The journey of last decade

Monday Musing

[ Bengia Ajum ]

The BJP government has completed eight years in office in Delhi. It is time to reflect on the impact of the saffron party in the state in this period. I joined the state’s media in 2009, and since then have closely witnessed the growth of the state in the last decade. The period from 2008 to 2013 was the most fascinating time in the history of Arunachal Pradesh. The UPA government pumped in huge money and a large chunk of the population benefited from it. Allegation of corruption and financial mismanagement was there. But wealth was equally distributed. A large population of states who were living in utter poverty moved into the middle class and upper-middle-class categories during this period.

It is a known fact that the majority of the population is dependent on government jobs and government contract work. The charismatic chief minister, late Dorjee Khandu, had an excellent working relationship with then prime minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. This led to a huge flow of funds into the state. The division between the rich and the poor was somewhat reduced. For this, the UPA government deserves credit. Almost every section of society benefitted.

Post-2014, after the coming of the NDA, the situation changed. Privately, many present BJP MLAs, who were earlier part of the UPA era, tell me that they miss the UPA era. People do not have enough contract work. The situation is so bad that the chunk of the population who had moved to middle class from the BPL category during the UPA’s tenure are now on the verge of being pushed back to below the poverty line again. Only those sections of the population who are well connected are still making progress. A dangerous class division is emerging in the state. The gulf between the rich and the poor is getting big.

Also, these days most of the major contract works in the state are being given to outside vendors, who are well-connected with central leaders. Money is mostly going outside the state. The government thought the quality of work would improve by involving outside vendors as there have been so many complaints against local contractors. But the reality is that the situation has not really improved much.

Further, post-2014 Arunachal is increasingly witnessing religious tension never seen before. With the rise of the Hindutva right-wing extremism, it is also leading to a rise in Christian extremism in the state. There is growing tension between the fanatics of both.

However, the majority of Arunachalis are not comfortable with the prevailing situation. The attempt to impose extreme right-wing ideology is being resisted by the majority of tribals, who are not comfortable with religious extremism, be it Hindu, Christian, indigenous faith, or Buddhist.

The recent beef controversy is one such example of how slowly but surely the mainland religious politics related to food habits is making inroads in Arunachal too. This is a deeply dangerous trend. The outsiders are not only starting to dictate the socio-political and cultural scene of the state but also food habits.

It is not that everything is bad under the BJP. There are areas where the BJP government has done some good work under Chief Minister Pema Khandu. The infrastructure projects are at least completed these days. Today, when new major infrastructure projects are taken up, it is almost sure that they will be completed. The CM has started a new culture of setting a deadline for the completion of projects. While deadlines can be missed sometimes, as it happened with Hollongi greenfield airport, at least a refreshing trend of working with a target has been started and this is helping the state. Due to this approach, there is a visible change on the ground and several major infrastructure projects are being completed in record time.

Another area where CM Khandu has worked well is bringing transparency to the recruitment process.