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.



(8. Dec .2010)

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.



(24. Nov .2010)

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.