Development Gone Awry
Amid all the talk of so-called development in Assam, we have two bits of statistics that are bound to shock everyone. One relates to the number of road accidents and the other to suicides. During 2014, there were 8,875 deaths due to road accidents in all the north-eastern States taken together. Of these, 5,853 deaths occurred on the highways and roads of Assam. This accounts for 65.04 per cent of the road accident deaths of the Northeast taking place in Assam alone. Next comes Tripura with 994 deaths. The other States have less than half the deaths that occurred in Tripura. galand, with just 59 deaths, would seem to be the safest State for motoring. The road accident deaths in Assam, can be attributed largely to two factors: (a) there are too many incompetent drivers and (b) there are too many drunk drivers. The Motor Vehicles Department has virtually abolished driving tests for issuing driving licences. So we know that a competent driver who is not willing to pay a bribe (in other words, not willing to buy his driving licence) may not get one. The Motor Vehicles Department must, therefore, take responsibility for a large percentage of these highway deaths. It is actually pushing a large number of incompetent and untrained drivers to their deaths in an ambience of smooth roads, high-powered cars and an excess of alcohol. Stricter road checks and more frequent breathalyzer tests are imperative. And what about the high level of suicides in Assam? Out of a total number of 4,986 suicides in the Northeast in 2014, Assam had 3,546—the highest number and 71.119 per cent of the total. The reasons are no big secrets. What is a teacher likely to do if he has not been paid his salary for over three years? Unemployment rates in Assam are the highest in the country. There is increasing poverty and frustration. The majority of the rural youth have chosen to remain unmarried because they cannot afford to marry. How does one reconcile such aberrations with the tall claims of development that we hear every day?