(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


[ 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.