Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Assam blockade

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Blockade of National Highways has become a way of life in the Northeast. Manipur had an economic blockade for four months which caused great economic distress to its people. Now it is the turn of Assam though not for the first time. Protestors agitating against the construction of a dam on Ranganadi river by the National Hydel Power Corporation blocked NH-52 at Lakhimpur in upper Assam. They also demanded an immediate halt to the project work and obstructed passage of several trucks carrying construction materials for the dam. Earlier, a massive rally was organized in Lakhimpur district to protest against the building of big dams by a number of organisations. Leaders of various political parties, including the main opposition party, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) also participated in the rally. Of course, they were mainly politically motivated. Big dams not merely displaced a large number of people from the region which they inhabited. They also threatened ecological balance and bio-diversity. A similar agitation is underway in Arunachal Pradesh with the support of the Union Environment Ministry. A parallel can be drawn with the Narmada Bachao Andolan in Gujarat which was spearheaded by social activist Medha Patkar.

Dams are necessary for the generation of hydel power which is of prime importance in the Northeast where economic development is being stymied by acute shortage of power. It is noteworthy that Assam has slipped down from its number one position in the country for enjoying the fastest economic growth. The protestors also appear to be oblivious of the fact that such progress is necessary to contain militancy. On the other hand, the protestors also have a case and our environment-conscious authorities should strike a balance between economic and ecology. However, blocking highways is not the route to a resolution of the crisis. It boomerangs on the protestors themselves.

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