The condition of the public properties or public utilities meant for the convenience of the public are the best indicators of the state of development in any region. If the basic public utilities such as hospitals, bus stands etc are in good shape, it is obvious that the facilities provided by them are also in order.
However, in Barak Valley, the dilapidated state of all our public utilities reveal the sorry condition of the basic facilities that the government is supposed to offer to the common man. Crores are spent on creating infrastructure for the public, but, poor maintenance and rampant corruption ensures that the infrastructure collapses within months. More unfortunately, the public in general also does not seem bothered or worried about this trend.
The condition of a public building or property will invariably give you an idea about the quality of work that takes place in that facility. Apart from the government, the people also must be very fussy about the state of these properties. However, the common Indian mindset that public properties are owned by nobody seems to dominate the thinking of the people here. Let us take a look at the condition of some of our basic public utilities:
· Medical facilities: Silchar Medical College and Hospital, the premier health facility of the entire valley is in such condition that any self respecting patient who can afford treatment in the private hospitals will not go there. In the last few years, SMCH has got a facelift with new buildings and a fresh coat of paint. However, much more needs to be done in terms of cleanliness and hygiene.
The other smaller facilities across the valley, especially the Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in the rural areas are all in dilapidated condition. Most of the buildings are in the verge of collapse, with equipments crying for repairs. Often compounders or nurses are found attending patients as the doctors posted there are busy practising in the towns.
· Government schools: Our government schools spread across the valley are mostly in such poor state that as a parent you would never want to send your child there. The buildings are often broken or in state of ruins, the basic infrastructure such as desks, benches or black boards are also not properly available. The crumbling infrastructure of some of the prestigious schools of yesteryears such as Adharchand Higher Secondary School or the Government Boys School in Silchar narrate the sad story of government and public apathy.
In the rural areas, the students are often found studying in dilapidated structures which cannot even protect them from rain and sun. In many cases, multiple classes take place in one room posing serious questions about the quality of education on offer.
· State Transport: A visit to the Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) depot in Hailakandi Road is bound to give you a spooky feeling. A huge infrastructure with all modern amenities has been allowed to rot and decay for ages. A close look at the building will tell you that there were separate waiting enclosures, spaces for shops, boarding and de-boarding areas and so on there. However, years of neglect has turned this potentially swanky infrastructure into a horror movie set. Scores of damaged buses that were never repaired, dot the building on all corners and further add to the horror.
The Inter State Bus and Truck Terminuses were inaugurated with much fanfare by Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi at Ram Nagar near Silchar in 2007. The swanky facilities built with North Eastern Council funds were supposed to be among the best in the entire north east. However, five years down the line, the ISBT and the ISTT also seem to be going the ASTC, Hailakandi Road way. The toilets remain dirty all year round and the pan stains on the wall proves nobody worries about these costly buildings made by public money. As far as the smaller state run bus stands in the region, the lesser said, the better.
· Government Offices: If you happen to visit any office of the state government anywhere in Barak Valley, you would easily realise why the officials seated there are so inefficient and often corrupt. The buildings are invariably in a state of decay and non-maintenance and the offices have not been touched by any modern day facility such as computers or internet connections, barring a few senior officers. There are no time keeping equipments to make the staff turn up on time either. Forget air-conditioning, most of these offices do not even have adequate fans and during load shedding hours, the employees are left on the mercy of hand held fans which they generally carry from home.
The state government is known to be apathetic towards the plight of the people. Therefore, the crumbling condition of our public utilities is not a surprise at all. However, the attitude of the common man on the street is hugely disappointing.
Why do we allow these facilities, made by our money, to rot so easily? Why don’t we ask questions and force the officials at the helm of affairs to improve the condition? And most importantly, why don’t we feel guilty when we stain our buildings with pan and gutkha spits? Do we ever plan to spend a Sunday morning cleaning the general ward of the medical college or the bus stand? Probably no. Therefore, let us all spare some thoughts on these issues and the answers wont be difficult to find.