Monday, August 27, 2012

Who loves Silchar most

There is always a debate on the question, as to, who loves Silchar really, as the common allegation is that most of the people who live in the town are only interested in exploiting the resources here without contributing to its development. The town, in spite of its great possibilities, as the major entrepot in South Assam, has continued to be only a possibility without achieving its potential.

A view of Hospital Road, Silchar
Silchar, which started as a tea town with more than a hundred tea gardens surrounding it, has of late, become a big business and an educational hub. The independence of the country in 1947 and the resultant insecurity in East Pakistan saw a large influx of people from across the border who received a ready  shelter in the town. The small and comparatively safe haven for all those who lost power and property in East Pakistan  making Silchar a town of immigrants who could remember their homes in Sylhet quite clearly. Anyway, the division of the country is not their creation, although the effects of it are being felt by all people who crossed over.

This is the background of the place where our interests lie today. Silchar, now is the second largest town in Assam with a population possibly touching nearly three lakhs. The number of vehicles shows an increase from the previous year and the limited number of roads are choked with the traffic snarls preventing the pedestrians to cross the road comfortably. The road condition in the town is awful in the rains which is frequent in the area. The roads perennially exhibit a state of disrepair and the money spent on the repair is a politician’s joy. In fact, in the whole of Barak Valley, the condition of roads is the same. Hence the debate on the true love for the place has been ensued to find out who is the true lover of this God forsaken place.

Shishu Udyan, one of the few parks in the town
A politician is the seeker of power and the social service is undertaken just to seek support to obtain power. When asked why does the politician ignore the aspirations of the people for the sake of power?  The politician says, his main motto is to win an election. No body wants our town to become a New Delhi but our capital city has lots of parks for young people, children and senior citizens. Why Silchar does not boast of one single park worth the name (forget Gandhi bag, for entry into it, they demand money). Every locality should have a public park.

A politician is hardly interested in promoting the welfare of the people. Many of them have houses in big cities, also having hotels and other profit making facilities but when it comes to doing something for their own town, they are not interested. There are several articles published on the town’s drainage system and the papers are presented to the authorities, but no observable improvement is visible in the town and the it goes under water even after small downpours. For example, the road to Assam University is in very bad shape for the last eighteen years. Any politician who really loves his town would have bet his life for its total transformation. It could have been a showpiece highway of the valley if a little imagination and determination was applied but there is no person who loves his work. These politicians have taken away any kind of transparency in the use of public funds. The politicians are supposed to work for the welfare of the people but as it has turned out, it has become their own welfare. Hence the politicians get no prizes when it comes to the question of loving the town.

In many places, there are business people who think about the town but in Silchar they too are in league with the politicians to suck the vitality of the town. It is said that money is floating in the air in this town as it is the most important commercial centre of the valley. A part of these riches should have been used for philanthropy but it is never kept apart. Any businessman, with adequate resources could have spared a small amount to do something for public purposes but there is no such idea about the community. For this reason, the business community also finds itself behind in the race to be the most devoted lover of Silchar town. 

Corruption is endemic in offices and no work can be done without bribing the officials. This is a general complaint of the ordinary citizens who do not get quick services and it is difficult to get officials who think about the welfare of the people. It is afflicted with two defects, money is squandered away and the public money is never used fully and the major part of it is swallowed by unscrupulous people in authority before it is used for work. It is easy for an elephant to pass through a needle hole than to get a perfectly honest official in the valley. They are in league with the politicians and they do not deserve any prize. But it must be admitted that if the honesty, sincerity and direction are available, the officials cannot go against the wishes of the people. Wishes remain wishes.

The ordinary people do raise their voices but their voices are hardly heard. There is also lack of public spirit. If the ordinary citizens do not make the town habitable and indulge in littering garbage all over and nonchalantly urinate in public places, the town would look at its worse as it is today. A lover of the town cannot throw garbage on the roads, lanes and in drains. He cannot urinate openly and defile walls without any concern. Even spitting on the walls inside an office or public place is an offence. It seems that our town dwellers are yet to imbibe any public spirit.  A leader once uttered an unpalatable truth that the people of the town do not have civic sense. A complaint good enough to be entertained but the politicians too ignore garbage piled up near their houses. Our lack of sense of beauty encompasses the social divisions. Therefore, unless the ordinary people get that self training, the prize as the most devout lover of the town remains unclaimed.
This town has important destinations like the University, Polytechnic, Medical College and Hospital the National Institute of Technology and the authorities in their upkeep must at least beautify their exteriors with care. How many towns in the state have such legends in one place? We want to point out that the University with its broad campus must not only make it green with a park nicely managed. The Department of Social Forestry may be invited to assist the University. The beautification of an institution's space is a necessary part of the education. The student community must show zeal and interest in making the campus a worthy place to go. The road to the University after the inception of the University is still in bad shape. The students must know that education and social consciousness go hand in hand. It is sad to admit that the students of the university lack proper organization and teeth to extract work from the departments in charge of the roads and social amenities. This road is not flood prone which is generally cited as an excuse for the sad state of roads in the town. The knowledge should not be bookish only and it must have proper social contents. That the students of the University are yet to acquire that spirit is evident as if they have joined the chorus of apathy shown by the different sections of the town folk. Hence there cannot be any prize for the students of the University either. Anyway, we can wait for a more congenial time when their determined social consciousness is revived. We need a bunch of them with great spirit to work for the town.

This town has another demerit. The young men and women  only trudge the paths carved out by the scheming politicians. This is a common sight in the town that the young people follow the politicians who are not always the paragon of virtues for mere pittance. It is admitted that this town does not offer great employment opportunities and bulk of them head towards big cities for even small employment and it has turned into an exodus after the establishment of the University. There are very few young men with courage and enterprise to use the local resources for earning their livelihood. Our university education does not prepare a student to be self reliant; it leads only to seek employment at other's doors.

Some organizations seem to have some love left for the town and they routinely  publish relevant facts and figures about the town. The organization of meetings and demonstrations do help raise the level of consciousness. Their efforts are praiseworthy. One such organization is the Nagarik Sartha Raksha Sangram Parishad. It is purely a voluntary organization which does not work for the applaud of the people but silently moves forward for improving the condition of the town. They publish a monthly journal and the findings are published in it. It must be admitted that it has minimally increased the consciousness level of the average citizens whose knowledge of duties and rights is still very low. As they do not demand any prize for the service rendered, no prize is given to them. The only expectation is that they will continue to serve the community with best of their ability.

The civic authority is slack and unimaginative. Like other towns, this town has arteries of drains, large and small, in different parts of the town. Due to negligence of the urban authority and also due to the machinations of the unscrupulous persons who have close links with the vested interests, some of the drains have become so narrow due to unlawful grabbing of land that these drains are now incapable of carrying extra water and as a result, the overflowing water sink the roads nearby. 

Such piles of garbage can be seen all over the town
One day, I was walking on a bye lane in the Rangirkhari area. One elderly man with a stick in hand was also walking a few yards in front of me. And by the side of the road, a young man was unbuttoning his pant and was readying to urinate on the drain. The man with the stick was furious and hit the young man with his stick and cautioned him that he would break his head if he did the same thing again. The young man immediately buttoned his trouser and vanished into the crowd. I saw it with amazement and was about to thank him for the exemplary spirit shown by him, but he moved forward and held an old man by his hand. This man was almost putting his foot on a banana peel on the middle of the road. He then leaned and collected the banana peel and was looking around to find a dustbin to through it there. I helped him to find one and got some satisfaction that I too did some public work. Should our coveted prize go to the old man with stick in hand ? . I am also inclined to think so.

* An interesting perspective on the state of affairs in Silchar, by one of our readers.

1 comment:

  1. One of the great article we have read on our valley. Indeed we need to Self Retrospect on our duty towards our birth place.

    Team Silchartoday


Silchar through the Lense