Over a month after we were warned about imminent floods and were told they would wreak havoc in the North East, the cavalry finally rolled in. It's not pleasant commentary, but it will be overlooked in this belated burst of generosity that came in the form of the Rs 2,350 crore relief that came in.
The relief fund was sanctioned during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Assam earlier this week, but though the Centre has cleared it expeditiously following Modi's flight over the Brahmaputra in spate, it remains to be seen how quickly the money is actually dispatched.
It's a sobering thought that the fiscal sponge comes after a loss of over a hundred lives, after thousands of families were rendered homeless. So if the money isn't given out at the earliest and efforts to hold the river banks aren't conducted without any further delay, there will be more devastation.
While it's salutary that Modi has ordered a scientific study be conducted over the mighty river and its tributaries, and map the course changes in order to preempt and prevent such havoc in the future, it does beg the question why action is always reactive. Surely, these steps can be taken in advance and misery for the public reduced.
There is an elephant in the room and no one wants bring up the issue: It is about the attitude we have regarding the North East, and how the rest of the nation lacks awareness when it comes to this region.
A particularly rude and generally tasteless questionnaire doing the rounds on social networks harps about how 40,000 Englishmen ruled 300 million Indians, but it does make one truthful point. Titled '10 questions Indians hate to answer', it asks how many of us can name the seven sister states of the North East, and how many can then name each one of their capitals.
And no, Sikkim is not one if them.
In a quick and random survey I embarked upon involving 20 people from different walks of life — including a doctor, a yoga expert, a service officer, a cab driver and a senior journalist — I failed to get even one person to give me all the names. In fact, in a moment of cruel honesty, I too could get only six and failed to recall the seventh. Go on, test yourself, see if you can list all seven without the support of Google.
The idea is not to be clever but to underscore the chasm that has become a gorge between the rest of India and this strategic but increasingly tenuous part of the subcontinent. No less Indian than Uttar Pradesh or Bihar or Punjab, it tends to get shortchanged and if that ignorance fails to fuel public opinion, which in turn is unable to create pressure on government and even media to do the right thing at the right time, then the 45 million inhabitants of the seven states have a right to be peeved.
How many of us could even begin to list the seven capitals?
Updated Date: Aug 02, 2017 19:34 PM