'Privatisation has increased rural neglect'

The northeast has been badly affected by ethnic strife. DILIP GOGOI of Cotton College, Guwahati, on its vulnerabilit

Published: Thursday 31 May 2007

Down to EarthAre ethnic conflicts more frequent in the northeast compared to other parts of India?
In the northeast, communities are consolidated on ethnic lines. In other parts of India caste identities are strong. In the northeast, there are lesser opportunities for indigenous communities and competition for resources stokes conflicts.

Why haven't matters improved yet?
There has been little development. Actually development has meant privatisation, and has increased the neglect of rural areas where indigenous groups live. Education and health sectors have been totally neglected. Besides, opportunities are not being uniformly distributed and the cost of living has also increased sharply.

Are people opting for privatisation due to the government's failure?
Actually, lack of development and infrastructure in northeast India--and many other parts as well--is a good ruse for extending privatisation. People in the northeast are calling for 100 per cent reservation for local people, this clearly indicates the lack of resource, infrastructure and education to produce quality professionals.

So, where do you think the solution lies?
I think deprivation will be at its highest level in the northeast in the next 10-15 years. So, economic improvement will be the only way. Northeast India should be economically integrated with south China and southeast Asia. Then perhaps we will be able to think like people in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Do you think the creation of sixth schedule areas is a solution?
It can definitely have some positive impact. People at grassroot levels are not getting the required benefits because of the elite. Also, it is important to understand that creation of one state within another state on the basis of ethnic identity is very difficult.

Are the movements in the northeast neglected by media?
The region does not interest the national media much, and the regional media consists mostly of professionally untrained and young reporters who are not able to highlight the seriousness of the issues and problems. It's high time regional media houses started to work professionally, then perhaps the issues and problems of the northeast will be given adequate importance.

Tribal identities play a major role in fomenting extremism in the northeast.
That is true. But it is also interesting that most extremist groups do not fight each other. They are ranged against the state, showing the problem is deeper than perceived.

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