Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Commerce, Economic Development and Naamghars. #Assam

Economic activity is an essential activity for any active society or community. It is more so in the current times of liberalization and globalization.

Economic activity can be defined as an act of creating or adding transaction value to any commodity or service. Creating or adding value will lead to exchange of money between the seller of value and the buyer of value. According to well-established economic theories, more the exchange of money, the better becomes the standard of living for the whole society. This is one of the postulates of Keynesian Economics as well.

Economy of Assam is steadily taking a turn to the worst.  The private sector in terms of creating value through manufacturing, service industry, outsourcing industry, rural industry, etc. is almost non-existent. The ‘Government investments’ (and the black money it generates) alone cannot augur hope to a state or community. Also, it is not the Government that can be solely blamed for our economic condition. It is the citizens of the society, and not the elected body that is primarily responsible.

Assamese citizens have no inherent biological or genetic problem that is stopping them from progressing like the rest of the world. There are no geological or climatic reasons that are significant to stagnate a civilization. There are no annual catastrophes apart from the floods that trouble our economic production. We are a sharp. We place emphasis on knowledge. We are perhaps not known to be traders, but the citizens of lower Assam proves it otherwise. We perhaps just became complacent due to abundance for a long time, and it became our behavior and attitude.

It is time we realize and get back on track. It is necessary that each one of us engage ourselves in some sort of economic activity. We all have to add value to live a good life, and for Assam to prosper. The common question is ‘what is that economic activity?’ In my various trips to Assam, I have seen the youth of Assam desperately in search of the answer to this question, almost to the point of extreme frustration. It is a state of helplessness. We have to understand that it is obvious in the scenario of any state or country facing economic depression or stagnancy, and lack of honesty in political leadership. The youth is always the most effected.

The possible economic activities get hidden in the dark clouds of depression, ignorance and exploitation. It becomes a ripe environment for the powerful to exploit, giving rise to the perception that exploitation is the only way to lead a good life. The intent of exploiting gives rise to the act of corruption. It is an obvious analogy therefore that corruption has a relation to the perception of the lack of economic opportunities. As we have seen in Africa and East European countries, corruption is always a greater evil in under-developed economies. Without proper economic activity to create wealth, corruption through contacts, muscle power, and political power becomes a norm.

In Assam, as well, we can see this phenomena taking concrete shape. Earning money through corruption, bribes and other morally incorrect ways has entered so deep into us that it is becoming an accepted evil. Bridegrooms are judged basis his ability or Government job position to take bribes or ‘bahira poisa’.

The private sector has hardly developed in Assam. Agriculture except for Tea is primarily done for personal consumption. Private manufacturing sector is almost non-existent. Assam produces 60% of the Bamboo production and has a significant Water Hyacinth production, but it has not become mass business opportunities. Trading of goods and services is a size-able economic activity, but the Marowari immigrant community is predominantly managing it. Apart from its natural wealth, Assam can be a hub for various outsourcing businesses like technology, BPO and KPOs.

So, it is a irrefutable truth that there are a lot of opportunities for creation or addition of value in Assam that can have demand both inside and outside the state of Assam. With the world becoming a smaller place through Internet and other infrastructural progress, and knowledge becoming the key to economic growth, the opportunities are over-whelming.

The actual question therefore is to answer ‘how to create awareness of these opportunities for all of us?

This is where I would like to take the name of our great saint and social reformer - Srimanta Sankaradeva. He instituted the concept of 'Naamghar' ahead of its times as a place of congregation. Naamghars were instituted as a place of purity where communities irrespective of caste, creed and religion, can get together and form the basis of living in peace, prosperity and unity.

Srimanta Sankaradeva always maintained the philosophy that 'To err is human'. He believed that we are mere mortals and it is impossible to conquer all negative thoughts. He believed in controlling the negative thoughts, rather than in expecting a miracle that all of us will become saint-like, truthful and honest. He believed that if we as a community get together in a holy place everyday or frequently, we can control our negative / evil thoughts. This was perhaps the reason why he thought of the concept of Naamghar to be built as extensively as possible. He built naamghars wherever he went through out his living life.

Naamghar is an active institution even today for over 560 years. We see a Naamghar in almost every nook and corner of the state of Assam. It is a place where the community offers prayer (Naam / Kirtaana) as a group. There is an atmosphere of holiness, which can breed positive thinking. 

These naamghars can become our bed of economic activities in Assam, for all of us, for all Assamese people.

Naamghars can bring together people of all ages (wisdom), all professions (knowledge), and all faiths (culture) to create a productive forum of people collaborating and cooperating for the overall progress and development of the village or locality.

Every village and town has its unique strengths, natural resources, skills and opportunities. Secondly, every village and town today has people staying outside of Assam and India. If we give ourselves one hour for compulsory economic discussions and debates in the naamghars, we will automatically come out with ideas and the ways to execute them. We will find out help and support through social network in terms of finances, knowledge, labour etc. and economic activity through collaboration can be started.

I know it is easier said than done. We have various problems today in the way the various naamghars operate in a very non-inclusive way. It has become the place for retired Assamese and the elderlies. Over the years, it has become more of a religious centre for neo-vaishnavite traditions. We have to first list down these problems facing the institution of naamghars, address them and create overall awareness about the great contribution that naamghars can generate for the upliftment of the Assamese society, in a egalitarian and class-less way.

There are examples of Naamghars where participation of youth in its administration process has created wonders for the society. The youth brings in a new perspective in line with the times, and above all brings in enthusiasm in everything a Naamghar stands for.

Assam has one of the largest socio-religious organizations in the world called the Srimanta Sankaradeva Sangha. It has over 6000 primary units with a cultural and literary wing. It has recently started bank operations to facilitate micro-credit. It is great news and a step towards economic progress. All the Naamghars of the Sangha are well connected, and can take the lead in the transformation of Assam towards economic progress.

I shall soon start discussing this thought with the Sangha naamghar in Duliajan, Assam. I request all of you who support this thought process to come forward and take this forward in their own villages and towns. You can contact me at for a discussion of how to make this a mass movement.

It is the time of the youth. It is the time of new ideas. It is not long that Assam will again become a developed state with a comfortable standard of living for all its population.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The fun is in knowing how nasty, boring or great fun, it was for you, reading my blog post... Just write in, criticize, praise, add to my thoughts or whatever you feel... it will only add to my perspective.
Thank you for your time. Cheers.