Meghalaya in a nutshell
In his article “Happy Birthday Dear Meghalaya,” (ST Jan 11, 2022), Toki Blah has brilliantly summed up the fateful fifty years of Meghalaya statehood. As someone who has lived, breathed, and often critiqued the happenings of the last half century in this hapless state of ours, Bah Toki’s summary has hit the nail squarely on its head.
That’s where it all begins, with our heads, be they at the helm of the state, the traditional bodies or at any level of local governance. In the battle to get our own state, we anticipated that our homegrown leaders would take us to dizzy heights of development and Meghalaya would fulfil Nehru’s dictum that tribals should “develop according to their own genius”.
Instead, Meghalaya languishes at the bottom of the country by so many measures. In social and economic indices, even other tribal states and regions have long overtaken our state. Political corruption exists in every state, but somehow health and education have improved everywhere except in our blighted rural backyard.
But to blame our leaders is to narrate only half the story. The other half of the blame lies with the citizenry. In our laidback lifestyle and parochial mindset, we have cocooned ourselves in a world of make-believe, sealed off from the realities and the opportunities of the real world. The most recent example of our regressive attitudes is anti-vaccination. We have wonderful individuals, but as a group, we falter. We lack the dynamism to pull ourselves up and to make Meghalaya a better place, at least for our children.
Golden lodes of resources exist in our blessed state. Our varied minerals, breathtaking biodiversity, and rich culture can make us all prosperous if channeled in the right way. Neil’s death and Eugeneson’s election remind us of the unparalleled talent of your youth. Why can’t MBOSE start +2 streams of music or sports? New vistas of livelihoods and entrepreneurship can be created for our vast numbers of dropout, unemployed youth. If only we can think creatively, rather than remaining bogged down by an unsuitable education system.
Geologists have given the world a Meghalayan Age. Let’s use the phrase to also usher in a golden era for our state and ourselves. Here’s to the next fifty years!
Glenn C. Kharkongor,
Quo Vadis Shillong Engineering College?
Some weeks ago, Dr Glen Kharkongor, Chancellor Martin Luther Christian University (MLCU) had questioned the rationale of opening an engineering college in the state with traditional courses and disciplines considering many engineering colleges across the country are closing down for want of students. Many engineering graduates in civil, electrical, etc are going around unemployed. Why add to this uneasy scenario? The college was conceived around the nineties when it was relevant then, but now it will be another white elephant like other existing corporations and drain the resources of the state. After going this far by constructing the buildings and other infrastructure, the authorities in the Education Department would hesitate to advise otherwise. However, there is hope and nothing is lost if we plan properly for the future. The facilities already created could be utilized for other courses/disciplines relevant for the next ten or twenty years. I would suggest that it is expedient we keep the project on hold and engage a reputed consultant who can advise the state in this matter. This will be a judicious decision on this 50th Statehood anniversary.
Rtd. Director, Education,
Govt of Meghalaya
Faith and Vaccination
It’s almost a year since India started the Covid-19 Vaccination programme for its citizens. A total of 152 crore doses have been administered. The vaccination rate in Meghalaya is low especially in the rural areas due to hesitancy. Historically, vaccine hesitancy is a globally common phenomenon. The factors that affect people’s attitudes towards acceptance of vaccination include Complacency, Convenience, and Confidence. With the third wave of Covid 19 around for months, vaccine acceptance among the general public will have a decisive role in the successful control of the pandemic. The most common reasons behind the refusal of vaccine acceptance and negative attitude towards the Covid 19 vaccine include medical reasons. Apart from medical reasons, religious, social, and philosophical reasons (personal belief, conscience objection) also play a key role in vaccine refusal.
There are reports of low Covid vaccination in remote villages of the Khasi & Jaintia Hills region, where the cult leader has influence in some pockets. Such cult leaders persuade their followers to reject the need for the Covid vaccine. No wonder, theologians had a long history of opposing scientific progress in the interest of dogmatic theology.
In the primitive society, illness was described in spiritual/religious rather than a medical terms. For a very long span of human history, illness and infections were believed to occur when one lost favour with God or gods or was the wrath of God upon humanity for sin. That was the age of ignorance and now we live in the era of modern science. Therefore, ‘illness’ must be defined in medical terms and treated with medicine. What is called “Bad Faith” is when religion undermines modern medicine.
To properly understand the impact of vaccines, it is necessary to recall the devastation wrought by infectious diseases before the invention of the vaccine. In the case of smallpox, the discovery of the smallpox vaccine was one of the greatest scientific and humanitarian achievements of the 20th Century, sweeping away long-held superstitions. In 1980 the World Health Organisation declared that the world is free of smallpox, thanks to Edward Jenner who introduced the smallpox vaccine in 1976.
While the global efforts to mitigate the effect of the pandemic and to reduce its health and socio-economic impact rely to a large extent on preventive measures, now we have an emerging way out, in which science has given us a gift that will save our lives – the Covid 19 Vaccine. Trust Science, get the vaccine. Together we can overcome the Covid 19 pandemic.
Dr Omarlin Kyndiah