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The Charleville initiative

Conceptualisation of a focussed study group pertaining to various aspects of Arunachal Pradesh which will bolster the border state's development

The Charleville initiative

At the request of Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu, an Arunachal Study Group has been conceptualised at the Academy to look at issues concerning the capacity building of officers of Arunachal, understand the unique potential and diversity of the state in almost every respect – language, religion, culture, agro climes, hydel, natural and renewable resources, flora, fauna, birds, mammals, butterflies, besides challenges from the 1000 km border with China which contests the integration of the state with the Indian Union. One will not write about this – for reams have been written on this aspect, and usually, the discussion terminates with the assertion that Arunachal is indeed a state of the Indian Union, which leads the North East in many parameters of development. The initiative about this came from Jitender Kumar, an IAS officer of the AGMUT cadre when he was attending the Phase V program at the Academy. So, while this dispatch is not written at Charleville, it was conceptualised there!

One must mention here that there's a strong Charleville connection with the state. Six decades ago, in the year of 1959, the Academy moved from the Metcalfe House in Delhi to Mussorie, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama established the first Tibetan settlement in India after having fled to the Tawang Monastery in Arunachal (then NEFA) to avoid persecution from the Chinese who had occupied Tibet. The Tawang monastery is in the Monpa area, bordering Bhutan to the west and is a centre of Lamaistic Buddhism. The middle range of Arunachal has the Tani and Mishmi areas, while Singhpo, Naga and Yobin areas border Myanmar to the East and Nagaland and Assam to the south.

In between there are transition zones such as the Bugun aka Hruso, Miji and Sherdukpen – these are the cultural buffers between Lamaism and Doniyo Polo (translated: the sun and the moon) – the shamanic and animistic belief systems.

The Chief Minister and his team had a frank and candid discussion with our group which included Special Director Manoj Ahuja and we agreed that LBSNAA would conduct a training needs analysis for the civil and senior technical services of Arunachal, especially with regard to skills on project formulation and monitoring, leadership and team-building with focus on the potential drivers of Arunachal's economy: tourism, hydropower, horticulture and handicrafts.

The road to Arunachal, as indeed to most places in the Northeast, is via Kolkata and/or Guwahati, and your columnist spent a day at Kolkata – visiting the National Library, the ATI, the NUJS and had an interesting interaction with the executive committee members of the Indian Chambers of Commerce. The National Library is supposed to be the repository of all books published in the country, however, fulfilling this mandate requires professional leadership, administrative competence, political will backed with financial muscle – all of which require a reboot. The Academy is keen to seek their technical support and assistance in becoming the National Reference library for writings on and by civil servants, as well as on governance. The Academy has taken up a project under the title "The making of a Nation" to document all publications by and on civil servants/civil services and governance to understand how India has evolved from an outpost of the Empire to a G-20 nation with global ambitions and aspirations. This is taken from the title of Surendra Nath Banerjee's publication A Nation in the Making, published in 1925. Banerjee's contribution to nation-building has not received the attention it deserves – not only was he one of the first ICS officers who had to quit quite early in his career on account of racial discrimination, he was also an influential journalist, the President of the Indian National Congress, the Mayor of Kolkata and an inspiration for a generation of leaders of the freedom movement, especially before the advent of Mahatma Gandhi who transformed the Congress from an influential debating forum to a mass movement.

The sessions at the ATI and NUJS were basically interactions with the civil service aspirants clearing their queries about the exams, and discussing the myriad possibilities in the civil services. There were many apprehensions about the selection process and the respective roles of the UPSC and the Academy in the determination of services, as well as inter-state seniority. It is always a delight to respond to questions of the aspirants as well as explaining to them that while governance depends on a positive rapport between the political leadership and the permanent executive, there are fairly well-established norms and conventions of what can and ought to be done. The relationship had to be professional – officers were expected to follow the rules and uphold the law but the discretion to amend the laws was vested with the political executive, and this too was subject to judicial scrutiny. Laws could not go against the 'fundamental nature and the essential spirit of the Constitution.

The session at Indian Chambers was also very interesting where your columnist sparred with economist Onkar Goswami on the role of bureaucracy in the budget exercise. His argument was that the bureaucracy was responsible for creating the Trust deficit which made it difficult for the entrepreneurs to expand their business. Your columnist's view was that the budget was essentially a political statement and that the democratically elected political executive had every right to send whatever signals it wanted to convey. Moreover, the budget-making process was fairly participatory and the memoranda and submissions presented by the Industry chambers and trade associations were also factored in the budget-making process.

(Dr. Sanjeev Chopra is Director, LBSNAA, Mussoorie, and Honorary Curator, Valley of Words: Literature and Arts Festival, Dehradun. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Sanjeev Chopra

Sanjeev Chopra

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