Some sane thinking!
Please refer to ST Jan 12th 2021 and the headline “Pala bats for modified ILP”. Firstly as a voter and a citizen of Meghalaya, let me congratulate Bah Vincent Pala our MP for having a mind of his own and the guts to express it. We are sick and nauseated by the meaningless grovelling of our elected representatives before, “It’s only our way or the highway,” pressure groups. Relieved to see that at least we have an elected representative who can also act as “U Rangbah Khasi” who can think for himself and the community he represents. Yes, unregulated influx of outsiders into the state is a matter of concern for all genuine citizens of Meghalaya, tribal, non-tribal alike. It is the simple ability of infiltrators to integrate and assimilate themselves into the local population that is most worrying. Taken from this perspective it is therefore not the ‘entry’ of outsiders that is the problem but the ease with which they are able to infiltrate, settle down and merge into the community that is cause for worry. The Ease of Assimilation and not Ease of Entry is the real issue.
The most revolutionary idea expressed by our MP is his observation that “There must be a practical and pragmatic system against infiltration, not merely by putting up a gate.” This means searching for a second alternative and not putting all our eggs in one basket. I entirely agree with this observation. If unregulated influx is the genuine concern of the public of Meghalaya, and not a mere gimmick to project wannabe politicians, then solution to the problem must be found in the existing systems of governance and institutions run and managed by the people themselves. We have Dorbars governed by our own communities to whom the task of managing and controlling infiltration and “Ease of assimilation” can be entrusted. The need is to empower what we already have; empower our people and their institutions instead of going in for something bizarre and unknown. We must evolve a sustainable workable solution based on active people’s participation to the problem of influx. Setting up of check gates and outsourcing the same to Government whose personnel are susceptible to bribes and inducements, will in the end prove counter- productive. After all a check gate is simply a bamboo pole across the road!
Bah Pala’s stand also highlights other aspects of life which an ILP might negatively impact upon. The economy of the state cannot and should not be ignored. In the final analysis it is the economy that decides whether Khasis continue to stay where they are or should our people leave for greener pastures elsewhere. We therefore need to be concerned on the ways Meghalaya generates wealth and revenue. Economic growth and development are aspects of life we cannot afford to ignore. We need to think, side by side, about employment and improved income generation for our people. If Coal, Limestone and Timber are history then other livelihood options for the people need to be considered. The state seems geared up for High End Tourism. So be it and let us prepare ourselves for it. In the process we should also not forget that Education and Healthcare, aside from scenic based tourism, offer huge opportunities for Education and HealthCare related tourism. Privately run hostels for students and the guest houses coming up and around NEIGHRIMS are proof of this. Our people earn revenue from such activities. To promote these two aspects of governance we need to induct expertise and technology from outside. Let us not put self imposed obstacles and hindrances to block our own development.
As people of Meghalaya we also have to recognise the fact that we are a small, underdeveloped, landlocked hill state totally dependent on Central doles and grants for our well-being and survival. We need to get out of New Delhi’s stranglehold over us and find new resources and directions for growth. South of us we have Bangladesh a country with a fast growing economy and hungry for all the goods and services we can offer. We are good in English. We can offer our teaching services of the language to the Bangladeshis and other neighbouring countries and earn dollars for such services. Our agricultural products will find a year round market with our Southern neighbour. We got to tweak the Look/Act East policy of the Government of India to make it a Look South issue for Meghalaya. Then we also receive heavy rainfall in the monsoons. 63 billion cubic meters (one cubic meter =1000 liters) per year. 63 billion cubic meters of ready to drink fresh water every year which the world is ready to pay for in dollars! This water falls on Meghalaya free of cost. We simply need the technology to store and package. We need an outlet to the sea to sell our water product. We need transit facilities through Bangladesh. This is not wishy-washy thinking.
That we have not recognised the potential does not mean the potential does not exist. Our policy makers simply need to craft out a DPR to make Meghalaya one of the richest economies in the world by offering it cheap fresh drinking water. Forget the regressive inhibitions of the 18th Century. Our survival depends on our willingness to embrace the opportunities of the 21st Century.
Systemic racism alive and kicking
I am writing to contest the letter, “Woke but not Awake,” by Jyohanan D. Nongrum (ST, Jan 13, 2021). His words: “Blaming everything on the concept of white privilege is ignorance at it’s finest. Yes white privilege and white supremacy existed in the past centuries but that all changed with the passing of the Civil Rights act of 1964 in the USA and now there is not one law that disavows someone because of race, color, religion or sex. A person irrespective of their roots can now climb up the social hierarchy of life as opposed to the previous generations of people who lived in segregation, slavery, immense hardships, etc.,” while true, are out of touch with reality.
If law alone were adequate to guarantee social justice, this world would be a paradise. Whether or not systemic racism is as omnipresent as anti-racists claim it is, is certainly a point to contest. But whether or not systemic racism exists, is not. The contrast between police conduct against activists during the attack on the Capitol and that against BLM activists earlier this year, is stark. Would George Floyd be treated the way he was if he were white?
One example of systemic racism lies in the near total absence of other civilizations in college curricula in America — except as tokens or academic ghettos in the forms of various “Studies” (“Women’s Studies,” etc.). While it is normal to focus on one’s own culture first, it becomes narcissistic to ignore the rest of the world. Moreover given the rapidly changing demographics of America, such curricula are no longer representative of the population. Systemic racism (by omission rather than commission) therefore remains entrenched in curricula nationwide. The same may be said (in different terms) of government and industry.