From the hallowed grounds

Monday Musing

[ Tongam Rina ]
The Arunachal Pradesh Raj Bhavan has seen some interesting occupants in recent years.
Of course Gen JJ Singh undoubtedly was the most popular governor. Dubbed ‘the people’s governor’, he was known for being extremely extravagant. He was also the one who threw open the gates of the Raj Bhavan to the common people, making it a popular winter playground for school children, with some organic gardening thrown in.
During his tenure, ‘organic Arunachal’ was a popular slogan.
Last heard of, he was in the news last year for using a heavy dose of profanity in choicest Punjabi as he tried his luck in electoral politics. He lost!
While very few governors have remained in public memory for long, Arunachalees won’t forget JP Rajkhowa any time soon.
A retired Indian Administrative Service officer, the whimsical Rajkhowa never missed an opportunity to show who was boss. Unfortunately, while he played the boss, lashing out at everyone who came in his way, including the media, Rajkhowa will best be remembered for plunging the state into unimaginable political chaos.
The appointment of Rajkhowa as governor itself was rather surprising, given the fact that he belonged to Assam – a state with which Arunachal shares a blow hot-blow cold relationship because of the boundary dispute. His appointment, as well as his disastrous performance as governor, did nothing to mend the already frosty relations between the two states.
While we thought that Raj Bhavan was back on track, there came the revelation that 66-year-old V Shanmuganathan was rather more interested in the opposite sex than running the states of Arunachal and Meghalaya. Private lives of those running the state are rarely discussed in public, but his luck ran out.
Employees of the Meghalaya Raj Bhavan wrote to the Prime Minister, the President and the home ministry, seeking his dismissal for allegedly turning the Raj Bhavan into a ‘young ladies’ club’.
The Centre, after two high profile cases, could not take more chances. Soon, they dispatched PB Acharya, the governor of Nagaland and an old RSS hand, to Arunachal. The governor’s time was spent travelling across the state, locating his old friends – friendships made in the ’60s as a young lobbyist of the right wing Hindu nationalist organisation, the RSS.
Even while in the Raj Bhavan, Acharya allegedly conducted a meeting to discuss conversion of tribals to Christianity in the eastern part of Arunachal. Though there were no comments from the Raj Bhavan, this did not go down well with most people of the state who traditionally view that religion and food choices are matters of personal prerogative and therefore the state has no role in it.
Acharya was also a nightmare for officers and the state government. He took note of the crumbling infrastructure in schools, lack of toilet facilities, dilapidated and almost nonexistent roads. Acharya made his displeasure known very publicly through his speeches, and admonished officers and politicians, leaving them red-faced.
As of now, we don’t know what is on the agenda of the incumbent BD Mishra, the fifth Army man to be chosen as the governor of Arunachal. From the press releases sent out by his office, it appears that cleanliness is high on the agenda.
From Monday, the Raj Bhavan will start a cleanliness programme, themed ‘Hamara Elan Swacchta aur Nari Uttan’. Apparently, it’s not a photo-op. Unlikely, though!
It remains to be seen how successful the initiative will be, even as the district administration and the Itanagar municipality are already on the job to clean up the mess.
The intention of cleaning the town, which is brimming with garbage on most days, seems good so far. But the Raj Bhavan could be more innovative with the theme instead of conveniently clubbing cleanliness and women’s empowerment together! Though there is a gender aspect to sanitation, there is very little to suggest that cleanliness of a town will lead to women’s empowerment.
Perhaps we will figure out the connection as the programme takes off.