D. N. Bezboruah
During the last 15 years of the Tarun Gogoi government in Assam, no other word has been as frequently bandied as ‘development’. Of the different meanings of the word, the two that fit development as used by the State government are: “the process of developing or being developed” and “a specified state of growth or advancement”. Obviously, when one talks of development one has in mind the growths or advancements of things that are beneficial to mankind and are hailed by one and all for the good that such increase or advancement is likely to do to society. My own humble submission is that this government is in no position to talk about development at all since everything that has grown or advanced has been clearly detrimental to society. Let us look at what has increased very visibly. Assam now has a crime rate that is higher than the crime rates of most other States. What is indeed saddening is that there has been a marked increase in crimes like rape, murder, abduction and flesh trade. The most horrifying part of the crime scerio is the sale of women and girls in other parts of India. In fact, the duties of a hard pressed police force have increased considerably since teams of policemen have to be sent to other States to investigate the sale of women and girls and to rescue those sold whenever possible. Murders of fathers by sons, of uncles by nephews, of wives by husbands and children by parents have increased alarmingly even though the numbers may be small. What is alarming is that 20 or 30 years ago such crimes were quite unheard of in Assam. The people of Assam have always boasted that the State was free of dowry. Today we not only have dowry but also dowry deaths! Along with this startling increase in the crime rate, there has been a frightening increase in the number of fatal highway accidents. Here is a typical case of actually inviting road accidents, since the administration has long dispensed with the practice of holding driving tests before issuing driving licences. Today, one merely identifies a few highway signs and pays a substantial sum under the table to get a driving licence. No one seems to have any time to assess an applicant’s actual driving abilities. So we have created the right combition needed for an abundance of highway accidents: smooth highways, powerful cars, untrained drivers and the easy availability of liquor. One could not ask for a better combition of factors than what the administration has so thoughtfully provided.
There is blighted growth in another aspect that has certainly led to quite a few socio-economic problems. It is the growth in the number of unemployed young people due to an almost total lack of industrial development. Educated youths are unemployed not because of any lack of qualifications, but because the State government forgot to plan in advance some 20 or 30 years ago for the needs of a growing population. These unemployed youths constitute a burden on their families. They are subject to harsh, unkind words from harried parents almost every day for no fault of theirs. They are unemployed simply because their rulers forgot to plan for them. There is growing alcoholism in the State not only because the State benefits from the taxes earned so easily from the sale of liquor, but also because there are thousands of unemployed youths trying to drown their frustrations in liquor. And the move from alcohol to dreaded rcotic drugs is but a small step. Today, this is a source of major concern for the people of Assam. In just a matter of a few years (all within the much hailed rule of Tarun Gogoi), we have seen Guwahati being turned into a hub of the rcotic drugs business. One cannot help wondering, amid all the talk of ‘development’, whether this is also going to be counted as a major area of ‘development’.
Till about five years ago, rcotic drugs from the Golden Triangle (where the boundaries of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet) came through Moreh in Manipur. Some of it probably came to Guwahati, but most of it went elsewhere. Today, rcotic drugs come to Guwahati not only from Moreh, but via different routes from several countries. The task force recently set up by the State government under instructions the Chief Minister has already unearthed many disturbing facts related to the rcotic drugs trade. One is that what comes from the Golden Triangle to Guwahati comes through several different routes and not just through Moreh. And apart from what comes from the Golden Triangle, rcotic drugs also come to Guwahati from Chi, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Of the substantial quantity of rcotic drugs that come to Guwahati, some of it is dispatched to Delhi, Kolkata, Cheni, Mumbai, Pat and other places. But the ugly fact of life is that Guwahati should have become the hub of rcotic drugs trade in India. This could not have happened without the kingpins of the rcotic drugs trade discovering that the demand for such drugs in the city had grown beyond all expectations. This is a discovery that should have all parents and guardians of adolescents and youths in Guwahati truly worried and looking for ways to keep their children away from drugs. And what we have gleaned from the experience of people in other countries is that once an adolescent or youth gets hooked to drugs, his existence as a useful member of a civilized society comes to an end.
I recall that during a tour of Europe in 1966, I got to know about one kind of brown sugar. It was the brownish kind of sugar served with coffee in all respectable restaurants of Europe. That brown sugar would one day become the me of a common rcotic drug was something we had no way of expecting. Having had no persol experience of rcotic drug abuse, all that I can say is that getting to know what rcotic drugs can do to ruin an individual is about the most upsetting of human experiences. One watches helplessly as a human being, regarded as god’s finest creation, chooses to be systematically destroyed by an addiction to rcotic drugs. What books tell us of drug abuse is that the addict is hooked to a substance that gives him some moments of colourful euphoria that he strives to recreate time and again despite what the rcotic drug does to his psyche, his attitudes and his priorities. And that is the source of the tragedy of drug abuse—that it makes an individual quite incapable of deciding where the quest of pleasure must end so that he can remember the responsibilities of quotidian existence for himself and his near and dear ones. Whenever I am reminded of the needs of adjustment between one’s irratiol aspirations and the realities of quotidian existence, I think of Wordsworth’s skylark who is “Type of the wise, who soar, but never roam—/True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home!” What saddens me is the drug addict’s ibility to return to the kindred point of Home. The irony, of course, is his ibility to remain in Heaven much longer than the time required for illusions to fade.
It is high time we had a better understanding of what development implies and realized that development is not something confined to material growth alone. During the 15 years of Tarun Gogoi’s rule we have seen much that was built like sand castles on illusions. One has to appreciate that development is not just steel, cement and bricks, and that real development must do something for mental growth as well. It is only when this happens that the government can be expected to talk about real development.