[Assam] Sentinel/Army of Of Occupation/Failure of governance
barua25 at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 18 19:11:59 EDT 2006
loss of Asom's arable land
to do to Asom if it ever
So we in Asom
armed forces can treat anyone in Asom
today the army in Asom is an army of occupation.
----- Original Message -----
From: Ram Sarangapani
To: Chan Mahanta
Cc: assam at assamnet.org
Sent: Monday, September 18, 2006 3:12 PM
Subject: Re: [Assam] Sentinel/Army of Of Occupation/Failure of governance
I saw this and blinked, rubbed my eyes - thought I was dreaming - happens often this time of the day. Sentinel pieces forwarded by C'da?
I read them fast. Looks like the Sentinel, after all, was bashing the army (not that the army doesn't need some bashing).
But, I was wondering if you liked today's edition better- cause normally, you don't :) :)
On 9/18/06, Chan Mahanta <cmahanta at charter.net> wrote:
Two Pieces from the Sentinel:
( Highlighting mine)
Army the Main Hurdle
At a time when the people of Assam are so desperately awaiting a positive response from the ULFA that it will sit for talks with the Government of India, there is reason for despair as the ULFA has again resorted to its earlier stratagem of playing hot and cold by turns. What started as the ULFA's constitutional difficulties in sending a written confirmation to the Union Government of its willingness to sit down for negotiations, has now been supplemented by yet another reason for ULFA's reluctance to come to the negotiating table. The ULFA leadership now says that the Indian Army has decided to extend further its presence in Asom by expanding its bases in Misa, near Nagaon and Changsari, near Guwahati. ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah is strongly opposed to such expansion moves not merely because of the implications for the ULFA, but also because "more militarization" would displace a large number of "our people" from their land and take away huge stretches of arable land that can feed thousands of people. It is another matter that the ULFA has been silent all along about the huge stretches of land occupied by Bangladeshis around the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) that has gone for many years. Obviously the ULFA has decided to turn a blind eye to this loss of Asom's arable land. If anything, this is one clear indication of what the ULFA is going to do to Asom if it ever manages to secure sovereignty for our State. It is going to hand over the State to the ISI of Pakistan the very next day. So we in Asom ought to know what to expect if the ULFA secures sovereignty.
Having said this, it is also necessary to assert that every valid argument does not become a bad one merely because it has been offered by the ULFA. Everyone in Asom and the Northeast will agree that the sustained army presence in the region with special powers vested even in the non-commissioned officers has given rise to a situation without parallel anywhere in the civilized world. With the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Disturbed Areas Act in force, the armed forces can treat anyone in Asom and some of the northeastern States as no better than street dogs, to be shot down at the smallest provocation. And the Army has taken full advantage of these two Draconian laws to stage countless fake encounters and kill innocent youths on the plea that they were terrorists or were engaged in anti-national activities. Army jawans have done all this as coolly as they have raped women in rural areas as well as in State capitals like Imphal. No wonder, even very senior dyed-in-the-wool retired army officers from the north have expressed the view that today the army in Asom is an army of occupation. Nothing could be a better assessment of the Indian Army as it has managed to project itself. One is naturally beginning to ask another very pertinent question: Is the army here only to tackle insurgency (which it has not managed to too well despite its overkill in this region), or is there a vested interest that has very little to do with counter-insurgency responsibilities? One does not easily forget the armed forces' presence in Jammu & Kashmir in the days of Governor's rule. Everyone in the bureaucracy, the police, the armed forces and the paramilitary forces was singing the same refrain: that it was impossible to hold elections in Jammu & Kashmir. This was because they were all very anxious to continue Governor's rule indefinitely. After all, Governor's rule meant no State Assembly and therefore no accountability anywhere. The bureaucracy, the military, the police and the paramilitary forces could do precisely what they liked. And the sums of money going in from the Centre to J&K were astronomical. So what is so terribly surprising about a vested interest growing up there to postpone elections for as long as possible. In like manner, the value of food and other supplies coming in for the armed forces in the Northeast has also become astronomical. So what is to rule out a similar vested interest convincing the Centre that the armed forces should not only continue to remain in the Northeast for counter-insurgency operations, but that military presence here has to be enhanced.
However, it is difficult to agree with the views of Paresh Baruah about keeping out a nuclear research centre from the region to process the uranium from the rich deposits in Meghalaya. Uranium is best handled in the public sector with very stringent controls. Otherwise the Meghalaya uranium will find its way to Bangladesh and Pakistan. The fear of ecological hazards is a misplaced fear considering that the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre has been functioning in Mumbai for decades without any known harm to anyone. There are also a few nuclear power plants running in different parts of India without any mishaps so far. And nuclear plants for producing electricity will be the norm in the years to come. That is why the processing of nuclear materials is far safer in the public sector.
Good governance, which way?
ON THE SPOT
This piece is about the failure of governance not about the post office. But, I am going to begin with a description of the Nariman Point post office in Mumbai with the idea of showing you that we cannot have governance, national security or dream of being an economic superpower as long as we have public buildings that look like garbage dumps. Why this particular post office? Because I went there last week to retrieve a parcel of books that was confiscated under some outdated law made in the days when India was desperately short of foreign exchange. More about that later.
The first thing that hits you when you enter Nariman Point post office in fashionable, up market South Mumbai is the unmistakable stench of uncleaned toilets because this amenity has been thoughtfully provided at the entrance. Visitors are forced to notice the grime that coats white tiled walls not to mention unspeakable other sights. You then wander into rooms with paan-stained walls and filled with dust from old files and packages making what should be the reception area of the post office look like a disused warehouse. By the time I got to the official I had come to see, Mahesh Anand Wagholikar, sub-postmaster and public relations inspector, I was so disgusted with the state of his office that I berated him for not doing more to keep it clean. He seemed surprised but said it was because the government did not give them funds for maintenance. I told him he could clean things up by putting his staff to work. They seemed to be doing very little. This annoyed him.
Then, I demanded to know what gave him the right to confiscate a parcel that belonged to me and how dare he send me a notice that said it would be 'returned to sender' if I did not collect it within five days. He said I had refused to pay the postman who brought the parcel so this was procedure. I told him the parcel was from Amazon.com and contained books and I had already paid postage for them. He said the money was customs duty and I pointed out that there was no duty on books which confused him but made him more belligerent. 'You can't come in here and start making a racket like this,' he said raising his voice 'this is a government office'. This made me belligerent and I told him that as a government servant he was there to serve the people not get officious with them. He got angrier and threatened not to give me my parcel even though I had by now paid Rs 600 for it. He also refused to give me a receipt.
To cut a long story short, I complained to the Principal Chief Post Master General, Ms Noorjehan, and got an apology and a receipt for the money along with an explanation. A postal law made in 1985 obliges us to pay for parcels coming from abroad because in those days we were so short of foreign exchange that the government was forced to charge those who dared to spend it. Times have changed as has the state of our foreign exchange reserves but the law remains.
Why do I consider this story important? Because I want to draw your attention to the sad reality that good governance is impossible as long as officials work out of public buildings that look like garbage dumps. Good governance, like charity, begins at home. Officials who work in filthy, disorderly conditions cannot begin to dream of providing us with the standards of governance we need if our cities are to look like clean, modern cities. They cannot be expected to provide us first world services if they work in third world conditions. Post offices, police stations and public hospitals must be well run if we want these services and utilities to improve but sadly we only become aware of this in times of crisis. So it was only after the bombs went off in Malegaon last week that Sonia Gandhi noticed that her government in Maharashtra had failed to build the hospital that was promised years ago.
National security is a huge issue these days. Recent terrorist acts have drawn everyone's attention to the inability of our government to protect the lives of ordinary citizens but while expressing our anger we seem unable to understand that we cannot expect first rate security out of third rate governance. You only need to visit your local police station to know that policemen live and work in appalling squalor and conditions of virtual penal servitude. They are expected to be on duty 24 hours a day for a pittance. If things are bad in the cities they are beyond horror in rural parts of our poorer states where our policemen are being ordered to win the war against the Naxalites. Police stations in rural Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are infinitely more squalid than the Nariman Point post office and often policemen are expected to live and work out of the same hovel.
In the glittering public forums of Delhi and Mumbai you hear much talk these days of India's status as an 'emerging economy' and a future economic superpower. Nariman Point, they say, is the centre of our economic might. May I recommend that they visit the post office for a quick reality check.
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