(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.