Silchar, the main urban centre of Cachar is engulfed in a sea of problems. The people of the town, completely disgusted with the lack of progress, often raise their voices against injustice and corruption through democratic means such as protest marches, blockades etc. As it is the heart of the district, the leaders and officials are at times forced to take notice and some action, though mostly miniscule and token in nature, is initiated.
However, the condition of the rural areas of the Cachar district is even more terrible. There is rampant corruption in every walk of life and there is no redressal at all. The rural population, mostly economically backward, is left to fend for itself without any basic amenity such as health care, education, roads or proper law and order.
Though there are many government schemes in place, but their implementation is riddled with foul play and corruption. Crores of rupees are spent on paper, while the unscrupulous officials do not even bother to visit most of the areas where these schemes are supposedly implemented.
Rural employment generation and housing development projects such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY) and the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) were implemented in Cachar in 2005-06 by the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA). However, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), during an audit found that the agency had not even fixed the annual targets for employment generation in the district under these schemes. The action plan for indicating location wise distribution of work to the people also could not be shown to the CAG which displays the callousness with which these prestigious national schemes were implemented in the district.
The Cachar district has one Community Health Centre (CHC), 32 Primary Health Centres (PHC) and 272 sub centres (SC) catering to the health care requirements apart from the one medical college, one civil hospital and 16 nursing homes which are all based in Silchar. A trip to these primary health centres and sub centres would reveal that neither they have the required infrastructure nor do the doctors posted there ever care to visit these centres. In many cases, the unqualified compounders and even office assistants are found prescribing medicines to the rural folk. The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) has also been implemented extremely lousily.
The NRHM guidelines state that one SC is to be set up for a population of 5,000, one PHC for 30,000 and one CHC for 1,20,000 population. For a total population of 14.45 lakh in the district 289 SCs, 48 PHCs and 12 CHCs are required to be set up, but the present figures are much below the government norms.
In the education sector too, the picture is equally grim. The CAG report clearly says that the state of infrastructure of the government schools in the district is massively deficient. Out of the 270 high and higher secondary schools in Cachar, 127 do not have pucca buildings, two schools are running in rented accommodations, 127 schools do not have separate toilets for boys and girls, 139 schools do not have power connection, 127 schools do not have safe drinking water facilities and nine schools have no laboratories for the science students. While the urban students have the luxury of going to private schools, the rural students have to depend on the government schools only.
|A dilapidated bamboo bridge: a common sight in Cachar (Photo Courtesy: Assam Tribune)|
The state of road infrastructure is probably the worst among all. According to the CAG, during 2005-10, a total of 524 road projects including the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) were sanctioned of which only 170 projects (32 percent) were completed. Only 54 works (10 percent) were completed within the stipulated date of completion. Even if the work was completed, the quality of construction was abysmal. The Rural Division of the Public Works Department (PWD) does not have any infrastructure to monitor the quality and its engineers are extremely corrupt.
Though Silchar seems far away from the insurgency and terrorism that other parts of north-east encounter, the rural fringes are not so fortunate. Rural areas especially bordering the Dima Hasao district and Manipur often face attacks from the insurgent groups active in those regions. Kidnappings are also on the rise in these far flung areas. Cachar has eight police stations and nine outposts out of which one police station and four outposts are in Silchar town only. Therefore, there are large tracts of land which are nowhere near any of the other police establishments, leaving the residents completely vulnerable. Poor connectivity further compounds the problems for the people.
Mass migration from the villages is a problem all over the country today because the rural areas are gradually becoming unlivable thanks to government apathy. It is high time, the public representatives stopped treating the rural people as mute vote banks and started looking into their legitimate issues and problems.