Silchar under dirty-logged water: But why need drains, 'Zinda Hain Kafi Hain'
Why is our lane under the dirty water? Asked a five-year-old, “Is this another flood” she followed. If a five-year-old is asking a question, why are elders shying away? Another 22-year-old Tarapur boy, who lives a stone-throw distance away from the residence of Silchar MLA got surprised, “Only the flood submerged the pathway to our lane, here’s no flood and yet it is submerged.”
Some social media pages have started sharing river Barak’s water level news, there are constant follow-ups, “Breaking News, the trend is rising at 12:73 metre, at Annapurna Ghat.” Hold on, the danger level at Annapurna Ghat is 19.83m, the breaking news is not the water level, but the widening of the already broken system!
The front page of most of the daily broadsheets contains, on average, four headlines by Himanta Biswa Sarma the honourable chief minister of Assam. The remaining columns are devoted to stories of national interest. However, the reporters’ road to the news desk fails to make the headlines. If you have followed the election campaign, a baritone voice in rhythm asked a question and followed with the answer… it went like this, “Master Drainage Korbe Ke, Dipayan Chara aar Ke”. To be fair to the current MLA of Silchar, Dipayan Chakraborty, who made a campaign promise to deliver the master drainage, has only had two years in office. Eyewash or social sensationalism, he was seen around the drains on numerous occasions. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt as he has a lion-share of his tenure ahead of him to fulfill his promise. But let’s keep reminding him, “Master Drainage Korbe Key? Dipayan Chara Ar Ke!”
But what has the BJP done since 2016? Isn’t it a legitimate question? It has been a “Double Engine Sarkar” since then and the promise of master drainage, albeit not in that baritone, echoed across the length and breadth of Silchar. So, why is no one asking about the basic drainage facilities that are obviously missing? Netas did not build this city, but the engineers and doctors and teachers and lawyers and chartered accountants, and cultural activists are the artisans of the canvas of love that we know as Silchar. Why aren’t they asking a question but silently walking in the dirt? Why aren’t they questioning the widening gaps in the broken system? Forget larger political discourse, why isn’t even a tea-time talk?
It is not just fear of the arrogance of the current dispensation and its well-documented arm-twisting that keeps the people of Silchar shying away from questioning. These are obviously big reasons but there are more. Where do you go with a question even if you have one?
On April 2, 2020, Niharendra Narayan Thakur’s tenure as the chairman of the Silchar Municipality Board came to an end and IAS officer Sumit Sattavan, who was then the ADC of Cachar, became the executive officer. Since then, Silchar Municipality is being run by bureaucrats, not elected representatives. This is how BJP is running Silchar. ADC Sumit Sattavan has long moved on and now he has been promoted to the deputy commissioner of a district. Then DC has also moved on and there is a new DC today who will be replaced in near future by another. The ward commissioners that the senior citizen of every bylane knew by name are now impotent. DCs are babus and not emotionally obliged to the place. An old lady, standing at her balcony, cannot shout at the DC and ask, “Don’t you feel ashamed that your uncle is walking past the dirty overtopping drain water to buy his regular Diabetes medicine from a store that has gone under the drain?” but they can ask this same question to the ward commissioner who grew up by eating mangoes from the tree at their backyard. That place to vent if not seek solutions is missing.
But wait a minute. It is a win-win for all if there is no Municipal Election. It is not the Upgradation to being a Corporation, but it is a political home run that keeps the election away. If people become angry, the elected representatives can direct the anger toward the IAS Officer or Sarkari Babu and not take any responsibility. The elected representatives can hide being the shield by putting the DCs and the SPs on the front line to tackle the bouncers. Anyway, it seldom bounces in Indian pitches and we don’t even get matches in Silchar for the ball to bounce. On the other hand, if you go for an election, the ruling dispensation will have to upset many party workers as there are more than one or two claimants in each ward. Why get into all the mess instead, let’s sit back and ‘Chalne Do’.
When Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma was the Health Minister of Assam in Sarbananda Sonowal’s cabinet, he had come to Silchar Medical College and Hospital to inaugurate the ICU. On the sidelines of a pompous ceremony, a journalist asked Sarma, why is the condition of the road to SMCH so pathetic. Sarma responded, “We have done our job and now if the road’s condition is bad, you will have to question the local MLA and not the PWD Minister.” That time, the MLA was Dilip Paul. On his way back, Sarma stopped in the middle to inspect the condition of the ongoing construction. It was a visit out of the schedule that caught many by surprise. He was told, for a stretch of 100 meters, the entire road construction is paralysed. He lost his cool and in typical HBS style, just walked away after a couple of sentences. Within six months, the four-lane road was ready with the disputed part to be restricted to two-lane.
One of the big reasons why the people of Silchar have stopped questioning is because they feel it is not worth it anymore!!! They feel the decision makers are somewhere else and that is why, when there is an unprecedented deluge, Dr. Anirban who cannot even swim properly, jumps in the water to meet the Chief Minister of the state and felicitate him with a rag as he believes, with the CM the solution has arrived or is arriving. He had no expectations or emotional connection with his own MLA who again, lives in the same area and has probably seen him grow up, or with his MP despite sharing the same path to becoming a medical practitioner. The people of Silchar have given up on their local representatives, who won the votes but failed the voters, time and again. Otherwise, it was impossible for someone who shifted from Congress to BJP recently, to come to Barak Valley and accuse a second-generation BJP legislator, “Kunu Kam Kora Nai”. Remember the ‘Eman Khong’ episode?
It is not just the ruling party, the toothless opposition is equally responsible for breaking the system. They are Facebook activists who have abandoned their voters. In Silchar, the joke is Himanta Biswa Sarma still runs Cachar Congress. Why only Congress, the Trinamool Congress, a party that is known for its dissent is so silent, that its existence is often questionable.
In the realm of governance, when an overconfident but ineffectual elected body shakes hands with a feeble and voiceless opposition, it transforms into a masquerade of incompetence, leaving the entire system buried under the weight of mediocrity. Such is the tragic tale of Silchar today, as it finds itself submerged beneath a deluge that should have been contained by a network of non-existent or rather omnipresent drains.