The Lok Sabha elections are just a week away for the two constituencies of Barak Valley. Campaigning has reached a feverish pitch and many top national leaders including the Bharatiya Janata Party’S (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi have already visited the valley to plead for votes.
However, like the earlier elections, this time also, personal attacks and mudslinging have taken precedence over the real issues. The leaders are deliberately trying to take the focus away from the issues and confuse the electorate.
In the past, the people of Barak Valley have wasted many electoral opportunities. They have repeatedly chosen incompetent and corrupt candidates who have done nothing to tackle the multitude of problems facing the people. Therefore, as the elections approach again, we have compiled our own manifesto, a list of ‘to dos’, which we think, our leaders must address, if they want to come back again to us for votes:
1. Completion of the Broad Gauge conversion project between Lumding and Silchar as well as the link to Agartala positively by 2015. Immediate commissioning of long distance trains to locations such as Kolkata, Delhi and Bengaluru. We do not want to sit in agitation again demanding these trains once the broad gauge is commissioned.
2. Completion of the ambitious Mahasadak project by 2015. We do not even want to know where the file is regarding the permission to carry out road construction in the Borail Wildlife Sanctuary between Udharbond and Harangajao. If we elect you, it would be your responsibility to get the job done for us.
3. Immediate repair of the internal road network of the valley. The Assam Government has happily taken over our national highways from the Border Roads Authorities. The new Members of Parliament (MPs) must ensure that the roads are maintained well and are not turned into money making opportunities for the sarkari babus and the state level leaders.
4. The Palatana plant in Tripura was expected to end Barak Valley’s power woes. But load shedding continues to spell havoc every evening. The MPs must find answers to this problem and at least initiate solutions.
5. Both our present MPs – Kabindra Purkayastha and Lalit Mohan Suklabaidya couldn’t even spend their entire MP Local Area Development Fund allocations, which is a shame given the fact that there is so much work to be done in both the Silchar and Karimganj constituencies. The new MPs must get this right and utilise their allocations adequately.
6. None of the candidates, contesting the polls seem to have any long term vision about developing the valley. Apart from the basic infrastructure issues mentioned above, there are various other issues such as unemployment, continuous migration of skilled and unskilled manpower, lack of entrepreneurial initiatives, acute lack of education as well as health infrastructure in the villages, rapidly deteriorating law and order etc. They must tackle these issues effectively if the region has to prosper forward.
7. Setting up of an Agricultural Research and Capacity Enhancement Centre so that our farmers get the best guidance to optimise their production. We have such huge unutilised agricultural land bank, which can be effectively utilised, if the farmers are guided properly.
8. Attracting greater industrial investment from the corporate as well as the oublic sector undertakings so that more jobs are generated. In fact, setting up a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) cum trade centre would be a great step forward.
9. Our proximity to Bangladesh must be utilised well. There should be both road and rail transit routes through which Barak Valley can reach mainland India without passing through the Brahmaputra Valley. The rail link through Mahishasan and the road link through Sutarkandi must be developed. However, to get these done, our MPs must have the courage to take on the leaders at Dispur, which they do not seem to have right now.
10. The Silchar Airport must be taken out of Air Force control or a separate civilian airport must be set up. Night landing must be permitted and we must get more flights to the Metropolitan cities. If Dibrugarh can get three daily flights from Delhi, cant Silchar get at least one?
11. All parties must make their stand clear on the issue of creating a separate economic council for Barak Valley or the larger issue of separation from Assam. A lot of our problems stem from the fact that we are treated as a colony by Dispur. Therefore, these issues are of prime importance for the future of the valley.
12. Silchar should get a centrally funded culture centre which will promote the study and research of local literature, music and other traditional art forms. For example, cant we have a museum on the Language movement of the valley with a research centre so that the future generations can know about the legacy?
13. The three main urban centres – Silchar, Karimganj and Hailakandi must get a facelift. Elaborate projects for the broadening of roads, drainage, installation of lamp posts, acquisition of land for creation of parks, parking lots etc have to be taken up. If such measures are not taken these rapidly growing towns, especially Silchar will choke due to congestion and pollution.
14. Barak Valley is one of the highest concentration zones of the cancer disease. Yet, apart from a privately run hospital, there is no other facility. A super speciality cancer hospital cum research centre must be set up so that the patients don’t have to travel to the bigger cities all the time.
15. Barak Valley is one of the highest concentration zones of the cancer disease. Yet, apart from a privately run hospital, there is no other facility. A super speciality cancer hospital cum research centre must be set up so that the patients don’t have to travel to the bigger cities all the time.
Given the profound backwardness of the valley, this list can actually run into a few hundred pages. But we will confine it to the above mentioned 15 points. Let us get together and try our best to convey these points to the candidates. Readers are also welcome to either add or delete from the list above.