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!