[ Tom Simai ]
As of now, Changlang district, an affluent abode of natural resources is living and enduring the curse of ‘early opportunity and easy money’ doled out by the booming timber trade of yore.
The period between the late ’70s and mid ’90s was popularly known as the ‘golden era of easy money and surplus opportunity’. The time was the easiest to earn money. Even the lowest category workers of timber trade, like manual loggers wangled and minted gold on a daily basis.
Despite being a significant part of the surplus phase, majority of the local throng missed the bus of financial stability that had few passengers on board. Interestingly, the sensible folks that boarded the bus in later years went on to dominate the economical and socio-political scenario of the district.
Prior to 1995, the general belief was that the golden era will never fade. And then came the ban of the timber trade by the Supreme Court of India. In the blink of an eye, the source of easy money they relished for a quarter of a century, diminished without any trace.
In the chaos, the dishevelled district was able to salvage two callous components from the golden era – the wrath of illiteracy and opium consumption.
For that ignoramus generation, education was not a weapon to fight the battle of life but a threat that would amputate their chances of richness. Awed by the rapacity and swayed by ignorance, they wilfully abandoned all mediums of education and focused more on shrinking the forests.
The horrible outcome of those 25 years resulted in the district producing merely 25 graduates.
From the embryonic stage, the children of the golden era were more into becoming timber merchants rather than a doctor or an engineer. School dropouts were earning much higher than the top grade government officials. So, trivial issues like education and government jobs were never a part of dinner table discussion.
Opportunity came prematurely in Changlang district. It arrived before education could put some sense in the developing indigenous brains. The locals were not ready -both education and experience wise -to confront the colossal opportunity that came without knocking and left; knocking off the indigenous world.
In the ’90s, opium smoking was making inroad as random traditional recreation. It was only after the mid ’90s that opium became an object to pass the time that was plenty in hand after the timber ban.
Forthe generation that neither had the education to pursue professional careers nor the skills to undertake any technical or physical work, opium stupor extended respite, and in the process they could not discern how the tool, used to pass the time, matured as a nemesis of a lifetime.
In the meantime, being a rudderless society, the golden era demolished the indigenous ethos, ethics and ethnicity. The era inculcated fly blown ideologies which made the locals opt for easy money over education and societal salubriousness.
The youths were crippled by illiteracy; likewise, the community doyens were stultified by the commission bug. The timber industries used to pay mindboggling commissions to the villagers to carry out timber operations within the village territory.
While pocketing easy money, the elders forgot their moral obligations and trampled their social responsibilities. Due to that factor, as of now, the district and the indigenous folks stand divided. Components like illiteracy, social disharmony, poverty, unemployment, drugs and corruption have become synonyms to the district.
The truth is that opportunity came too early for the indigenous people of the district. The inability to mould the situation as per the indigenous wherewithal has pushed the district 25 years behind in every field. Because of those fruitless 25 years, today, the district is suffering to the zenith.
The deep economy and social scar left behind by the brutality of the golden era can be seen in every household of the district. The healing process of the recklessness of a quarter century and the mistake of a generation will take time. (The writer can be reached at [email protected])
[ Tom Simai ]