor to sign a paper, while his officers, who were supposed to protect him, looked on helplessly. In the meantime, a hungry MLA went out looking for food and barged into the kitchen, delivering orders to the cooks and attendants to prepare lunch. Yours truly is not sure whether forced lunch was served, the day decency made a hasty retreat, but even for reporters always looking for news, it was shocking to watch the violent streak, out in open among some of the elected representatives. But then power corrupts and blinds even the most enlightened.

These days, politicians in Arunachal are smarter. While they camp elsewhere, numerous organizations are used as a tool to spread violence and propaganda, unmindful of the fact that it’s common citizens who elect them, in lieu of money but in expectation of development, peace and security.

While the debate will continue who uses whom, times sure have changed.  Today, Raj Bhavan is not just an institution that carries out its constitutional duties but tries and engages with normal common citizens as well as asks difficult questions.

In recent times, the trend was set by Gen J J Singh, who knew exactly what he was doing. Not only did he threw open the Raj Bhavan to common people, at some point, he became more popular than the Chief Minister, because he was approachable and accessible with populist ideas, unlike traits of the Indian Army. He was known to ask uncomfortable questions to the Chief Ministers but so was SK Singh who would frequently snub nonsensical ideas by the politicians.

Governor SK Singh would often make his feelings known through his public speeches, stopping short of calling politicians and media persons stupid and short sighted. He had no time for Unions, which he declared were an impediment to the development of the state, annoying half of the people in Capital, who are either presidents or general secretary of these or that organization.  There was an uneasy truce.

For many, it’s going back in time as the same atmosphere is felt now but between the Raj Bhavan and Chief Minister’s Office.

A colleague said that body language of JP Rajkhowa and Nabam Tuki, during a recent event was for all to see; not open hostility but uneasiness in each other’s company. Predictably so.  The Political bosses do not like questions while the current incumbent at the Raj Bhavan, will only settle for a satisfactory response. Ask the already harassed Chief Minister! Not only did the Raj Bhavan made him wait for days, but his proposals for dropping the ministers were sent back, apparently, the reasons were not convincing enough. Absenteeism of ministers finally was the key word.  

We have to acknowledge that a trend has indeed been set in the state where a mere line of recommendation for dropping of ministers or new appointments to any position will not be accepted without asking  questions or making the Officers read the law books. Whatever it is, citizens can only hope that there is at least politeness in place, if not camaraderie between Raj Bhavan and CMO, even if ideologies are different.






(14, October, 2015)

Indigenous and refugees: uncertain times ahead

[ Tongam Rina ]

In its September 17 judgment on Chakma Hajong refugees, the Supreme Court, out of nowhere, quotes from the Pauranic Hindu legends to establish the “integral link” of the state of Arunachal Pradesh with the rest of the country “since ancient times”. Yours truly was left wondering why mythical legends had to be drawn in while giving a verdict which is no way related to the current reality. Perhaps, it was prompted by the atrociously painful and incorrigible Hindutva wave or need to reassure us and themselves that indeed Arunachal belonged to this country even before notion of nationhood or the physical boundaries were drawn.

The reality today is the fate of thousands of Chakma-Hajong refugees who call Arunachal their home as well as indigenous communities of Arunachal who don’t want them in their land.  Though the current SC verdict is on grant of citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajongs who migrated to India during 1964-69 but the state is host to thousands of them.

These refugees remain in their designated and nearby areas, mostly encroaching into  community land because of burgeoning population, at the same time  many Chakma-Hajong refugees own land and business establishments.

In Diyun-Bordumsa, Miao, Chongkham area, the refugees are a force to be reckoned with, not just because of their number but because they are hard working and run the local economy.  They work everywhere where the indigenous population would not think of even venturing into; be it running the vegetable markets, tending to the paddy fields as hired labourers or as household workers.

Under such a backdrop, it is perhaps time to come up with a set of realistic policy that would serve as a road map for tackling the

peculiar refugee issue.

Though the issue is highly emotive and contentious, the state and the Centre have to find a middle path and evaluate refugee status and rights vis-à-vis indigenous populations against the milieu of international conventions.

The Court has already stated that when the Chakmas and Hajongs were settled in NEFA from 1964 - 69, there were no elected bodies and that the laws applicable in the State of Arunachal Pradesh including Government of India Act-1870, the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation-1873, the Scheduled District Act-1874, the Assam Frontier Tract Regulation-1880, the Assam Frontier Forest Regulation-1891, the Chin Hills Regulations-1896 and the Assam Frontier (Administration of Justice) Regulation-1945 were not taken into account. This gives enough scope to the state government as well as All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union for further discussion as well as appeals in the Court.

 So far, people of the state are unanimous that they have no problem with the grant of Indian citizenship to these refugees, provided they do not continue to stay in Arunachal Pradesh. That’s a tough call as no other state would be willing to take them given the number.

Now, what is the way forward?

In 1994, the peak year of anti refugee movement in the state, when the refugees were asked to leave the state, Assam had ordered shoot at sight. The provocative act in Assam and Arunachal did nothing good instead the refugees got the attention and sympathy of the world including the Amnesty International. Perhaps, it is time the government and students make its stand clear, non-violently, for the Court and the world to notice.

The SC has been consistent that rights and privileges are granted to the refugees and recent verdict states that as recognized by judicial decisions, the refugees are not required to obtain any Inner Line permit as they are settled in the state.

Though the next two months are crucial for the fate of the indigenous communities of the state as well as the refugees but it is unlikely that a final verdict will come out soon. The Court will drag on, giving the state as well as the refugees’ uncertain times. Uncertain, it has been since the late 60s for all stakeholders and it will be in future too, no matter what indigenous communities or refugees wish for.





(09, September, 2015)

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Garbage and Our Dying Rivers

[ Tongam Rina ]

While launching the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a national Clean India Campaign on Gandhi Jayanti last year at Rajghat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seen sweeping the road. The image captured the imagination of millions, including Arunachal. For the next few weeks, this daily was inundated with pictures of people, mostly VIPs with brooms. Even Itanagar/Naharlagun, the twin towns of garbage, for a change, looked a little less messy. But sadly, the euphoria did not last long. Soon, people got tired of cleaning up or even posing for pictures.

But the Campaign showed us that if we are sincere and come together for a cause, perhaps there is a way.

More than ever, there is acute need of putting our acts together to keep Arunachal, a state blessed in abundance by nature, free of toxic litters. Thankfully, there are no big industries to pollute the state but non biodegradable bags, wrappers and bottles remains our greatest challenge. You find them all over the state; lofty Sela Pass, in the hills of nature's manicured Ziro and blessed Mechukha. Even our rivers are not spared. We have been so reckless that we have turned our rivers into septic tanks. The worse victims are perhaps Pachin in Nahalagun and mighty Kameng River that flows by Seppa Township.

One can't sit by these Rivers without being afflicted by agonising stench, forget about finding solace.  

Rivers and streams, more so in Towns are clogged, because we don't have the reverence for the precious nature's gift anymore. In Itanagar and Pasighat, the streams within the township are unrecognisable. They just appear like extension of an open drain. If not for ourselves, we owe it to our children that these rivers and streams, which were the lifeline once, are not only cleaned up but allowed to flow free.

So, the recent call by Governor J P Rajkhowa on garbage problem as well as disposal in the state has to be acted upon by the government agencies as well as common citizens.  There has to be concerted effort as well as shared responsibility so that we dont have to step on and jostle with garbage. The twin town leads when it comes to dirt. Itanagar Municipality has failed miserably in its responsibilities to collect and dispose the garbage. There should not have been any excuse for funds, as we have been fed since for so long, because it can raise funds, if it wants to.

The government agencies, perhaps the biggest culprits for not doing enough when it comes to garbage collection as well as disposal need to retrospect. Municipal Solid Waste Management Plant nearby the seat of the government has been lying defunct. End result is dumping of waste along the highway leading to Hollongi, worse still burning all kinds of waste, which is a health risk.  

To start with, sorting out garbage is essential. Dry and wet or organic and non-biodegradable waste needs separation for proper disposal. This can be achieved by involving households and sectors.

Perhaps, the long term approach would be privatisation of collection as well as disposal, because the government institutions have failed completely.  Organisations like Ngunu Ziro, an initiative of few citizens in Ziro, Green Pioneers, consisting of netizens in Itanagar and Environmental Protection Society in Tawang have shown us the way with their consistent effort to keep spaces free of litters.

Others than these organisations, perhaps it is time for few enterprising individuals in the state to come forward to ease the problem of garbage. Many will be more than willing to pay to ensure that garbage is collected and disposed off, the way it should be.







(02, September, 2015)

Roads that take us home

[ Tongam Rina ]

The other day yours truly got ticketed for wrong parking by the Chief Estate Office near a health clinic on a busy and crowded road in Itanagar.

Though deeply embarrassed, it gave some amount of satisfaction that laws are being implemented in the town known for its bad traffic management. The contentment did not last long as it was soon found out that other than disfiguring the already grubby car by putting an ugly sticker; the officers did not have the power to impose fine.

But things might improve in the long run if the government, as it proclaims, is serious about improving the roads and empower Traffic Department with human resources as well as adequate funds.

Following the directives

of the Supreme Court, states have set up Road Safety Council to control road accidents.

Arunachal has one of the worse road safety records in the country and tops the North East India states with highest number of deaths per Lac population.   The record is not surprising given the fact that state’s road network is patchy with extremely poor conditions. Added to pitiable constructions are uneven terrains. But even when we know these realities, we are far from being careful. Most drivers/riders think that they are not only invincible but bring in their set of rules with a very good knack for uncontrolled speed ready to mow down anyone that comes on the way.

Heart skips a beat as young girls and women wrap a duppatta instead of helmet. Boys and men who refuse to grow up are worse, baring their tattooed bodies; without helmet or riding gears. It is common sight to see young parents with their small children on bikes with no protection. One can’t help but say a prayer for safety of all. With lack of trauma centres or highway ambulances, it’s the ill-equipped Police who are first responders, with no medical kits or health workers. It is time bare minimum facilities are introduced to prevent casualties as most deaths are preventable if there are medical teams as first responders.

In a state notorious for seeking compensations and imposition of fines, it is rather strange that the citizens as well as the state continue to be so reckless. VIP convoys, unmindful of congested roads, are not only a bad sight but is a major nuisance too adding to the chaos. Because of bad road, people who commute by public transport pass gas. The roads are that bad. Arunachal must be the only state without traffic lights or even zebra crossings. With absence of public facilities, people pay literally in the form of “fines”.

Some samples of how things can terribly go wrong after an accident.

A young man on a bike collides with a car. Both speeding. Rider is knocked down and hit a parked car. He dies on the spot. The relatives refuse to register a case but seek money. If compensation not paid, warned of dire consequences including packing up from the town. Fine paid.

A rider is injured following a collision with a car. The driver of the car is a bureaucrat. Apart from paying for medical expenses, the officer is asked to give a job to the injured or Rs 15000 every month.

Bikes collide.  One dies at the spot while the other is taken to hospital with serious injuries. The doctors are not allowed to treat the injured patient. Three agonising hours later, he dies.






(26, August, 2015)

Urban chaos and Smart Cities

[ Tongam Rina ]

Even before he was elected the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi had put bringing back black money allegedly stacked in Swiss Banks and building 100 Smart Cities in the country high on his agenda.

Among the two, selection of Smart Cities is on the roll. In few days time, centre will short list 20 cities in the first phase, from across the country under its ambitious project to strengthen existing facilities in cities as well as make it ecologically responsive, technologically integrated with reliance on the use of information technology.

Overall some Rs 98,000 crore has been approved for development of 100 smart cities and rejuvenation of 500 others across the country with the Cabinet approval of Rs 48,000 crore for Smart Cities Mission and Rs 50,000 crore for Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation. With  Rs 100 Cr earmarked for each city, the centre expects the states to pitch in its share as well as bring in investment for development of Smart Cities. This is rather worrying for a resource begging state like Arunachal.

On the other hand, controversy revolving the technical recommendation of Pasighat as a probable Smart City candidate has rather been unexpected and High Powered Committee obviously did not anticipate that there will be opposition to it.

But setting up of any institution or implementation of schemes has not been without any controversy in the state. And setting a bad precedence, the state government have always bowed down to the pressure including deviating from original plans. The NIT currently at Yupia was forced to be set up in Capital after massive protest by Itanagar based organi-sations to previously proposed site at Bhalukpong. Within Itanagar, the prime example is the Greenfield airport. Supporters of Kharsingsa and Hollongi were at loggerheads for a long time. Now, after so much of chaos and tussle, it looks like it would take another decade or so till we get an airport, thanks to issue of compensation and land management.

Students vocal candidature for a smart city consideration comes across as more emotional, than technical. For one, it is a fact that Itanagar has nothing much to offer today, except for the sheer reason that it is the capital. As People from all over the state continue to flock the twin towns and nearby villages, and the government having absolutely no plan on how to handle this, the city increasingly becomes unable to provide even basic necessities to its citizens-be it water, roads, garbage management or something as basic as effective traffic control. Harsh as it may sound, it is perhaps beyond repair.

This is why it is pertinent that development projects, educational, health institutions are not only shared and distributed equally all over the state, but also created in locations that yet have a space for course correction and adaptation.  Our twin town is frankly beyond repair and even the scope of strengthening the few existing facilities, as envisioned under Smart City are going to be a mammoth task as it has turned into an extremely unplanned concrete jungle.

Deep down, the issue today is not if Pasighat is the right candidate for the smart city project. The bigger question remains - is Itanagar?




(19, August, 2015)

Where have our engineers gone ?

[ Tongam Rina ]

The Engineering departments in the state should consider themselves extremely fortunate that people of Arunachal never ask them uncomfortable questions. The day people start asking questions, these departments will have to come up with rather very good excuses, because physical achievements are close to nil. But than what can we expect from the state where top engineers are known more for financing candidates, if not sponsoring wives and siblings to stand in elections.

PWD, RWD, PHED and Power department have 18 Chief Engineers combined.  PWD alone has 8 Chief Engineers, a case of serious overcrowding in a state like Arunachal. The numbers can't be ignored anymore because the output is pathetic, to say the least. The capital road, if we can call it roads is one example of just how seriously rotten the system is.

A point has come where no amount of explanations, statistics, and facts and figures from the department and its contractors is going to make sense anymore. The politicians are not bothered. Their worry is to win elections and that necessarily do not amount to being worried about the state or the welfare of its people.  

The only few meters of road worth calling a road and have withstood the rains are the ones leading to Raj Bhavan and Chief Minister's bungalow. The case is same everywhere else in the state. There have been instances where people dreading the lack of quality work have downrightly rejected PWD in the state.  Do we need to say more?

Roads, water and power are basic necessities for citizens. If we can't get it without demanding so vociferously, there must be something seriously wrong somewhere. We can't be forever blaming the rain for bad roads, the soiled water and the electric poles that seems to fall off so frequently.

The works department cannot afford to be so sluggish for so long. Enough time and resources have been provided and blame game need to stop. If the departments cannot guide the contractors to come up with quality work, it does not reflect on the contractors. It shows utter lack of accountability and responsibility on the part of those signing the cheques.  

Like elsewhere, people of this state deserve provision of bare minimum necessities like road communication, power and water. Even in a state where people have not learnt to ask questions as yet, the departments seriously need to introspect where they have gone wrong. Perhaps the answer is going back to basic engineering and being more responsible to the job assigned and to the people. Road network worthy to be called a road, drainage, pedestrian paths, taps with running water and bulb that  at least flickers is what the people of this state deserve, if not respect from these government departments.






(12, August, 2015)

An accord veiled in secrecy

[ Tongam Rina ]

The recent "peace accord" between the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) led by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah and Govt of India, termed historic by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been welcomed with caution. Details/clauses of the accord have not been made public as yet even after passage of a week so it is rather premature to comment but anything veiled in secrecy and intrigue never did anyone any good.

The first round of strong dissent has already been witnessed with Chief Ministers of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur making it clear that they were not informed or consulted about the peace accord. Such conceited behaviour by the centre is sure to rub everyone the wrong way and sure it did.   Over the years, one of the main demands of NSCN (IM) is integration of all Naga-inhabited areas including those of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur. The demand is deeply opposed by these three states. On the other hand, Nagaland Assembly has endorsed the integration of all Naga-inhabited areas under one administrative umbrella many times, the latest being on 27 July 2015.

Now, if indeed this particular demand is included in the clause that is being worked out between the centre and NSCN-IM, there is going to be heavy repercussions. If the centre and NSCN (IM) is really keen on lasting peace, the states that are bound to be affected in one way or the other must be made partners, forgetting political affiliations.  Unlikely but not impossible.

The Naga movement itself have not been devoid of contradictions and bloody factional fights with everyone wanting to play the lead role but with little or no success.

The fierce turf war between NSCN-IM and the NSCN-K led by S S Khaplang since their acrimonious split in 1988 has been deadly. More than anyone, the centre should know from its experiences that despite ceasefire with these two leading factions in 1997 and 2001 respectively, the factions have continued to indulge in inter-factional killings. And the fact that Khaplang abrogated the ceasefire this March cannot be ignored. Though reported to be ailing, he continues to have strong support base in Nagaland, Arunachal and Myanmar and the group is not going to stay quiet given its recent violent activities in Arunachal, Nagaland and Manipur.

The people of Tirap, Changlang and Longding have seen the turf war up and close and continue to suffer, caught between the warring groups as well as the Indian Army. The coming days are not going to be any easier for the people of these three districts, even if they are not willing to be party to any of the factions.

Under such circumstances, Centre which seems to be in extreme hurry should not forget to listen to all concerned. If it has to be fair to the struggling yet divided Nagas, it must be fair to the unarmed but struggling other people too.





(29, July, 2015)

Last Night A Star Dropped From The Sky

[ Tongam Rina ]

Last evening at around 8, a fellow journalist from Delhi asked whether the news about President APJ Abdul Kalam’s passing was true. Must be another hoax, I responded reminded of an earlier instance when the president himself had to clarify that he was well and alive.  

But sadly, this time he did not come around to clarify. 

Dubbed the people’s president, I rather liked this unassuming, humble giant of a person. I will always remember how he completely de-mystified the hallowed image of the President of India and unshackled the Presidency as well as the Rashtrapati Bhavan from what have always been considered shackles of forced bureaucratic awe. He was able to re-cast the very idea of the Rashtrapati and was for the first, and to my mind, the only time when India’s people loved their head of State, not just kneeled in reverence.

Driven by a highly refined scientific temper and providing an iconic leadership of a fresh kind, he was a real hero for children, who loved meeting him and interacting with him. 

In many ways he was a closer uncle to them then even Chacha Nehru who was always this hallowed, glorified uncle framed within the paperback covers of school textbooks, read a text message from my buddy as we exchanged messages on a life well led. 

Perhaps he was one person that united this great country because he gave us a reason to dream and aspire. A boy not born in wealth rose on to become the President of India by the dint of sheer hard work. The student who was not successful in becoming a pilot ended up as the missile man of the country!   

Many will forever cherish the man with the electrifying smile, whose unkempt hairstyle became almost a metaphor for the way he led the nation- with an aura of zen-like confident non-chalance, a quality that greatly endeared him to student and teacher alike.  

For a long time, we will remember him for the manner he bid goodbye to us- on stage, addressing students and dying doing what he loved most- inspiring young people. What a way to go, Mr President.





(01, July, 2015)

Haunted Borders

[ Tongam Rina ]

It does not say very much for our state’s destiny seemingly cursed as we were, made to be born with border disputes on both the national and international border. The recent events at Radhaso in Papum Pare and the persistent, almost parrot like Chinese claims on our lands are painful remainders that there indeed seems to be apathy to our reality. What else can explain the complete lack of empathy that not just the friendly neighbourhood Assam government but even the centre seems to be showing?

Almost all the states bordering Assam have seen bloody conflict because of issues of encroachment, notably by Assam Forest Officials. The Nagaland-Assam boundary skirmishes have been the bloodiest with many lives lost and property destroyed as both sides refuses to budge an inch from their respective stand. Meghalaya-Assam and Arunachal-Assam boundary too have seen stressful times and bloodshed.

Most often when there are clashes along the interstate boundaries, Centre have been clueless and unsure. All it does is throw the burden on Boundary Commission with instructions to state governments to behave.

Under the direction of the Supreme Court of India in 2005, a boundary commission was consequently set up to settle various inter-state boundary problems in the Northeast. Till the Commission submits its final report, all the states are to maintain status quo. But with burgeoning population in the region, there is fight, which will increase with time, for resources.

The centre really needs to intervene as the stubborn state governments will not do much to protect the interests of the people living along the boundary. The first step would be to facilitate an acceptable settlement. Tough but it is not unachievable if all the states put in a sincere effort. The Boundary Commission clearly need to step up its work and the state governments should not end up as stumbling blocks. The recent Indo-Bangla border settlement should act as an example to emulate where the two countries swap territories and allowed thousands of people living in border enclaves to choose their nationality.  

While the Boundary Commission, centre and state government figure out what has to be done next, people to people contact along the boundary should increase. Most of the cases of violence and tension on the boundary have been the handiwork of bored government officials, often looking for recognitions from their native state. It’s a tricky situation when for personal interest, peace is compromised, but an effort must be made to build mutual trust and understanding. As the states and the centre, hopefully embark on a mission to find lasting peace, it would be crucial to involve the people at the ground who know the best about the situation- and frankly, whose children’s futures are most at stake.







(17, June, 2015)

Questionable status of higher education

[ Tongam Rina ]

For a long time, many people have been raising questions about quality education, rather the lack of it in Arunachal. But most individuals and organisations have been quiet on the topic. Perhaps too many stakes are involved in speaking out.  So the revelation by Dr Nani Bath, a highly regarded academic in the state about the dismal conditions of the private universities in the state have thrown open many questions. The factual details provided by Dr Bath are compelling and therefore must be addressed and dealt with by the competent authorities.

It is a fact that the State Legislative Assembly, in absence of strong oppositions have been able to do what it pleases in placing and passing bills without little or no debate at all. The hurried decisions on establishment of six private universities in the state, all of them with questionable credentials have to be re-looked into.

The state government passed the Bill pertaining to establishment of Indira Gandhi Technological and Medical Sciences University (IGTAMSU) in 2012 despite being given negative remarks by the Advocate General of Arunachal Pradesh Nilay Dutta.  And the High Power Committee led by then RGU Vice Chancellor  Prof. K.C Belliapa with Dr. T Basar and Dr Joram Begi constituted by the state govt in 2008 did not give positive remark on the proposed establishment of the private university. These are just two of the many instances where the legislators have overlooked expert advice.

Apex Professional University, Pasighat has been under the scanner too after its   Chancellor was arrested.

The Chancellor, also the founder of Amritsar-based Apex Education Group, was alleged to have been running over 500 study centres across the country which facilitated the admission of thousands of students to the troubled CMJ University.  

Arunachal University of Studies, Namsai is not devoid of controversy either. Those at the helms of affairs are accused of procuring fake mark sheets of various technical and non-technical courses from private universities of Chhattisgarh.

But the problem is that red carpet has been laid out for these same people and institutions in our state.

It is true that Arunachal needs institutions of higher education as Rajiv Gandhi University is unable to provide for thousands of students seeking admission each year. Many students have left the dream of pursuing higher education because it is simply unaffordable outside the state.  Only those who belong to the crème de la crème of the society can think of getting into course and the institution they wish for.    One would have wished that these Universities share the burden of Higher Education in the state instead of becoming problems themselves. Press clarifications or denials of allegations are not going to set these universities right or improve the facilities. One must not ruin the lives of thousands of young lives in pursuit of monetary gains leading to irreparable commercialisation of education in Arunachal.

More important perhaps is for all the stakeholders in the state- the govt, students and their many organisations as well as parents work collectively towards a mechanism that can monitor and evaluate these Universities, so that the ideal of higher education is not lost in the glitter of higher economic gains.






(10, June, 2015)

Resurgence of NSCN (K)

[ Tongam Rina ]

The resurgence of Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (K) in North East has brought in a wave of violent attacks in Arunachal, Nagaland and Manipur. Since walking out of ceasefire agreement after fourteen years in March this year, the Khaplang faction of the NSCN led by the Myanmarese Naga rebel leader S S Khaplang has carried out deadly attacks against the Indian Army.

The most recent one being a week ago in Manipur’s Chandel district where 18 soldiers were killed in one of the worst attacks on the Indian Army.  

Considered very close to the Indian Army at one point, the sudden change in attitude has certainly triggered much discomfort within the Army establishment.  

What is worrying is that along with the NSCN-K, Paresh Barua led ULFA and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit) are reported to have come together along with six other organisations from the region to form United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia few years ago for a separate country consisting of North East Region and Naga dominated areas in Myanmar. This certainly is worrying news for the government.

 Security experts believe that after the NSCN-Khaplang signed a ceasefire with Myanmar in 2012, it has heavily consolidated its position using the time to restructure the group.

The NSCN (K), an offshoot of NSCN after it was divided in 1988, for a long time has been active in the state with many of its recruits being local Arunachalees from Tirap, Changlang and Longding.  The three districts have witnessed ugly turf war between the Khaplang led group and NSCN (Isak-Muivah) which has often resulted in bloodshed. And now with the Indian Army out on a full offensive against its one time friend, there will be more news of death and destruction. One can only hope that the common citizens will be spared the pain and agony. But it is unlikely that common people will escape the battle as the Indian Army will do anything under its power to subvert the attacks by the rebels, even if it means infringing on rights of the innocent civilians.   

Perhaps the answer lies beyond the border. Myanmar will have to be a major player and made a partner if Indian Army has to succeed. One must not forget that the Naga freedom movement is nearing its 70th year and enjoys a good support base even though many accuse those heading the movement as extortionists.





(03, June, 2015)

Beefing it up

[ Tongam Rina ]

Scores have died due to heat wave in the country and with rain belying Met department’s prediction, there seems to be no respite from heat in many parts of India including the national Capital.

Killer heat that has claimed more than 2000 has been relegated to the corner and talking point in media and corridors of power being beef, India’s latest and likely to be a very long obsession. The controversy on beef started at around the same time BJP came to power last year.  Though ban on cow slaughter have been in place in many states for so many  years, the debate has reached its feverish peak after the Hindu Nationalists, who sometimes seems forget that India is a secular country, came to power in the country.

In April this year, BJP president had to face the heat at Shillong when a beef party was organised to welcome him in protest against BJP’s move to impose ban on cow slaughter. The message was clear and loud; don’t tell us what to eat. But then in a country where 80% of the population regard cows as sacred, the voice of the 20% does not make much of a difference.

The Constitution empowers the states to legislate the “prevention of slaughter and preservation of cattle”.  Arunachal, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Lakshadweep are the only states that have no legislation on cow slaughter.

The latest to be caught in the beef controversy is Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju. Twisted or not, now the nation knows that beef is not something he will pick. It is rather unbecoming in a secular democratic country that one of the most powerful voices in the Modi govt has to give a clarification on his eating habits. This speaks a lot about the health and future of the secular values of this country.

Of all the things we value, we can only hope that we have the right and freedom to choose what we eat and how we dress and we don’t have to defend it.






(15, April, 2015)

A horror named AFSPA

[ Tongam Rina ]

It appears that it was not only the common people who were shocked with centre's sudden decision to impose the dreaded Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act to 12 districts bordering Assam. The centre managed to shock the Chief Minister of the Congress-ruled state as well who seems to have had no idea what the Home Ministry was up to.

Clearly upset Nabam Tuki in a meeting with Union Home Minister termed the centre's decision unilateral and called for review of the dubious move. The decision obviously was not taken in consultation with Arunachal and media houses got the copy of the notification faster than the oblivious government.  

While, the centre and state shift blame on the lack of security measures in the state in the wake of alleged penetration of militants in the border areas, the fact that the Minister of State for Home affairs is from Arunachal is not lost on anyone.

Meanwhile, according to the Home Ministry notification, the reason that led to imposition of the dreaded law is presence of Nationalist Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB (S), three factions of NSCN, ULFA, Kamtapur Liberation Organisation and rise of left-wing extremism along the Assam-Arunachal border.

The Act already applies to Tirap, Longding, Changlang and areas falling within 20-kilometre radius in Arunachal Pradesh bordering Assam.

NSCN, ULFA, NDFB have been active for a long time and have used the soil of Arunachal.

The three factions of NSCN have made Tirap, Longding, Changlang as their area of operation and runs a parallel government. It is for everyone to see how successful the Army have been in dealing with the terror groups in these three districts. While the Army and the factions of NSCN play hide and seek, it's the common people who are caught in the middle.

When the centre rejected the Jeevan Reddy Commission Report which had recommended repeal of AFSPA in the North-East, no one anticipated that it would be in such a hurry to impose it on Arunachal, dubbed one of the most peaceful states in the country.

Now, even as the Home Ministry says that it will review the decision, the centre has left the state government with no option but to listen to what it dictates. The weakness of the state government is palpable. The centre knows very well that Arunachal do not have the resources or the power to deal with security issue as huge as this.  

Arunachal already is one of the most heavily militarised zones in India but the people of the state have always been receptive to the presence of the Indian Army so the centre's decision to put the state under the cover of AFSPA is not only baffling but disrespectful as well. How does one begin to explain why a law that legalises the blood in the hands of the Indian Army is imposed in the state?





(08, April, 2015)

Dependent yet extravagant

Tongam Rina

Arunachal is a poor, dependent yet extravagant state so there is bound to be financial problems.  For quite some time now, the state has been dealing with staggering debt, cuts in welfare schemes, non payment of contractors and government employees on time. Clearly, the state and its people have no idea how to get out of the mess.  

The fact that utilisation certificates, the mantra for getting more funds from the centre have not been submitted on time speaks a lot about the financial management by the people at the helms of the affair.

All the schemes that are implemented in the state are centrally funded with little or zero contribution from the state. The people of the state are witness as to how these schemes are being implemented.

The government is yet to table the report of the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) at the floor of the house even though it was submitted to the government on March 9 during the shortened budget session of the Legislative Assembly.

If there is nothing to hide and if at all it is financial constraint as claimed and not mismanagement, the people of the state have the right to know what the report says.

As if whispers on precarious financial position of the state were not enough, the government have landed itself in a very embarrassing position after the former Finance Minister and seasoned politician Kalikho Pul was expelled from the Congress Party. One of the longest serving Finance Ministers, he is someone who knows the inside story. And according to him, all is not well.

With the centre tightening the purse strings, there is nothing much the cash strapped state government can do other than manage with whatever funds comes from the centre and borrowings.

Perhaps, lessons will have to be learnt from the current mess and government have to be more responsible financially. A large chunk of funds is utilised as salaries and perks to the pampered state government employees and members of the legislative assembly every month. Austerity measures shall have to be implemented strictly sooner or later and it has to start with those running the state.

As expulsion of the ambitious senior Congress leader has been the talk of the town and bombshells he has been dropping since then about the financial position of the state, yours truly asked a senior Congress leader whether there indeed was possibility of a formation of a new government in the state. "Someone has to be really brave or very stupid to take over the reins at the moment because there is no money with the state and the centre is very tight-fisted" he said.

Bravery or stupidity, in an event of change of guard, which is rather unlikely at the moment, it's going to be the same people who will run the show so there is nothing much to look forward to.






(11, March 2015)

An eye for an eye

Tongam Rina

The recent murder of a man, an alleged rapist by thousands of people in Dimapur has made headline news across the world. Many of us were left horrified at the deliverance of quick "justice" by the mob, very akin to ISIS way of execution. The man, an outsider, never had a chance in front of thousands of barbaric young people, out to get him with full force. There are no crimes as horrifying as rape and murder and both acts are despicable but the sheer crowd violence was maddening.  A crime occurred and law of retaliation followed; a slap on the face of judiciary and policing in India. Though mob violence is not new in this country, there are lessons to be learnt from Dimapur.

Home to various Naga tribes and the Dimasas, today it has more and more non natives coming in to make a living. Till that day of atrocious violence, it was seen as a forward looking town, a fashionable commercial hub of the North East.

Connected with air and railways, ILP is not enforced in Dimapur, unlike the rest of the state. As the city opened up, more people from outside the state has gained free access and many have chosen to settle down. Half of the total population consists of outsiders today and one need not be a local Naga to buy land in Dimapur.

While all appears alright from the surface, there is massive unemployment of local educated youth. Most menial jobs are not picked up by locals but lapped up by outsiders, many Bangladeshis. Majority of the business and financial activities are controlled by outsiders. Under such circumstance, there is palpable tension, triggered by control of economy by outsiders and perceived socio-cultural tensions. Perhaps the pent up anxiety triggered Dimapur violence.

In a few years time, the scenario will not be too different in our state if there is no tighter control on who gets in and out of the state, unless we are ready and able to accommodate all. But by the look of it, we will not be able to tackle the pressure of migrants and cheap labours as massive construction work is about to be rolled out in the state to develop the basic infrastructure facilities. Other than cultivating fields, most young people in our state consider it below their prestige to pick up boulders except perhaps the Buddhist community habiting some pockets of West and Upper Siang, Tawang, West Kameng. In such cases, outsiders, mostly the Bangladeshis will fill in the gap. They come in hordes and they come cheap. We have to have an effective governance and system in place. A system where we will not require the services of vigilantes.  A basic example is young people rounding up people without ILP in the streets of Itanagar and elsewhere in the state. What does it say?

The Dimapur mob violence will stay in our minds for a long time and it has thrown open lots of questions. What if we had an effective justice delivery system and better policing? Was it a case of reverse racism?

Hopefully, sooner we realise that an eye for an eye is not the solution. Meanwhile, let us hope that the girl is rehabilitated and supported so that she is able to come out of this numbing double tragedy.





(25, February 2015)

A visit to ponder on

Tongam Rina

It’s not every day that a Chief Minister is left squirming in his chair by the guest who he personally invited.

The tormentor was the Prime Minister Narendra Modi who thundered, “pai pai ka hisaab dena hoga” at IG Park, while addressing a massive crowd on the occasion of 29th statehood day celebration 2015. The comment drew huge applause from the packed Park, sending a clear message to the politicians and bureaucrats, technocrats and contractors in the state to behave themselves and not misuse public money.

Who cares if the boss himself was warning all to be careful with how and where they spend money? The mere mention of public money makes many drool in this state. Old habits die hard.

To make it worse, the Prime Minister did not announce any financial package for the state. But given the fact that most of the projects worth Rs 10,000 crore announced by the then PM Dr Manmohan Singh in 2008 are actually yet to take shape, it is understandable that centre is bit reluctant to shower special packages.

Other than Civil Secretariat building, Railway connectivity and bits and pieces progress in Trans Arunachal Highways, Itanagar Water Supply Scheme, most of the 20 points projects are yet to take off in the state.

The Prime Minister did not bother to respond to the 15 point demand placed by the Chief Minister, which included continued support for the special central package.

The days of easy money and lavish spending in the state are gone. But it is rather worrying that centre should be so high handed with poor and unproductive Arunachal. Given the fact that the government will not be able to salvage itself from financial misery nor submit the much touted and needed utilisation certificates, the hard days have just started. But if the centre is pushing for a change in political setup, while depriving the Congress government of any financial assistance, that would be rather unfair.

Prime Minister meanwhile took a complete U-turn on tapping of hydro power potential in the state. He made a fervent appeal to the people of the state to exploit the hydro potential like Bhutan and Nepal have done. One was left wondering whether he was the same person who said before elections that people of the state will decide for themselves when it comes to hydro power development in the state.  Let the people decide what they want to do with their land, rivers and resources.







(04, February 2015)

Power of protests

Tongam Rina

The government's decision to install Pre-Paid Energy Meters and Automated Remote Metering (AMR) in Itanagar have been met with protests and more protests, with consumers out in street objecting to the proposal. Almost every sector entrance is adorned with a banner opposing the installation in Itanagar forcing the Department to put on hold its plan.

The Pre-Paid Energy Meters and AMR meters were first introduced in November in collaboration with Udaipur-based Secure Energy Meter Limited, which is the implementing agency. According to power department, the pre-paid meters were to be fitted at the homes of about 32,000 consumers with a total cost of Rs 85 crore, including maintenance charge for a period of five years. The main motive behind the introduction of these metres was to save power leakages, which is rampant in the Capital, mostly due to illegal power connections.

The clandestine approach adopted by the department to install the meters perhaps triggered the massive protests across Itanagar. People had no clue what it was all about till the department employees landed up at the doorstep with the equipments. In a state where the Aggregate Technical & Commercial power loss is slated to above 60 percent, this was a wrong move.

At Rupees 4 per unit, many household will find it difficult to foot the bills as we still do not have the habit of switching off lights. Many still think that electricity is a necessity which one need not necessarily pay for. With the state government harping about power potential and dubbing the state a power house, these consumers should not be blamed for presuming that one need not pay for consumption of power.

The best approach for the department is to make people realise that they have to pay for electricity and that stealing power or not paying on time are not option at all. For these, continuous massive campaigns as well as disconnection of unautho-rised power connections must be carried out. If the department is serious about revenue generation, it must also learn to strictly control revenue loss incurred by power theft and non clearance of bills on time. The department should be given some time to relax so that they give us a viable, better and cheaper option.

In the meantime, the state capital will witness another bandh call, soon after we applauded the young civil service aspirants led by Ujum Perying for putting forward their grievances by adopting hunger strike; a non violent and non interfering form of protest. It is beyond understanding of yours truly, how calling a bandh is going to solve any of our problems. Taking up a cause is praiseworthy but it should not be done by restricting movement or choice.   

While the power department is struggling to make people understand the need to save power and pay on time, the Education department in a recent notification has banned tuitions by government teachers. Now, what teachers do in their spare time is no one's business. If they have the energy and time to make some money in exchange of teaching the students, no one should have any problem, whatsoever. With parents, especially tribal, hard pressed on time, educational qualification as well as patience, these teachers are ultimate saviour for many students.






(24 December, 2014)

A chilling reminder

Tongam Rina

After the horrendous Daporijo Police Station MMS scandal that rocked the state in 2011, yet again, an explicit video clip has emerged from the same town, forcing people to come out on the street in protest. In 2009, the police officers forced a teenage boy and a girl to have sex in the station while they took the video. The video emerged almost two years later. The sheer atrocity and unimaginable act of the law keepers inside a police station shocked the state.  Records say that the main accused in Police Station MMS case was never caught.

This time, the person behind the video clip is allegedly an ITBP personnel posted in remote Limeking circle. As the details are unfolding, the latest report says that the girl is underage. The personnel should have known better that it is a crime to indulge in such an act with a teenage girl who legitimately could not have given her consent. It remains to be seen what course law will take but in the meantime, the only way we can help is by stopping the circulation of the video.

For obvious reasons, crimes against women have increased in the state. Between Jan 2013-Dec 2014, there have been an alarming 132 reported cases of rape in the state with Itanagar recording the highest number with 41 cases followed by Pasighat-18, Tezu-14. Reported cases of crime against women stands at 309 during the same period.

In 2012-2013, cases of rape stood at 73 while crime against women was reported to be 156. The graph certainly is rising.

In the meantime, the time has come for the state government to strengthen the State Women's Commission. Instead of making political appointments in the Commission as a gift to party workers or relatives of the political bigwigs, it is important to appoint those who truly are sympathetic to the cause of women and have a fair idea about their welfare. The state government is yet to form the next Commission even after passage of more than two months since the last one demitted office. The reason for the delay is cited to be financial. There is no reason why a Commission dedicated to the welfare of women should bear the brunt of financial woes of the state.







(17 December, 2014)

Our health and their welfare

Tongam Rina

Assaults on medical professionals are a cognisable and non- bailabale offence in many states in India. But apparently, the suggestion for enactment of similar legislation in Arunachal was shot down even before it took shape. Going by the records of repeated assault on doctors and paramedics, such an Act is absolutely essential in the state. The same way, citizens’ jump to kill when things go wrong in hospitals, the medical practitioners should be given the right to protect themselves when they are at the receiving end. Such repeated attacks will certainly demoralise the doctors and paramedics.

The fact that state does not have intensive care unit speaks volumes. Our doctors and paramedics are at par with rest in terms of trainings and professionalism but what stops hospitals from having ICUs? Lack of facility apart, the simpler reason is that no one from the hospital or associated with it want to end up at the ICUs themselves, should things go wrong. And the fear is not unfounded going by the record cases of assaults on health professionals. They are here to treat, not get treated.

The health department may initiate action for protection of medical professionals across the state and might as well set up a counselling cell for assault victims. The mental trauma stays for a long time. The recent case of assault on doctor in Rama Krishna Mission Hospital should inspire the department to act.

Today as the doctors of RKM Hospital refuses to treat patients; the worse sufferers are the poor patients, which it mainly caters to. The reluctant but desperate action of the doctors is a response to desperate situation and we as a civil society must create a congenial working condition for them.

Noted that attendants are usually very anxious while at the hospital as they wait for treatment of their loved ones especially in emergency cases, but that does not mean that they should obstruct the normal discharge of duty at any point.

Anyone who has worked in hospitals, colleges, and media in Arunachal would vouch that after a point, nothing rattles anymore. Intimidations, physical and verbal abuses are often routine affairs.  

The increasing cases of violence in our state is a reflection on our society which has no respect whatsoever for the laid down rules and our deafening silence when things go wrong. As long as citizens are silent, the police and judiciary silenced, we can only leave it to god to decide our well being.









(26 November, 2014)

Struggle for power; uneasy times ahead

Tongam Rina

Even though the Indian government has propagated big and mega hydro power projects in  Arunachal to tide over its power scarcity as well as to tap the massive water resources, partly a nervous response to the Chinese plans of damming the Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet,  the report of China making operational a dam has triggered anxiety of gigantic proportions.

With plans to fully commission the project next year, there are fears that it will result in flash flood as well as deprivation of water resources in downstream Arunachal, Assam and Bangladesh.

Even though China had started studies on Tsangpo River in the early 70’s to tap the hydro power resources, for a long time it continued to deny that it was planning or building any dams on the River.

But then on Sunday, it came out in public that the plant of 510 MW is indeed partly operational. Reports say that three more dams amounting to 1500 MW is to be built soon.

As India has already planned many dam projects in Arunachal, even violating guidelines, it does not make sense to cry foul. Both the countries are on the same mission of tapping resources and on the same river. The downstream Arunachal will have to bear the brunt of floods in days to come as the natural flow of water is bound to be obstructed. Even though it is dubbed a run of the river dam, the flow will be controlled which could mean flash floods which Siang River once experienced in 2002 leaving a trail of devastation.  

And again, there is also report of Chinese plan to divert the Tsangpo waters to northern part of China, which is water scarce. That could ultimately end the Indian Hydro dream in Arunachal. Only time will tell the possible outcomes but the fact remains that in absence of water sharing treaty or even a policy of bilateral cooperation on water between the two powerful countries, the days ahead are going to be absolutely uneasy.

Both countries have so far been very aggressive in its efforts to tap power with no regards whatsoever for fragile ecology. The rush for “Hydro dollar” has blinded the countries to such an extent that it refuses to see any reason.

Pristine nature and biodiversity, once gone can never be gotten back.  Before the devastation is complete and irreparable, it makes sense to come together on a forum to chart out a policy to minimise the destruction of nature in the name of tapping resources.  

Meanwhile, those living along Yarlung Tsangpo, Siang and Brahmaputra can only hope that River will not take the anger out on them.






(19 November, 2014)

A festival, some adventure and much else besides!

Tongam Rina

After two days of back breaking journey including an overnight stop at a bustling Aalo town, yours truly armed with sleeping bag, jackets and warmers finally made it to Mechukha, a stunning valley, for adventure@Mechukha, an adventure sports festival recently.

For an aerophobic individual it was an ill advised move but the sheer beauty of the land compensated for it as I watched the parasail majestically descending over the serene Yargepchu River from one of the many hilltops around Mechukha, before making a smooth landing at the festival ground. The two hours trek to the top for 20 minutes of flight, coupled with Rs 3500 per trip was not a deterrent for adventure seekers as they made a beeline for that particular event. Namaste India, a tour and travel company that specialises in adventure sports, came self sponsored from Delhi. They read about the event last year in a leading travel magazine and decided to take part in the event. They came, conquered and left truly mesmerised, ready for the next year’s event. Trap shooting was another favourite with the locals and visitors alike. So was the archery event, facilitated by the Sangey Laden Sport Academy.

Power propelled gliders, rappelling and rafting were other popular events. Perhaps one of the most popular was trout fishing, though not an official event.   

Mechukha is so beautiful that it is difficult to find the right words to describe its imposing beauty. Though the distance would make most people think twice, but one will not regret as the beautiful valley, with many hue of colours of nature makes one feel truly blessed. Many lodges and home stays have come up too since the last few years, encouraged by the growing tourism potential of the area. The distance could be minimised too if the state owned chopper service links with the town on a regular basis.

 Culture, music and food were in abundance. The only hiccup was the super abundance of the VIPs who almost overshadowed the event with their ‘movement’. If one wants any event to be successful, especially an adventure event, that too in a remote area, it is perhaps not the best of ideas to let the VIP movement interfere with the timing of the events. The VIP gallery was some distance away from the main stage so the common people were spared the pain of being careful every time they moved an inch as they enjoyed cultural events in the evening.

While we sat around the fire at the lodge on the eve of the festival, the caretaker was almost apologetic that the snow had delayed its arrival. It should be here any moment, he said. Almost prophetic, the next morning, yours truly woke up to the glistening snow peaked mountains that almost touched the soul. What also lingered on the soul were many questions about how tourism, if not handled delicately and with vision, might take Arunachal the way of Goa where local cultures and mores are pushed to the peripheries. What the state needs is not just more tourists, but an equal strength of sensitivities to responsible tourism, and even responsible tourism promotion. The snow will stand sentinel witness to whatever happens, one supposes.

For the present moment, one is just too swept away in awe and excitement.

PS: while on the way back, we stopped at a waterfall just after Tato. As we posed for pictures and sipped tea, I asked the Army jawan the name of the fall. Pehle Birsa Munda naam tha yeh Fall ka. Par ab change kar diye! The unit manning the area now is 16 Bihar Regiment!

As we drove further, the driver rather had a very ambitious agenda for the next year. If the roads are going to be this bad, it makes sense for the govt to introduce modes of water transport, he shared.  To start with, rafting back to Itanagar from Mechukha surely seemed like a better option- geographical accuracy be damned! 







(06 November, 2014)

Racism on the platter

Tongam Rina

After conveniently keeping the people of North East India from appearing anywhere near the visiting Chinese Prime Minister in September, the centre is now grappling with growing racist attacks on citizens from the region.

The attacks had minimised to an extent after the horrific murder of Nido Tania in Delhi early this year, but it did not last long.

Ugly head of racism has risen again to confront the people belonging to the region.

Between Feb-May, three cases were reported from Delhi in the media involving girls from the region who had to face racial attacks.

In one case, a law student was molested by a lawyer while she was travelling in a metro. While the case was being heard at the court, the girl was beaten up by lawyers who wanted her to withdraw the case.  

More recently, in Bangalore, a student from Manipur was bloodied because he did not speak Kannada while in the same city, a couple from Nagaland was not only allegedly labelled as foreigners but also misbehaved with.

In Gurgaon, one of the two boys assaulted, had his hair shaved by the attackers. How does one even begin to explain such atrocious behaviour? The police, in this case has categorically said that there were elements of racial discrimination.

Such glaring instance should prompt the government to do something. The country can’t afford to remain a mute spectator to the problems facing the people of the North East.  

The MP Bezbaruah Committee formed after the death of Tania to look into various concerns of the people of North East living outside the region had already submitted its recommendations in July. But it is yet to be implemented. Some of the suggestions includes an anti racial law and inclusion of a chapter on the region in the school level text books.

In a step forward, the Delhi University has announced short term courses on languages from the region. The introduction of languages is for a different reason altogether but nonetheless it is on the right direction.

Meanwhile, with centre set to improve the connectivity in the region, it is hoped that people from rest of the country will at least find it easier to access the region and their understanding of the diversity of the country will increase. We have to prepare our fellow citizens to start accepting the fact that Indian is a multi racial country and everyone has equal rights and opportunities.

There have been demands that young people adhere to a certain social standards as practised while they are outside the region. Yours truly do not understand what kind of change it is going to bring in people who are already morally corrupted and discriminating. How we behave, what we wear is not going to help contain racial discrimination and attacks.  

We have to accept that a person who has grown up eating bamboo shoots and fermented soya bean would not like to eat Dal or Chapatti on a daily basis. The same goes for Dal or Chapatti eaters.






(22. October, 2014)

Soon, roads will be roads again

Tongam Rina

Enough have been written about bad roads in the Capital Complex and elsewhere in the state and the Government’s unwillingness to do anything about it. Many had almost given up the hope of ever having roads, worth calling a road.

But looks like days of bad roads are soon going to be a thing of the past as bull dozers, excavators, backhoe and chip loaders have been rolled out on the Capital roads promising a smooth ride.

As we drove past the monstrous looking vehicles this morning, it suddenly dawned on me that roads can actually be repaired. Yours truly felt amazingly enlightened, which seldom happens on Capital roads as one negotiates dif-

ficult roads and menacing drivers.

The good news is that Govt has announced Rs 16 crore for re-carpeting and black topping of all dilapidated arterial roads in the state capital. And the training has already started for engineers who will be overseeing construction of cement concrete road in the Capital at an estimated Rs 31.5 crore.

Yours truly is hopeful that few zebra crossings and street lights will come up too. Due to the lack of such facilities, the streets are a nightmare; pedestrians are often made to feel that they are lesser mortals. It would not be such a bad to indulge pedestrians for once by giving them few meters of the road!

With great expectations that soon the roads will actually look like roads, yours truly hopes that the drivers will not only improve their behaviour but also learn some road safety tricks and rules.

It is not uncharacteristic of people to drive as if they are the only ones on the road. The indicators are something that is hardly used by drivers making it extremely dangerous for all involved.

The bad behaviour has been blamed on the roads that make one sweat in anger and irritation but with the government promising better roads, hopefully, we won’t have any excuses for bad driving and lack of road manners.

With offence to none, the drivers driving bigger cars seem more hell-bent on breaking traffic rules. The smug faces do not make it any easier.

And the ones with the red beacons are a different family altogether. The safest thing to do would be to stay away from them altogether but then with limited options, we have to just bear their disrespectful behaviour, hoping that someday maybe a certain amount of light from top of their vehicles will percolate down to their brains too.  Hopefully.







(15. October, 2014)

Politics of transfers

Tongam Rina

Mass transfers in Education department have lit-erally shaken the teachers, their families and students alike.  A total of 567 teachers have been transferred according to an order issued on Sept 11 with an instruction to the teachers to join their respective place of posting within ten days.  

The order has not gone down well with most of the teachers, especially those working in East Siang. More than four hundred teachers from the district have been posted to East Kameng and Longding districts, considered less accessible within a very backward state.  

Now, conventionally, such transfers should not be opposed as it is the duty of the government employees to serve wherever they are posted. But, the situation this time has been different with many questioning the motive of the transfers and dubbing it politically motivated.   

On the other hand, the Minister has categorically said that the transfers were initiated to streamline the Education department. If that is the truth, it is indeed a welcome move. The only hitch here is that not all transfers were done with good intention. There are accusations abound that most teachers transferred from Pangin-Boleng constituency were politically motivated.  Now, even if that is the case, the minister will have an easy excuse and get away with these transfers; politically motivated or otherwise, as the employees are duty bound to serve anywhere in the state.

Whatever may be the reason for the transfers, the welfare of the students are paramount and it should be on the top priority of the government as well as the teachers. But this time around, the studies are bound to be affected as the students are already in the middle of session. In most of the cases, the teachers are unlikely to pack and leave for their respective places very easily. There seems no truce in sight as of now with teachers already striking in East Siang.

The adamant stand of the government will not be very helpful as many teachers who are in need of constant medical attention, physically challenged and on the verge of retirement have been transferred. More humane stand needs to be adopted in such cases.  

The financial involvement because of these transfers will be heavy for the already impoverished state.  Come March, it will not only the contractors or the numerous union and association leaders who will harass the government but teachers as well demanding reimbursement of the money expended as they moved from one school to the another.

While the government is at it, it might as well look into the problem of shortages of teachers all over the state and ensure that there is equitable distribution of teachers. One needs to look beyond the district headquarters.

For long, there have been various discussions to streamline the education department. The results have remained the same as the school education system in the state has gone from bad to worse with massive political interference at every step right from postings to appointments of most of the teachers.  End result is that most of the students continue to struggle with basic reading and writing skills and mathematics.  One just wishes that these transfers and postings are really for the welfare of the children. Hopefully, their ‘welfare’ is not being used as an excuse by the elders to indulge in activities that are not necessarily for their wellbeing. The students should not be sandwiched between an adamant minister and reluctant teachers.









(08. October, 2014)

While we watch in silence

Tongam Rina

In Arunachal, most of us grew up believing that crimes happened elsewhere. The worse that one heard was theft. But now, almost every day we hear about murder, rapes, domestic violence, abuse of young children, intimidation of govt officials and business community by individuals and organisations.

Capital City is one of the hubs of the criminals. They say that all the good people have been left behind in the villages of Arunachal while the criminals and to be criminals have made the Capital their home.

The other day, yours truly was at the Grocer’s when a young man came asking for a carton of aerated drink. Swiftly, the boy at the counter delivered the box. Without paying, the young man walked away as everyone stood speechless at the audacity.

Aisa hi hota hain, said the grocer, seemingly saddened at the lack of respect more than the loss of money. Where else in the country will one find the petrol pumps closed at 8 PM sharp? Ours is a Capital that is not under the rule of the Army or militants but then at times it is worse than those states. Those people who indulge in such shameless acts are our own who have no respect for people or the law. The citizens who accept these unlawful activities, the police inaction and delayed response, a confused and scared business community largely made up of people from outside the state, the weak and meek governance and over burdened administration will have to share the blame. We have just been mute spectators, often confused at the questionable path that some of the people have chosen.

A business man was brutally killed in Itanagar, a mother raped and murdered in Garu in West Siang, a wife killed and sexually assaulted in Tawang and then this news of a young boy killed in Ziro while his friend was allegedly sexually assaulted. All this happened in a span of two months.  Where are we headed? If these crimes do not make us sit up and take serious note, what else will move us?

According to National Crime Records Bureau records, Arunachal Pradesh has one of the lowest conviction rates, which speaks about the dismal state of the judiciary in the state.  

In 2012, the conviction rate of rape cases in Arunachal stands at mere ten percent, which is one of the lowest in the entire country.

Compare this with Mizoram, which saw rape conviction rate of 82.4%, followed by Nagaland at 72.1%.

Unless, criminals are taken to task and made to pay a heavy price, crimes graph will continue to rise in general and particularly against women and children.  

A long time ago, when institution of Gaon Burahs/Buris was still largely respected, yours truly remembers an incident that happened in a small village where the villagers were convened for a meeting regarding a poor man who had stolen rice from a granary. The man was asked to pay back either in cash or kind. As we walked back home, I asked my grand dad why a poor man had to be punished for stealing to feed his family.

He said, “The villagers did not punish him for being poor or for stealing to feed his family. He was punished because he committed a crime, which is unacceptable in our village”.







(01. October, 2014)

A broom and the river

Tongam Rina

Remember Arvind Kejriwal, the broom wielding bureaucrat turned chief minister of Delhi? He has since slipped into oblivion after tormenting the day lights out of rival political parties with media playing it out to the full and catching the imagination of the citizens pinning their hope for a better system. 

BJP, the arch political rival of Aam Aadmi Party have certainly not yet forgotten tormentor Kejriwal. It even seems to have learnt a thing or two from Mr Sweeper going by the number of politicians taking up broom to make our country Swachch Bharat. 

Under the ambitious programme towards total sanitation, the BJP government intends to cover every household by 2019 through the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan programme.

The programme is a tribute to 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The UPA government too had something called Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), which is replaced with Swachch Bharat Abhiyan, that planned to achieve 100 per cent access to sanitation for all rural households in the country by 2022.

Total sanitation efforts are not new. Way back in 1986, Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP) was initiated to provide sanitation facilities in rural areas.

Even though agencies responsible for implementation have been ambitious, such programes have barely been successful. Our country continues to be extended garbage bin where people prefer defecating in public for lack of facilities.

Concerted  efforts of citizens, more so the school children, the people at the grassroots and Panchayat Raj Institutions can play a serious role in making the programme a success. Instead of looking at the programme as just another scheme, the department responsible need to involve all sections of society.

Meanwhile, soon we will be inundated with pictures of broom wielding politicians, workers and bureaucrats clueless where the accumulated garbage goes.

Case in hand is Arunachal Pradesh’s capital region. Like good citizens, we throw our garbage from the windows directly to the street. The Municipal Corporation apparently does not have enough money to keep the city clean, so most often we stumble on the garbage. Heaps of rotting waste is seen littering at every possible street corner. The smell can be intimidating as our favourite pigs put all their efforts to recycle the waste which we dump with extreme carelessNESS. Many households prefer to do it simple; route the waste straight to the nearest rivers and channels, thus clogging and polluting it for good.

Yours truly, like a good tourist was sitting near a river admiring the beauty and breathing in tranquillity of the area in one of the district Headquarters couple of years ago.

A   friend came rushing, with his mouth covered with  hands, saying something incorrigible as he start to pull me up.

As we reached a “safe” distance,   he announced, “minister ka ghar ka toilet tank nehi hain, ghar se sheeda nadi me aata hai”. Apparently, I was sitting at the strategic location!

We are so caught up in our own small world that we can’t even clean the dirt and stink that emanates from where we are sitting.

The rivers on their part, meanwhile keep flowing and keep sweeping away our filth.






(24. September, 2014)

Walk along the Sabarmati

Tongam Rina

The Chinese president’s visit to India and subsequent uproar over the report that people/employees from North East region were kept away from the way of the visiting dignitary reminded yours truly of an incident that happened many years ago.

At a meeting in Delhi, a co-participant announced that people from North East appear very similar to each other and that it was difficult to make out the facial differences, much to the annoyance of a colleague from the region, who was unofficially crowned the beauty queen from among the participants.

Allegedly, in order to prevent the Tibetans from protesting, the lazy Gujrat Police decided to opt for the easiest route and put a blanket ban on people with small slit eyes from appearing anywhere near the visiting delegation.  The trick worked as the walk along the Sabarmati and the dinner (apparently one of the Chefs was from North East) went off smoothly.

By the time, the Chinese delegation reached Delhi; the media had already picked up on the report that came from Gujrat based paper regarding the literal sweeping under the carpet of the Chinkies.  

One can only sympathise with the media house as by now certain forces must have swarmed all over it.

The ministry of Home affairs is reported to have asked the intelligence bureau to find out if report of keeping  the people from the region out of the way of the visiting delegation is indeed true.  It’s a sheer waste of time for the ministry and the hotel in question and its employees since nothing substantial will come out as every mandarin responsible for the incorrigible decision will pass the buck.

The “similar” facial structure of the people from North East might confuse most people who do not belong to the region but how do one explain the fact that  Kiren Rijiju, the darling of the masses, the poster boy of the media, one and only Minister of state for Home was also kept out?

Of the 15 agreements, none fall under his ministry but he certainly should have been invited to the state banquet hosted by the President of India as he holds one

of the key portfolios. 

One can understand the reluctance of the centre to keep him at the forefront as Rijiju has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Chinese antics including issue of staple visa, intrusions and rights of the Tibetans.  But by keeping Rijiju out of the official engagements, the centre has clearly sent a message that it does not want to offend the mighty Chinese. 

We don’t blame the Minister for maintaining silence, for obvious reasons.

And in Arunachal, the young students across many schools will continue to take the “I am an Indian” pledge every morning; the gaon burahs will continue to greet each other “Jai Hind”, the visiting dignitaries from elsewhere in India will continue to say that Arunachal is an integral part of India.








(17. September, 2014)

Courting controversy

Tongam Rina

It was quite a sight to witness hundreds of students out in already crowded street today in Itanagar braving the heat and dust, protesting against the alleged leakage of General Studies paper of the Combined Civil Service (MAINS) 2014  examination being conducted by the Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Commission.

One's heart went out for aspirants as they formed a long line screaming their frustrations out on the streets armed with hand written banners. Perhaps, many did not venture out for months together as they burnt the proverbial midnight oil preparing for the exam, considered one of the most prestigious in the state.

The Commission has announced postponement of exams but it is sure to affect the lives of many students who have been seriously considering a career in bureaucracy in the state and preparing for it.

Even though Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Commission has given the state some of the best officers, it is no stranger to controversies.

The reputation of the Commission has been in tatters because of its own doing. Over the years, the Commission has been dragged to court many times because of administrative indecisiveness and wrong decisions. Each time, the Commission has lost the argument in the Courts, which speaks a lot about it.

Other times it has been accused of nepotism, inefficiency and for lack of transparency in its dealing. They say reputation travel miles ahead of reality.  In the case of the APPSC, the lines are not blurred anymore as it has found itself in serious trouble again and again.

One is left wondering why effective and foolproof mechanisms have not been put in place by the marred Commission. The least they could do is ensure that papers are not leaked. Year after year, the commission cannot afford to make avoidable mistakes.

To be fair to the Commission, this latest episode does not look intentional as the unused question papers of 2011 were apparently given out to all those who sought for it since last year. But it sure looks like carelessness on the part of the Commission, which has left aspirants on dire streets.

Will the APPSC try and learn from its past mistakes or will it live up to the reputation of being unable to do anything without committing series of mistakes? One must remember that careers of students and future of bureaucracy is at stake if the very Commission entrusted to search talent fails to exhibit some talent in conduction of its numerous exams.






(10. September, 2014)

Crimes are for real

Tongam Rina

Two major crimes occurred in Itanagar one after another which have been widely reported in the media and discussed on social networking sites.  

Vijaya Bank was looted at Rajiv Gandhi University campus in broad day light in August.  The perpetrators not only looted money but shot a bank employee as well. One of the arrested is allegedly behind three other bank robberies.  One can’t help but wonder why some people have been given the freedom to execute one loot after the other. Isn’t such repeated daring offences reflection on the judiciary and policing in the state?

More recently, a prominent businessman was abducted from his home and subsequently killed.

In the meantime, the police department and state government have announced establishment of five check gates within the Capital Region to check crimes.  It clearly is a nervous tactic by the govt to reassure the citizens and business community who are obviously panicky.

 There are check gates already at Banderdewa and Gohpur/Hollongi, which are major entry points to the capital region. Many of you who use personal cars will agree that checks are at the most basic. A careless scan of the faces and one is let in. Vehicles coming in are checked, not the outbound ones.  A tribal looking face need not even budge from the car as if the tribals are not capable of committing crime and Arunachal the only state where people with Mongoloid features reside. The body language of the security personnel suddenly changes when a big car approaches. With easy money to be made from unfair business practices and day light extortion, big air conditioned cars are not out of bounds for anymore.  

Ages ago once yours truly returned home late night from office with a colleague when a security personnel stopped the car. When we announced that we were coming from a newspaper office, the guy said, “tumhara matha main likha nehi hain ki tum journalist ho”. The response was unexpected and sounded rude. But today I wish we get to hear the same response more often. Atleast that would be reassuring- how much our capital has changed.

These days the bumpy ride home is not something that yours truly look forward to. Many people are seen brawling near the roads while bikes without lights scare others on the road. The road show happens every night while there are no signs of police anywhere. Interestingly, the police in a meet with the press opined that the day-to-day violation of traffic rules was helping criminals flee easily after committing crimes. That is a rather difficult argument to buy. Isn’t it the duty of the police themselves to ensure violations are not committed? If people are blatantly violating norms, is it not a failure of the police to enforce even this basic law?

The slew of measures announced by the police after these incidents is genuinely laudable. But beleaguered as it is with a shortage of funds and a much more acute shortage of officers and personnel, can we really expect them to be able to deliver on these assurances? Only time would tell if the city becomes a safer place. In the meanwhile, we citizens will have to also bear the responsibility of looking out to preventing crimes from happening and responding alertly when they do. All it calls for is to shake off our complacency and realise that today crimes like these are not mere newspaper items- they are real.






(27. August. 2014)

A bursting bubble and reality check

Tongam Rina

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 believe?

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

Tongam Rina

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 nature.  

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 living nightmare?

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 actually materializing

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 ahead.






(16. May.2014)

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.







(04. December.2013)

The border and wandering mind

Tongam Rina

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 side.

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

Tongam Rina

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 has come.

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 for three

long years.

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

Tongam Rina

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 of violence.

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?

Tongam Rina

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 function.

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 own state.

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.  







(05. Dec.2012)

Let’s talk

Tongam Rina

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 financial help.

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.







(28. Nov.2012)

Amidst lawlessness

Tongam Rina

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 and order.

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 first place.

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.






(13. Sep.2012)

Green Pioneers in A Garbage City

Tongam Rina

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 of Arunachal.

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 green pioneers!







(08. Aug.2012)

Coming Back To What?

Tongam Rina

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.








(04. July.2012)

Summer woes of a town

Tongam Rina

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 ever reach.

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)

A conversation

Tongam Rina

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

Tongam Rina

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?

Tongam Rina

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 grassroots democracy.

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 its centennial.

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 gunfire.

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

Tongam Rina

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 communities.

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

Tongam Rina

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!  

Tongam Rina

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 chance!

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 all levels.

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 achieve.

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 Act.

But then ours is a fabled land indeed where nothing is bizarre anymore!







(30. Nov .2011)

Arunachal and its boundaries

Tongam Rina

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 contention.

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 in conflicts.

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)

Extended wait

Tongam Rina

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 border state.

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 violence.

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 time.

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

Tongam Rina

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

Tongam Rina

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 calm.

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 own scores?

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

Tongam Rina

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 together.  

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 see.  

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

Tongam Rina

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

Tongam Rina

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 he works.

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)

Unexplained Realities

Tongam Rina

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 all?  

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

Tongam Rina

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 minimized.

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 measures?  

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?

Tongam Rina

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 unnoticed.

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 each other.

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

Tongam Rina

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….?

Tongam Rina

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

Tongam Rina

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

Tongam Rina

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 here?  

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 well.

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 projects.

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

Tongam Rina

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 issue.   

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 who surrender?

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 ultras.

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

Tongam Rina

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 looks.

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

Tongam Rina

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 the students.

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 this issue.

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

Tongam Rina

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 laxity.

 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

Tongam Rina

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 release.

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 and why.

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

Tongam Rina

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

Tongam Rina

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 in Arunachal.

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 limited resources.

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 state.

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 deserve.

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 anything otherwise.  





The new sets of law

Tongam Rina

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 any more.

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 up.

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

Tongam Rina

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

Tongam Rina

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 Vilas Bardekar.

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 agenda.




Troubled Ziro

Tongam Rina

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 traumatic events.

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 Ziro.

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

Tongam Rina

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 hazardous occupations.

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   

Tongam Rina

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 earliest.

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

Tongam Rina

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.




(13.oct .2010)

As they sing “Munni badnam hui”   

Tongam Rina

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 the other.

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   

Tongam Rina

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 productive.

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.







(1.Sep. 2010)

People and their agenda    

Tongam Rina

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 power project!

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!




(8.Sep. 2010)

Living a monitored life

Tongam Rina

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 achievement.

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 of funds.

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 here too.

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!

Tongam Rina

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

Tongam Rina

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 apathy.

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)

The border   

Tongam Rina

“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   

Tongam Rina

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 needs explanation.

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 end.

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 of wheat!

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

Tongam Rina

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 or two.

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.




(21. Jul.2010)

Arunachal Pradesh Police versus the citizens   

Tongam Rina

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?   

Tongam Rina

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     

Tongam Rina

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 come easy.

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 government indeed.








Rono Hills: the fight for supremacy     

Tongam Rina

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 hours bandh.

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

Tongam Rina

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    

Tongam Rina

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 ups.

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 ?    

Tongam Rina

The arrest of top NSCN (IM) cadres in Tirap has once again brought to the fore some uncomfortable truths.

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 “cause”.

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   

Tongam Rina

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!


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