Sonowal ushers in new movement protocol and more -Patricia Mukhim


The other day while passing through one of the thoroughfares of Guwahati, I saw Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal 's convoy behind my taxi. There were two pilot cars in front and the police security personnel very amiably told us to allow the CMs vehicle to pass. The other two pilot cars behind were almost inconspicuous. After having been a victim to traffic being held up for 30 minutes or more to allow former CM Tarun Gogoi's security entourage to pass (which included almost 16-17 vehicles plus an ambulance and a fire tender), this was a breath of fresh air. Henceforth there will not be interminable delays for ambulances waiting for the CM's entourage to pass.

We are told that Sonowal's visit to Kamakhya temple during the Ambubachi festival was a non-event. Ordinary devotees were not made to make way for the CM and the Governor.

The VVIP cult flaunted by Tarun Gogoi must have been an important reason for his Party's bleak performance in the recent assembly polls. The reason why he won from his constituency is because the people of Titabor have not been at the receiving end of this hyper-security outrage as the people of Guwahati have during those 15 years of Congress (mis)rule. This is one poriborton that should delight the traveller and pedestrian.

On the face of it The BJP-led Government in Assam with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal at the helm has started pursuing a number of pro-people exercises. Sonowal's running mate, Himanta Biswa Sarma who is looking after Education and Health has already announced free higher education for students who seek admission in higher secondary, three-year degree and polytechnic diploma courses from this year and whose parents earn less than Rs one lakh a year. Biswa Sarma said this will cover 310 government and provincialised colleges across the state and benefit some 50,000-60,000 students. Private institutions are outside the purview of this decision. This initiative will cost the state government an additional expenditure of Rs 70 crore in the first year and the amount will go up in the subsequent years. Regarding other disciplines, the Government is talking to universities, medical colleges and engineering institutes in the same line to seek their consent. These pro-poor initiatives are sure to win the BJP a lot of adulation from that section of the population which has been ignored by successive governments.

One landmark direction given by Sonowal recently was to tell the scam ridden Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) that examinations conducted by the Commission should be video-graphed and the results published within three hours of the exam being completed. He said in the age of advanced technology this was very much possible. As can be expected there was a lot of resistance from the Commission which is led by a man whose antecedents reek of corruption and nepotism. That the APSC was allowed to be run like a fiefdom of this man just goes to show how decrepit and debauched the system had become under the Congress-ruled Gogoi Government. Thousands of job seekers are only now speaking up about the money demanded from them for a particular post. Many refused to comply and went on to get jobs vide the central recruitment agencies. But they carry a lot of hurt and scars at the fact that their educational attainments and performance has been devalued and that those with money have climbed up different ladders in the state government. When those employed by the state government are people who have bribed their way through we can well imagine how mercenary they would become once they get a lucrative post. No wonder there is corruption in every department of the Government in Assam. This is borne out by the recent raids and arrests.

A week ago a Divisional Forest Officer in charge of the Kaziranga National Park was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Branch of the Assam Police after he was caught red-handed accepting Rs 30,000 from three truck owners who were transporting forest produce with legal documents. Later the ACB recovered a total amount of Rs 2 crore in cash and other valuables from the DFO's residence in Guwahati and his office in Dhemaji district. It was around the same time that Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma was visiting Kaziranga Park to arrest the trend of rhino poaching there. It was alleged that the poaching carried on with the tacit help of the DFO, Mohit Chandra Talukdar is posted at the KNP for the last two years. Those were also the years when the maximum number of rhinos were killed inside the park.  Cleaning up a system that is so deeply entrenched in corruption would require a vigilant eye and quick punishment of those caught in the act.

Sarbananda Sonowal brings hope not only to Assam but to the neighbouring states as well and we can only hope that other corruption-ridden states like Meghalaya and Manipur too take a leaf out of Sonowal's book. But for that to happen people must first elect the right people. There is need for a change of faces in the political horizon.

(by Patricia Mukhim)

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The views reflected in this piece are that of the author and need not necessarily be that of TNT-The Northeast Today