TIMES OF ASSAM
TRUTH BOLD FEARLESS

10 things where Assam badly needs a change

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Revolution is not something that is created by political elites, but rather by ordinary people only when they change the way they think and live.

14 years ago there were dreams of what the new millennium will bring to the human civilization, this world, to this country, etc. But what have we got? As we approach towards 2014, we tend to think what has gone right and what has not, what our strengths are and what are our areas of improvements.

Since there are many to think for the whole country as a whole, let me just stick to my own motherland, Assam. Here are 10 things which my motherland Assam must see or bring a change if it intends to bring an end to the dark and gloomy days which we have always seen and lived with.

1.  Stop the Bandh Culture

Assam had something to do with words starting with B. All discussions by a common person of Assam mostly begins and ends with atleast one of the following, – Bangladeshi, Border conflict, Brahmaputra, Baanpani (flood), Bihu, Bomb Blasts, Bhaat (Rice or meal), Bodnaam (Gossip), Bhupen-da, Bodoland and many more. But the most common word or phenomenon has to be Bandh.

Every day there is a Bandh in atleast some areas of the state. People are so much used to it that nowadays there are discussions such as “It is so hot and humid these days, why don’t someone call for a Bandh”. Political groups, student groups, ethnic groups, trade unions, – the favourite weapon of choice of almost all of these groups is calling for a Bandh. A car hits a man who crosses the road without watching left and right, – there is a road block. An activist is arrested by police, – call for an Assam Bandh.

It is an open secret that Bandhs are mostly successful not because people supports the groups or the cause, but because of fear and also adaptation to the holiday through Bandh. Today in Assam on the day of a Bandh, even if you have an ailing mother who needs to be rushed to the hospital, you can’t take her because your car will be pelted with stones. You can’t plan business, you can’t plan travel, and you can’t do anything. Everyone suffers, – daily wage workers, students, workers, transportation industry, businessmen and no one gains. Yet the culture continues.

I have met Assamese successful professionals who have set up offices and corporate houses in Bangalore, Pune or Mumbai. They have all the intent to set this up in their home state, but cannot. With the reputation of Assam being a Bandh loving state, they would not even be able to address the mandatory clauses about Business Continuity Planning (BCP), Disaster Recovery (DR), etc which are required for getting an ISO 27001:2005 certification (A Must for catering to crucial International Business). As such no service industry that caters to western need can even start up in Assam. There are thousands of BPOs, ITES companies who could have easily started office in Assam and solved the problem of un-employment to a large extent. But these companies and sectors cannot shut shop for even a minute. And we are talking about 24 hour Bandhs and indefinite road blocks! Are we willing to grow ad improve? Or should we remain content with the notion of oldies – we don’t need corporate sector in Assam (Whatever it means)!

2. Learn Professionalism

If there is one thing that people of this region truly lacks today, is professionalism. You go to any bank or office, you would have to hear common phrases such as Will be done in few days, come after Bihu or Puja, today our server is down, today our officer is on leave because of some function at his in-law’s place, etc. You call up your cable operator/ fridge repairmen/ electrician/plumber to repair something at your home and if he tells you that he would come in the afternoon, be rest assured that you would have to follow up again tomorrow on his whereabouts. Further there are chances that if you call him up in the afternoon, his wife or mother might pick up your call to tell you that he is taking a nap (Tekhet Xui Ase!) and that you should call later! Or maybe he won’t answer the call at all and next day would say that he left his phone at his home.

As a result, people still try to get work done on basis on personal contacts. You go to a bank whose manager was a school friend of your uncle’s neighbour’s brother-in-law or call up your friend’s colleague’s ex-driver if you need a cab. In today’s fast paced world which moves on the basis of TAT (Turnaround Time), Targets, closures, Six Sigma Accuracy and SLA (Service Level Agreements), Assam will be left behind light years than the rest of the developing world if we continue to operate at lame terms. The laid back attitude and relaxed culture has been our biggest evil. True that things are changing now, but it is far from being called enough.

There are people from Assam who have gone to become CEOs of Big firms across the world, who have set up industries, who have become professors of elite institutions such as Cambridge. It is not that we cannot be professionals. We have just given it a blind eye so far and now we need to open up.

3. Stop the Chanda Culture

If Bandhs are nuisance and a hurdle to bring in investors, Chanda (Donations) is the icing on the cake! During last Durga Puja celebrations, there was small news about a restaurant in Guwahati being vandalized by goons because they refused to pay a hefty sum of money demanded as Chanda for a Puja committee. This is nothing unusual. Majority of student groups, militant groups, political groups, etc uses Chanda (mostly forced donation or demands) as their easy source of income. They don’t care how much you earn or how much your financial liabilities are. You are just handed over a receipt with an amount written (Mostly with such huge numbers that you will want to cry) and you are asked to pay it or face consequences.

Agreed that some of these groups are also indulging in positive action and doing something for the society, but the way the donations are collected would sometimes put the dacoits ofChambal Valley to shame.

4. Bring a very strong anti-superstition law

We have had enough number of Witch killings, news of Human sacrifices, self-proclaimed Godmen and other such nonsense. If Maharashtra could pass an anti-superstition law, why can’t we? Just as the law passed in Maharashtra, we really need to punish those modern day demons who indulge in any or all of the following:

  • Assaults, forces ingestion of urine or stool, forces sexual acts, branding etc. on the pretext of exorcising ghosts from an allegedly possessed person.
  • Claims to make miracles and defrauding or terrorising people.
  • Carries out or encourages acts which endanger life or cause grievous injury in order to gain supernatural blessing.
  • Carrying out or encouraging inhuman acts or human sacrifice in quest of some bounty or reward.
  • Creating the impression that a person has supernatural powers and compelling people to follow his/her orders.
  • Accusing a person of practising black magic or being an incarnation of saitan, blaming him/her of causing diseases or misfortune, and harassing the person.
  • Claiming to invoke ghosts, creating the impression of possession, preventing the person from seeking medical treatment, and compelling him/her to inhuman acts.

5. Correct the definition of Breaking News in Regional Media

We understand that News Channels have sales targets and have to run business, but we do not understand why the TV screen has to scream about a drunken husband chopping off his wife with cruelty or a group of women slapping another woman (for minor theft, extra-marital affair etc) as BREAKING news!! Can we not have positive inspiring news that ignites hope, – such as one about children’s talent, good initiatives taken by Social activists, literature, women’s rights, etc that can become breaking news? Also, nowadays it is evident that people LOVE showing off their martial arts skills in front of TV Cameras. Encouraged by similar dramatic visuals,- whether it is a coconut-thief getting caught or a teacher who is accused of using a whip with a kid, the crowd around the accused just decides to turn Bruce Lee as soon the camera switches on. Such visuals are encouraging more and more people, especially youngsters, to take on Law in their hands and dis-respecting the Order of the Land. Another point is about moral policing by News Channels: For example, journalists have no right to question what kind of dresses girls of Guwahati should wear. The task of a Good Journalist is to report facts, not cook spice.

6. Make movies and soaps which inspires and strengthen cultural ties

Every other Assamese movie is either completely or partially a love story with similar twists and turns. But can you name a single good movie of our times where the love Story is about, a boy from so called Mainstream Assamese Family (Let’s say with a surname of Baruah or Sharma) falling in love with a girl from Bodo or Karbi community and then fighting against the society to get married? Why do the Assamese movies or soaps need to be stereotypic in nature, why can’t we have any Bodo, Mising, Tiwa, Karbi, Dimasa, Sonowal Kachari, Deori, Matak, Rabha, Koch, etc character or story to showcase their beautiful culture? The last soap that I atleast saw was Misikijili, a serial about Mising culture during my school days.

 One of the best Assamese Fictional Literary Series remains (from the 70’s decade) Dasyu Bhaskar, where the Hero Bhaskar’s best friend was Soman Awo from Naga Hills. The character helped readers from that decade to have a feeling of brotherhood between the Hills and the Plains. Today such a feeling is missing and every good and bad movie/ serial director or producer has to take the blame for not creating anything worthy which inspires cultural unity. To most of the movie directors and producers, please ask yourself how many really good worthy movies have you made before blaming the audience for not watching Assamese movies.

7.  Bring Back competitiveness

What else would you do expect when the culture is such that

There is a small community(they use Meena as surname) in Rajasthan with just 33,000 people who have more than 50% of its population in top positions across India (IAS, IPS, High Level CEOs, etc). They have been able to do so because of the competitive spirit within themselves, because the youngsters get inspired to compete and excel. Unlike us, where most teenagers dream about studying in Bangalore or Delhi for the fun-carefree life they hear about from their neighbouring Dada and Baa.

8. Stop Hue and Cry for Toppers (10th and 12th) and give attention to real achievers

This one looks like a continuation from point 7 but it is not. Our people love to make a hue and cry about the guys who Stands (State Rank Holders of 10th and 12th) as if they have won a war and would be the future of Assam. True, they deserve recognition and must be applauded and encouraged. But what next? Interviews are published of the hyped teenagers who intend to become Software Engineers and Medical Practitioners. Barring a few exceptions, have those toppers from last twenty years done something worthy for the state, apart from posting pictures of his life in America through Facebook? How many such toppers do we have, who can take the lead in designing a Bridge over the Brahmaputra or implement technical solutions to stop the Flood problem? We must have had easily over 200 Doctors out of the Toppers since 1990. Then, why do our patients (middle class) talk about moving to Chennai or Hyderabad for treatment and not trust the local medical facilities? Why have we not been able to create a IT sector (Software engineers?) in our state?

The fact is we keep a close watch on the kids till their 12th, but don’t give a damn after that. Whereas real life starts after this hurdle. We must encourage entrepreneurs, technical experts and scientists more, – who have proved that sky is not the limit for students of Assam if they work hard. Creating the hype about 16 year superstar of exam results reminds us of Banikanta Kakati’s saying Bothahout Fooli Utha Baloon Xomajor Eku Kamot Nahe (Baloons filled with air are of no use for the society)

9. Spitting and littering on the road

Culturally, we people love Tamool-Pan. But does it mean we have to colour our city red with Spit of Bettle Nuts, Paan, Gutkha, etc? Even those who Non-Resident Assamese living in Delhi or Abroad, who behaves like a well-mannered gentlemen in the Metros and Malls, enjoy colouring roads and walls with red spit when they reach their hometowns, such is their unchanged love for their motherland! Thankfully there are initiatives beginning to be taken by NGOs to keep the cities and towns clean, but nothing will change unless habits are changed. For this, local bodies need to impose fines and penalties as a driver of change. If the fear of penalty or social disgrace makes even the dirtiest guy behave in the Delhi Metro, why couldn’t we do that on our roads, river banks and offices? Our student bodies, Policemen and Right winged activists like to play moral police and punish couples holding hands at the banks of Dighalipukhuri or Brahmaputra Riverbank. Instead, can we start catching people who urinates on the roadside or spits on the walls and show their guilty faces through News Channels?

10. Be the change yourself – Do Change Networking

We are a generation who wants Change but are ready to die expecting someone else to bring that change or lead that dreamy social revolution. People of Assam are known to be like Kher (Hay), – which burns very easily and extinguishes very easily as well.

We have seen and heard (probably done too) enough of Chain Networking business, some which makes you rich and some which cheats you off money. We have all done enough of sharing sms, quotes and pictures of Facebook. This time, let’s resolve to start being the change ourselves,-  Be the change and try encouraging just two other friends for becoming the agent of these changes. These two can lead two more and so on. Let this become a Network, which will allow only New Blood and Propagate Change.

 …Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’,
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’….
(The Times They Are a-Changin’ – Bob Dylan)

 (To be continued by you and I, together…..)

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10 things where Assam badly needs a change

By: Priyankan Goswami Read time: 44 min