Amid news of AASU announcing a new regional political party and the multiple issues that the people of Assam are facing, including the pandemic to unemployment to financial stress, the general secretary of All Assam Students' Union, Lurinjyoti Gogoi spoke to Sentinel Assam about what the apex students' body of the State is doing to help the students and the people at large.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
Sentinel Assam: What is your take on reopening of educational institutes?
First, we have to minutely assess the environment. The pandemic situation in India and Assam is frightening. Coronavirus infection is increasing by the day. We must think about the health of the students. The educational institutes where COVID centres have been set up, should be properly sanitised. The government should ensure these. Otherwise, the future would be perilous. If a hurried decision is taken, the fear of mass infection will be high. We should work keeping in mind a fundamental principle, the students are not to lose their academic year. We should also look into the psychological aspect of the students. We have seen that online classes have become a buzzword but it has not been possible for all students, especially the rural areas' students to access online education. Many students could not afford smartphones. Besides, mobile network connection is pitiable in almost all rural areas of the state. Therefore, we have started an initiative for offline classes. We have taken help from local educated youths and teachers, and retired teachers in rural areas. They have been teaching the students maintaining social distancing norms and wearing face masks. We have been organising such classes twice in a day at a local Naamghar (Temple) or club. But we want help from the government. Otherwise, it would be difficult for us to carry on. The government has extended economic benefit to the poor people. The government is yet to extend any monetary help to the students so that they can buy mobile recharge card.
Sentinel Assam: The livelihood and unemployment issue just got worse in Assam after the pandemic. What is the AASU doing about it?
Lurinjyoti Gogoi: It will be a very challenging issue. Already, we have lots of unemployed educated and highly educated youths. They lack employment opportunities. The government could not provide them employment opportunity. The government is not taking pragmatic steps for honing their skills and create entrepreneurs. Now, thousands of educated and uneducated people returned to Assam. The "local for vocal' is just an election slogan. The government is devoid of any idea as to how to create entrepreneurs. Steps have not been been taken to uplift the agri-sector. They are not able to provide market for agri-produce. The tea industry is suffering. Yet the government remains indifferent. Due to that Sri Lankan and Kenyan tea over took us in the international market. The Chief Minister's role is not convincing. Mere visit to a farm does not imply that he has sincerity towards solving the burning problems of the state. The Chief Minister should play a role in policy making, giving ideas. Some of our tea growers are producing green or red tea. But the government lacks plan and programmes. Their work procedure is outdated. There is a huge demand for green and white tea in the international market. We all know that Assam imported eggs and milk and earned crores of rupees. But the state government does not take any step for making the state self-sufficient in terms of egg producing. Registration of migrant workers are yet to be done. Contrary to the expectations, they did not formulate any policy beneficial for the state during the last three or four years. Hence, their local for vocal or Atmanirbhar Asam slogan will be mere election slogans. A strong and pragmatic approach is the need of the hour. On the day of exporting pumpkins from Assam to Dubai, Agriculture minister Atul Bora said that our farmers are empowered to export their produce. But we do not know what is the position now.
Sentinel Assam: How are you all helping people overcome the economic crisis that many are due to the COVID lockdown?
Lurinjyoti Gogoi: We have taken several steps during the COVID-19 pandemic. But initially we did not publicise about it since it is a humanitarian crisis. We helped the people and distributed essential food items in order to help them tide over the crisis. We also carried out sanitisation drives. In Kaziranga, we helped people braving flood fury. Every year the AASU does it. Despite that some people with vested interest spread fake news that AASU is doing nothing in this grave pandemic situation. Then, we started to publicise our works and activities. We are publishing a booklet covering these. You know that every year the AASU helps flood-affected people. We have prepared a dossier listing out how many people received help from us during the pandemic. Economic revolution is a silent revolution. You know that every year around Rs 1,500 crore is spent in imported eggs in Assam. Hence, we have taken step to produce eggs in a large scale to check the outflow of money. You would be happy to know that some youths have come forward to produce eggs. Now, 2.5 lakh to 3 lakh eggs have been produced in three districts of the state. Akashjyoti Gogoi of Jorhat and Prasenjit Moran of Tinsukia are the brains behind the project. They have been per day producing 60 thousand eggs. Likewise, such large farms are being set up in Tinsukia, Jorhat and Dibrugarh. It needs mention here that we have taken another step to increase production of pork in Assam. Some enthusiastic youths have come forward to rear pigs. I want to say that the state government issued permission to import pig from Haryana and Punjab after the African swine flu killed thousands of pigs in the state. We know that a very few local youths take training in the pig research centre situated at Rani, Kamrup. Now we are encouraging our youths to take training there. We know that the pineapple produced in Assam is the sweetest pineapple in the world. Goalpara and Hajo produce a large quantity of pineapple. In Jorhat and Tinsukia we have found orange productions. We have some medicinal plants and fruits, too. The river waters of Subansiri also has some importance. Hence, it is said that the Mother Nature bestows on us with open hand. But if the Assam government has taken steps for the upliftment of the these is not known to us. Once, we have submitted a project to the state government covering all these aspects. But thanks to the red-tapism, it is yet to see daylight. Since then, the project implementation is stuck in files.
So far as the papermills are concerned, we like tell you that Assam produces the best quality bamboo. But the government's primary objective is privatisation which is unfortunate. We have to take care of our people and the government has to realise that.