Tripura of my dreams

Sanjoy Kumar Panda

November 12, 2020, 13:11:20   

(With Pujo Greetings and best wishes for good health & happiness)

My four decades long civil service started in Tripura, which made it literally my first love. Under the watchful and affectionate eyes of Late S. R. Shankaran ( the then Chief Secretary) and his political prodigy, Late Nripen Chakrabarty ( the then Chief Minister), initiation to the journey of  serving the people has been an unforgettable experience. Recovering from the painful scars of communal riots (June 80), then Tripura was known in the mainland for all for the wrong reasons - high incidence of poverty ( over 73%), virtually non-existent physical infrastructure, fragile connectivity- limited to a short strip of narrow gauge railway line, few flights, tele-connectivity for the namesake, the lifeline National Highway 44 facing weeklong breeches during  monsoon, non-existent industry and private sector. 

Much water has flown in the Gomati River since then in the last four decades and the small north eastern state, Tripura has come a long way. Notwithstanding its size and various limitations, it has provided a model of good governance in controlling insurgency, high literacy, Panchayati Raj, voters' turnout, voluntary blood collection and several other achievements to its credit. Memories of serving the poor and disadvantaged in the young days often flash back as nostalgia, urging one to look back with pride and satisfaction. While browsing the internet recently, I came across an article on Tripura by a local journalist expressing somewhat a pessimistic view. While one is not privy to the happenings in the recent past, I felt it would be worthwhile to share some of my experiences of working in the State under situation  far more difficult than the present, with a view to rejuvenate hope - the ultimate arsenal for fighting pessimism and going ahead in life.  

In this connection, I vividly recall the long discussions; we used to have in the weekends. With no mobile and non-existent social media, black & white television used to be the only source of entertainment. Pooling dishes for lunch in one of corner tin-roofed houses in Kunjavan under the huge Champak tree used to be a much sought after joint of the young officers in the weekends. The gossips spread wild over all conceivable local, national and international issues. Development of Tripura on the lines of the City state of Singapore used to be one of those issues, I recall, which was passionately argued by one of our colleagues. The background being Tripura shares many similarities with Singapore in terms of  geographical area, population, topography, climate etc.

Under the dynamic leadership of Premier, Lee-Kuan-Yew, Singapore got transformed from an underdeveloped economy, dying nation to a developed one with remarkable improvement in employment, public housing and standard of living within a span of three decades(1959-1990). This journey is best described in his autobiography titled "From Third (world country) to First (developed country)", a must read for students of good governance. Recently, I happened to see his last address in the National Day Rally giving a resounding message to Singaporeans: "Your future really depends on what you make of it, and not on what the government can do." (Available in Utube). I feel this applies equally to Tripura as well, as Democracy basically relates to people and Governments come and go. This made me to think for sharing some of my experiences and understanding of Tripura with the common man and women in general and the youth in particular, as a way of giving back to "Tripura- my first love", which I shall be doing covering some of the areas of concerns to the common man without any prejudice, fear or fervour.

The traditional approach of determining the stage of development of any state or nation based on per capita income in pure economic terms was challenged and replaced by Human Development Index.(HDI). HDI focuses on improving the lives people lead, rather than assuming that economic growth will lead, automatically, to greater opportunities for all. HDI is composite, determined by three parameters namely education, health and livelihood. It has been globally accepted as the standard for comparing the status of development nations. Livelihood opportunity is related to three sectors of the economy, namely  (i) Primary comprising of agriculture and other land based activities, (ii) Secondary comprising of manufacturing, industry and construction activities, and (iii) Tertiary covering all the services activities.

"Low hanging fruits" (concept)

Economic development of any state or region requires a set of basic pre-requisites like natural and financial resources, physical infrastructure, access to market, skilled manpower, favourable law and order situation and helpful government. The pace and success of development is affected by absence of one or more of these key factors. While this applies to all economies, for a state like Tripura, existing constraints like geographical isolation makes the process more challenging. However, for each region or state, there are some possibilities, where success is relatively easier notwithstanding the existing constraints. Such opportunities are usually referred to as Low hanging fruits- meaning opportunities, which can be exploited easily. For making my points simpler, it will be prudent to discuss some of these low hanging fruits.

Democracy, according to Abraham Lincoln, is a form of government, which is by the people, for the people and of the people. As such all democratically elected government are expected to work in the best interest of the people. Performance of the elected government is judged by the people at the end of the term, when fresh poll becomes due. Keeping this in view, I intend to share the benefits of my experience on each of the three segments of the economy namely livelihood (comprising of primary, secondary and tertiary), education and health in five separate parts. In these discussions, plucking the  low hanging fruits meaning  what can be achieved rather easily with available resources, will be given particular stress for easier  understanding and appreciation by  the common man and youth in particular.   

I feel any writing on Tripura will be incomplete without paying homage to Biswakabi Rabindranath Tagore. Keeping this in view, I would like to quote a few meaningful lines "A Dew Drop", which Tagore had scribbled on an exercise book for Satyajit Ray, when the latter as a small boy had come to visit him in Santiniketan along with his mother. Tagore had told the boy, Satyajit, "You will understand the meaning of this only later."   

"Bohu din dhore, bohu krosh dure,
Bohu byay kori, bohu desh ghure,
Dekhite giyachhi parbotmala, dekhite giyachhi sindhu,
Dekha hoy nai chokkhu meliya,
Ghar hote shudhu dui pa feliya,
Ekti dhaner shisher upore ekti shishir bindu"

[English translation reads as "Travelling far and wide over many days, I visited many countries, incurring much expense. I went to see the grand mountain ranges; I went to see the vast blue seas. But my eyes had failed to view- Just two steps from my threshold, glistening on a rice sapling green, this tiny drop of dew (a shining diamond)!"]

I feel this applies to development of Tripura as well. It presupposes the need for looking inwards for solutions, which are readily available within the state rather than running far and wide, wasting money, time and energy in looking for solutions from outside. The real challenge lies in having open mindset and working in a team with positive attitude with available resources, simplicity, greater commitment and utmost sincerity. 

(To be continued)


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