Friday, March 21, 2014

Nido's Death is a collateral damage. I feel sad.

We tend to respond emotionally to emotions. I know that death does not become easy even if we lose so many young lives accidentally, or suddenly, everyday. I too feel saddened. However, I want to go beyond feeling sad in this case, and try to understand the real cause of such an outburst.

Nido's death is beyond racial discrimination. It is about a social, economic and a political problem.

Human beings like any other animal are territorial by nature. A sense of ownership of a territory happens by virtue of ethnicity, language, place of birth, religion and other such parameters of belongingness. Civilization, education, laws and policing have made us better than animals, and human beings are therefore have become far more tolerant and understanding of territorial concerns.

We have to now understand if there are triggers that can make human beings less tolerant and angry about their perceived territorial rights. In 1998, when I was in Satya Niketan (New Delhi), NE students like me were in almost every 10th house. Today, I am told, we are in every 5th house. Isn't that a little bit of an imbalance?

If you see the number of lonely old parents in the different cities and towns of Assam and the other Northeastern states, you will understand the problem definition that I am expounding here. In my hometown of Duliajan, there are hardly any students studying in local colleges. A rough estimate would be that over 50% students after their 12th standard goes out to Delhi, Bangalore or Pune. Duliajan, being a richer town has these phenomenal proportions, and the proportions are not so high in other towns. But it is quite sizeable and significant.

If this is the level of exodus to supposedly better places outside northeast, and Delhi being the preferred destination for most Northeast students and parents, we may find some triggers that may create instances like Nido, and other similar attacks.

Migration is natural but this level of crazy migration is un-natural and is bound to have collateral damages. The tolerance of the local citizens will be severely tested with such high levels of migration. If the same level of migration had happened towards Assam (or Arunachal Pradesh), armed revolt would have happened killing hundreds. It is common knowledge how Assam had revolutions against outsiders. Even today the climate is tense in Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur etc. Manipur does not allow Hindi cinema exhibition for instance. So I may tend to think that Delhi and Mumbai are far more tolerant places as compared to so many other places of India.

We have to understand why are we sending our youths outside the state in such large proportions. There are social reasons and there are political reasons.

The Government has failed to create the confidence in the available local infrastructure. Although Northeast has education infrastructure which can support a lot more students, the Government has failed to maintain the available infrastructure in the highest standards. Primary education has mushroomed all over the region, but secondary education is where the Government had to put a lot more focus.

Secondly, the Government has not encouraged or facilitated the growth of private sector in terms of small scale, medium scale and large scale industries. This has led to the lack of jobs in the region. Government is the only job-giver in the region. Students therefore flock to Delhi and other places to study with the hope that they will get a job as well after their studies.

There is a social pressure as well to send kids outside the region. It is the talk of pride for parents to tell the neighbors about where their kids are studying, or staying. I had migrated to Delhi after graduation, studied post graduation in Ahmedabad and then worked in Mumbai for 16 years. Today I am back to my hometown where I should have been there in the first place. I don't see a reason why we should encourage kids to go outside, live in a new culture and become something that they are not. There are enough and more ways to create value in our hometowns. The problem here is the negative perception about business and entrepreneurship. It is the salary that we seek, and not the uncertainty of business.

We have to understand however that it is entrepreneurship spirt that builds a nation, a state. Gujarat is developed not because of Modi, but because of the relentless entrepreneurship spirit of the Gujaratis. All the communities in India who have a developed entrepreneurship spirit are the communities that are known across the world and are richer than other communities.

Lot many Nidos will happen if we don't reverse the migration trend, which I also call Brain Drain. The government and the people of the region have to get conscious of this problem of brain drain and try to reduce the same. Nido's death in the capital city of India is a collateral damage, like the death of many 'outsiders' in the Northeast. The reason lies elsewhere, and not on racial discrimination like the media has put forth.