An accident may take place when everything is perfectly right and running because by nature an accident is an accident. But when things are awfully wrong, wrong in every aspect, not happening an accident is an exception. Here the occasion and reference was the capsizing of a country boat sometime back at the river Brahmaputra and drowning of a number of people-the sad and pathetic thing! Let us divert a little bit from the incident and go to another thing, though I shall comeback to it immediately after this digression. The other day I was invited to attend a talk on status of Assam’s finance at Guwahati Circuit House.
The talk was delivered perhaps by the incumbent secretary of finance. He was a nice gentleman and the talk was well prepared. He was bold enough not only to critique some understanding of the previous government, but also present government concerning the financial status of the state. After the elaborate talk, he took questions from the attendees. Some of his information and data went over my head. However, at the fag end of the discussion I asked him a question: “Gentleman, you have delivered a good lecture and you have also talked about Assam’s financial prospect ambitiously, but if I can ask you one thing please? In city living, number of things are essential, say potable water, electricity, drainage and etc. But is it not a travesty of development that the residents of Guwahati don’t have enough supply of potable water despite mighty river Brahmaputra flowing by its side?” He tried his best to answer my question and I appreciated his endeavour and offered all my best wishes to him.
However, forget what he tried to say, but think about the question. Is it not something basic and fundamental for the residents of a capital city to get their share of potable water? Now let us go back to the capsizing of the country boat and drowning of people. How do you view the ferrying of people, their two-wheelers and even live stocks at times by these rickety boats? You view them galore from the heart of the city! Is it a sight of the early days of last century? No it is a sight of last month. A sight in a dazzling digital India, near the city hum! As they say it was waiting to happen. That this accident didn’t happen earlier was a matter of mere chance.Between Guwahati and North Guwahati there is this expanse of water! Why can’t they introduce some dependable modern water transport system here? After the incident some hullaballoo was created, but I am sure things will return to square one when people will slowly forget the incident. Like the question of potable water for the residents of Guwahati, isn’t providing a dependable water transport system for the people who cross Brahmaputra everyday from North Guwahati to Guwahati something vital and fundamental?
You can easily make a long list of such fundamental things needing to be done here in Assam. Everyday you have been hearing new slogans of development, but hardly anything is happening in the ground realities. A few years back there was a spree of road building activities all over the state. They were looking for roads everywhere- in the suburbs and also in the villages,in the villages, between the paddy fields, near the sugarcane groves and behind the backyard of your village home to build them and cover them with blacktop. Even the cattle roads were not spared. And now all those roads are in dilapidated state because they are not repaired and mended since then. The blacktop is long gone and the bare and pointed stones are all showing.Villagers complain that it has become so uncomfortable for them and their cattle to use those broken roads now. They say that those unpaved roads were much better for them. Forget about those village roads, even our highways are in bad shape. Again, when new multi lane highways are being laid, the old small vein roads are ignored and neglected.
Some roads are being neglected for decades. And people in the neighbourhood have lost all hope. Now people prefer to travel by train than by roads such is the condition of most of the roads.How basic is the roads for our living! Why speak of development when you cannot provide the basic infrastructure. It is not that new schemes shouldn’t be introduced. We need new schemes for bettering the life of our people. But under no circumstances the fundamentals should be ignored. The other day Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a mega healthcare programme – the Ayushman Bharat, which is supposed to benefit 50 crore Indians. Whatever may be the motive and timing behind launching this scheme it is a welcome move.
This scheme is about critical care and hospitalisation,but what about improving the basic healthcare services in the county. If you visit any private hospitals in Guwahati you will find that all of them are always crowded with patients. It is not that the patients who visit these hospitals are all well off people. Many, the majority of them are from lower middle class and poor background. And they always don’t visit these hospitals for critical care services. Quite often they visit them for some common ailments which could be handled in a well equipped primary health centre. So the basics should be the first priority.