Arunachal Diaries – 5

View of the Himalayas from Tezu (HQ of Lohit district). Credit - Mr. Gaurav Anap
View of the Himalayas from Tezu (HQ of Lohit district)

Take for example the precarious financial condition of the Arunachal State Government. All and sundry we met were very concerned about this. The issue of ILP and the condition of state economy are intertwined closely.

One fine afternoon we met Mr. Daulat Hawaldar (IAS, AGMUT Cadre) who is Finance Secretary to the State Government. The objective was to understand the problem of state finances. But he actually came across more as a student of social-psychology than a finance secretary. He either dodged the pointed questions as if they were insignificant or diverted some of those to ‘meta’ issues. He was more at ease with discussing philosophical and ethical dimensions. He also seemed verry much interested in dissecting human nature. Sometimes he went on comparing the social psyche of common Goans (most of his postings were in Goa) vis-à-vis that of various Arunachali tribes. Apparently, he was not very happy over his deputation in Arunachal. Very few people are. One DC, who came to inaugurate one of our district centres, openly castigated and ridiculed the locals for their inability to work. The purpose of his visit was to motivate the students to take up to the competitive examinations. On the contrary, he just foredoomed them. This was his frustration speaking.

Before leaving Pune, we were told about the ease with which one can meet and speak to senior government functionaries. It’s true. It’s very difficult for a common man to get into the office of a DC or a DM in Pune. In Arunachal, you can just walk in. As simple as that. And the officials too will entertain you, will engage with you. Half of our group went to the houses of CM and LoP unannounced, without appointment. CM was not at home then but the LoP gave around 30 minutes of his time. He also offered some tea and biscuits.

With Mr. Dault Hawaldar, Secretary Finance, Arunachal Pradesh. (IAS, AGMUT Cadre).
With Mr. Dault Hawaldar, Secretary Finance, Arunachal Pradesh. (IAS, AGMUT Cadre).

Tribal egalitarian culture (not so egalitarian actually but more about it later) may be the factor, I thought. After reaching there, however, I came to realise that other factors are much more dominant. Firstly, the tribals have very less patience with the government machinery. They tend to get their way. Mr. Hawaldar said that by the time the file reaches the top, the people run out of patience. They barge in, and ask the officers in Secretariat to sign on. If denied for the sake of due diligence or even some procrastination is hinted at, they may create a situation. He learnt to understand and solve the problems right away, in front of them, even if on the legal borderline sometimes. It takes a colonial rule after all to inculcate the sarkari habits…:)

Secondly, the officials seemingly don’t have much to work to do. At district places, people don’t come with their problems to the DC. They don’t see the government as their maai-baap. They have their own social system, basti people, tribal chief, kebang and dao to take care of daily problems. There is no single beggar in the whole state. No one is orphan, for the larger family takes care of orphaned children, provides for them. So much so that one small girl we met could not differentiate between her real brother and her neighbour. If some calamity takes place like burning down of bamboo houses (which happens regularly it seems), the whole basti comes to rescue, each family bringing ten-twenty bamboos, and build a new house in two days. Collective efforts at their best. This culture too is fast eroding due to modernisation. Army is also present at many places, creating parallel structures, especially in the eastern and the western districts of Arunachal (and border districts too).

In sum, many officers there don’t have much to do. Shweta/Trupti/Pooja could meet Industry Director of Arunachal State in local Adi Temple during weekly prayers and the very next day they were invited to his office for tea. He gave around one hour of his time. Mind well, this is Itanagar I am speaking about, the state capital. At all the coaching centres in other district places, either local DC or SP came for course-inauguration. Tourism secretary came and talked for over an hour at Itanagar centre while Chief Engineer of Public Health Department gave more than 2 hours for Naharlagun inauguration.

More interesting is the condition of non-Arunachali officers like Hawaldar sir. We secured his appointment by sending him one simple sms only half a day in advance. He asked us to come at 4 o’clock and then called us at 3.45 to ask why we had not reached his place still…! He apparently was standing in the verandah of the state guest house since then and was waiting for us. Incredible…! Away from the family in Goa, he must have felt very alone. And finding someone speaking Marathi was a kind of feast for him. He spoke for two hours, non-stop and kept speaking his mind regardless of our questions. It also indirectly indicates towards how even well-intentioned and capable non-tribal senior officers are received by locals.

We also came across some non-Arunachalis in NGO sector. They had made Arunachal their home, and Arunachalis also had accepted them as their own brethren. May it be Shekharji of RSS, Father Tommy of the Catholic Church at Nyokom Lapang, Kalyan Dutt Sir of PWD, Prof. Prakash Panda of DN College or Vijay Swamy Sir of RIWATCH. These people have devoted major part of their life for Arunachal.

Before going any further let’s first finish other and critically important dimensions of the issue of ILP. I will wind up the ILP in the next article and then move on.

Road to Tezu.  Nature's Bounty.
Road to Tezu.
Nature’s Bounty.

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