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An Open Letter to the Assam Chief Minister

An Open Letter to the Assam Chief Minister

Sentinel Digital Desk

Dear Mr Chief Minister,

We write this open letter to you out because of the impression we have gathered about the functioning of your government since your party ousted the Congress about two years back. We also write this to you to ventilate the feelings of the people as to the kind of priorities you have set to achieve your goal of a developed Assam treading the path of inclusive development further as a role model for other States to emulate – and this, you have been reiterating on every occasion. The vision, no doubt, is somewhat out of box. Which augurs well amidst the stereotype sustained thus far. The roadmap too, no doubt, is well laid out. Which is refreshing. Nevertheless, aberrations remain, some of which can easily be done away with. Hence the motivation for this letter.

First, let us start with the Advantage Assam campaign. The manner in which big investors, both domestic and intertiol, landed in Guwahati for the Investors' Summit in February and bared their enthusiasm to invest in this investment-dry State crying for development, especially in infrastructure, and the privilege that your government had had in clinching agreements to the tune of Rs 1 lakh crore as MoUs with various parties, are welcome from one point of view: that at long last Assam has had a tryst with a destiny it had perhaps never even imagined of; that big business houses have seen in Assam an opportunity in a win-win situation; that the vestiges of militancy are not going to deter prospective investors from setting up their shops here; and that there is a new investment climate in the making. This can be called good news, to a certain extent.

However, and this brings us to the second point, the basics are still missing, which is, unfortutely, bad news. How to face the bad news, counter it appropriately, and help it mutate to good news, is what a smart governce and administration must wake up to and work on. It is your responsibility, Mr Chief Minister, to ensure that the basics of governce, and the need for making the people feel the impact of a governce they would prefer rather than total mismagement of public funds as a blow to their aspirations, are not veiled by the glint of ostentation as the zestful Advantage Assam campaign has been. Remember, the Advantage Assam campaign has given you a big opportunity. Conversion of this into reality is an equally big challenge.

The basics are simple: uninterrupted electric power supply (exceptions apart in emergency-like situations such as tural disasters and technical sgs); good and well-maintained roads; a bit of a state-of-the-art health regime, if not more, so that people do not have to land in places outside the State for better healthcare, as well as affordable but quality healthcare for the poorer sections; regular drinking water supply (one of the worst maladies Guwahati faces is its acute water crisis); a meaningful education system in which the ritual of gutsav can be aided by a pragmatic work on the imperatives of modern education and examition system that is both valid and reliable, in which teachers are well trained, and in which there is no room for single-teacher schools (Assam has over 2,700 single-teacher schools as disclosed by your own minister in charge of education, Himanta Biswa Sarma, in the Assam Assembly recently); an all-out war on corruption and loot of the exchequer by the very people who are supposed to guard it all the time (thankfully, however, there has been some crackdown in the form of the recent arrests of some tainted officials, including that of the former APSC chairman himself) and thus the rampant siphoning of government funds to a whole lot of private coffers out to suck your very government dry; and, but not the least, a total assault of the legal kind on the huge crowd of illegal Bangladeshis out to reduce this pristine land of ours into a mini-Bangladesh of sorts, where the sons of the soil of Assam can very well end up as one of the worst persecuted populaces on earth. Therefore, the issues in hand are serious. Mr Chief Minister, we are living in dangerous times, despite the sheen of slogans and the resplendence of rhetoric.

Point No. 3 is retrospective. The mandate you won in 2016 was extraordiry. People were fed up with the 15-year-long rule of Tarun Gogoi and his team, and were looking for something new and different, something they can repose their faith in, something that could help them realize their dreams; the youth, especially, was looking for jobs; women were eagerly hoping for empowerment; farmers longed for agricultural reforms and were looking for minimum prices for their products, especially vegetables, so that they could heave a sigh of relief and sustain themselves well, as well as their freedom from middlemen through a pro-farmers government-devised mechanism; the poor and the downtrodden lot were craving for the next higher rung of living; and indigenous people as a whole were hoping for liberation from the demographic assault of illegal Bangladeshis teeming in millions and backed by self-styled 'secular' political fronts. The mandate you won was for change – parivartan, as your guide-in-chief rendra Modi often talks of.

But have things changed really, on the ground? Or, has any change in the real sense of the term been felt by the people of your State?

Electric power remains erratic, and yet we are rrated stories of would-be development accompanied by rapid industrialization; roads remain hellish, including the tiol and state highways, and those in rural areas are a threat to life itself as they have bridges that are not only not motorable but also hang dangerously in their worst rickety forms; health woes continue unimpeded; while your education minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, weaves the dream of Assam being the 'education capital' of the whole of Southeast Asia, your beloved State is also home to over 2,700 single-teacher schools in rural areas – areas where education is one of the most basic needs of the hour for employment and empowerment; and yes, illegal Bangladeshis, for whom Assam has been made their best living, breeding and thriving space by their 'secular' political masters, are still launching assaults on our prized tural parks, such as Kaziranga, and our hallowed xatra lands – the symbol of our culture and tradition, our ethos, our spirituality. As for illegal Bangladeshis, as we have already reported, they are not only into sly vanishing acts after being declared foreigners but are also showing the temerity of registering their mes in the updated NRC too!

Therefore, Mr Chief Minister, shouldn't you take a pause and ponder as to whether things are going the way people had expected when they had mandated you to change their destiny? You often talk of jaati, maati aaru bheti. But are you concerned as to what has befallen our jaati? Well, illegal Bangladeshis, with their absolutist ways of aggression and annexation, have encroached upon our xatra lands too, besides our invaluable tural assets such as the Kaziranga tiol Park. And our maati, including our bheti, is not only home to the aliens from Bangladesh who have already become political kingmakers here, but it is also being eyed and encroached upon by our neighbouring States, including, in recent times, Mizoram and Meghalaya, with the latter allegedly putting up polling booths in our areas as far as 9 km into our territory from the inter-State border. As for encroachment by galand in upper Assam, especially in Golaghat district, it is an old story of violent raids and killings by ga militants and their cohorts on an expansionist mode by hook or by crook while Dispur has been found lacking in the very ability to save one's own beloved land of birth. These are signs, Mr Chief Minister, of a failing governce and administration architecture despite the tall claims made from the Secretariat housetop.

We are, however, not even remotely indicating that your governce so far has delivered nothing. True, there have been some good initiatives towards the making of a developed Assam. But more could have been possible, given the plethora of the promises made and the zeal and zest with which you landed in the corridors of power. People's expectations were far higher than what they have experienced on the ground so far. It seems some interl hurdles are coming in your way, mostly perhaps from the bureaucracy. You would do well to identify such hurdles and make your road of development smooth and hassle-free. Development cannot lie in the realm of imagition, it has to be on the ground and felt by the people. At the same time, for meaningful development to happen, you need to have a core team, including intellectuals and sensible civil society leaders, and not just bureaucrats, who have attachment with the jaati, maati, bheti cause of the State and may give you valuable suggestions.

We have worded these for you to go in for a reality check and serious introspection as to whether you can make amends for the failures that have characterized your regime of hopes and promises made thus far, and whether there could still be a sincere and dedicated course correction so that the people of your State do not have to endure the bitterness of yet another great betrayal.

These people still nurse great hopes. Let these not be belied, which is your responsibility as the chief political executive of an aspiring State.

Thanking you.

The Sentinel.

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