(Disclaimer 1: I don’t always believe what they publish in certain pulp-fiction Assamese dailies, but if what they say is true – Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra pitched and confirmed as official brand ambassador of Assam Tourism– I have deep concerns, against which, I’d like to engage in Wishful Thinking.
Disclaimer 2: I have nothing against Priyanka Chopra. Yes, I think her fake accent is a little overdone but I have no claim to begrudge her over it. She is successful and I do not whine about it.)
What can a judicious, daily expenditure of 1.5 crores do for the economy of the state?
1.5 crores spent every day on strengthening the security network of the state would probably engage better infrastructure, stronger vehicular and arms supply for beat cops and officers-in-charge who can reach a Place of Occurrence faster and hence deal with matters quicker, preventing collateral damage from taking place. It might also enable the security system of the state – police, army, paramilitary forces etc. – to grab the insurgent, terrorist and poaching rackets by the foot, if not the neck, and proceed even more strongly in taking them to task. It would also mean better pay structure for the cop who is tempted to pick a tip for sah-pani (tea and snacks), hence preventing the chronic annoyance that common people have to deal with. It might also entail training all officials in latest security and management modules, thus giving them (even the constabulary) an edge over crimes – both petty as well as ideologically organised and supported.
The next big and chronic depression that Assam faces – floods, could probably see a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel, if 1.5 crores are spent daily, in understanding the malady, remedying the loophole and diverting the overwhelming waters during monsoons for say, a hydro-electrical project which could in turn light up lamp-lit corners or help in running fuel-run factories. More water-borne power would mean fewer fuel deposits and contamination on the environment. Besides, that should help in increasing daylight hours and 24×7 productions, hence lifting the production graph, probably making monsoons a hero, in being gauged the most productive season. Also, ambitious builders would probably cool down their greed and invest in keeping the city green instead of slicing off hills to expand habitat in the city. Nah, that’s a far cry!
As an agrarian state, that much amount spent on its crop production and improvement could yield much healthier results, and stave off technological backlog by introducing modern agricultural know-how for faster and exportable crops. Since supply would be ample, ridding of syndicates in the market would become easier. That would lead to price fall and let the common man have a peaceful meal. (This – even after leaving out a slice that could go into research and development that could take Assam to the leagues of states like Punjab maybe, if not countries like New Zealand and Canada.)
With production and devastation looked into in a much sharper way, notice could probably be made in diversifying indigenous industries and increasing employment opportunities for the wasted youth of the state, the one which engages in fights, arson, eve-teasing, molestation and collecting protection money like a birthright. Cottage industries manufacturing the state’s indigenous resources could be given a makeover and uplifted from exporting ‘cool handicrafts’ to ‘exotic souvenirs’. Why, block-making and printing could be introduced among our artisans to reflect cultural or social signatures like the Assamese jaapi, dhol, pepa or the flora, fauna, endemic to the state. This should definitely save textile entrepreneurs taking flights to Western and Southern India and save their money.
I also sincerely believe that the education system, the curricula of our colleges and universities, and the amount of exposure for the teacher and student fraternities, could be enlivened if more money could be pumped into it. The lack of proper educational infrastructure could be compensated and students could avail international standards of not just education and guidance but internship and practice. Besides, if the overall atmosphere for development is conducive, technological and other companies could set offices and recruit budding aspirants or willing expats could make a home run.
A daily amount of 1.5 crore rupees spent in constructing ‘black-topped roads’ (read: a term, exhaustively mentioned in annual governmental souvenirs) would also probably encompass the remotest regions of the state, which hold developmental promise but lack commutation ease. Imagine driving on well-laid and not haphazardly constructed roads. So many productive hours could be saved! Far-flung areas would no longer be flung so far and people can easily reach and return from places that would otherwise take days and mud-loads of a commute.
An amount like that used to augment tourism could refurbish our historical monuments – like the Sivasagar and Dhubri palaces – which would inevitably mean more footfall. Ensuring sophisticated accommodation and easy travel to and from the places and tourist safety could work triple-fold in announcing them as the next travel destination. I say triple fold, by virtue of engaging historical-cultural-culinary engagement of tourists, generating employment to adrenaline-driven jobless youths, and ensuring an indelible label of excellence and recognition for the state.
There are surely more areas that I have lesser knowledge and space to include. Using them on the scholarly lists of to-dos should certainly give impetus to an ardent government, ready to make a change. Instead, I heard of the official employment of Priyanka Chopra – who has no relation to the state (maybe even to Manipur, but not ours) whatsoever – as tourism brand ambassador, and a daily amount of 1.5 crores to be paid to her for ‘paarishromik’ services or in other words ‘wage for hard work’! Seriously? And how is she going to do the hard work to better our state of affairs? By doing a short film (yeah, that’s on the cards) that would be aired and promoted on national television (including Times Now, lol) and sentimentalising the national audience to take heart and visit Assam for god’s sake? By visiting Radisson Blu or Taj Vivanta in October, meeting common and not-so-common man alike at some social/press gathering there or elsewhere? By giving a well-prepared interview/speech on regional news channels, vociferously mentioning how much she loves Assam and its people? By doing a Bihu dance with teen singer Nahid? Seriously, what’s the agenda? Or did I just spell it all out?
I cannot remember Sikkim doing something like that and yet, several earthquakes after, it is still a much-visited place. Nagaland is rocking with its Hornbill Festival annually. Arunachal has Tawang and several options of adventure tourism, monks, monasteries and absolutely photography-friendly locations. Meghalaya became Rock On 2’s stop for filmmaking, but only after international music bands had already left their trails in the musical city of Shillong. Mizoram is belting gospel rock and eating oranges with Ziona Chana (world-famous for being the head of the largest single family). Manipur has Mary Kom and Tripura has Dipa Karmakar. All in-house talents shaping the state’s identity and pride. Period.
No, I’m not clamouring for a ‘local’ replacement of Pri Chops to represent the state. I just want to see an economic usage of state money to pave better prospects for the green lands I love, and not to fill coffers for birthday bashes at Quantico TV show.