The last few days, the media and the nation had been occupied with the successful launch of Mangalyaan to Mars and Narendra Modi’s visit to the US and other NaMo initiatives. There has been step-by-step commentary on all these events in the national dailies and the TV channels. While we admit wholeheartedly that these are moments to be proud of as Indians, we are proud of Narendra Modi’s initiatives taken for the economic development of the county, at the same time, we are also shocked at the step-motherly treatment meted out to the North Eastern States of India by the media.
How many of us are aware of the floods in Assam and Meghalaya? While many of us know about the flood devastation in Kashmir a few months back, not many are aware of the fact that Assam and Meghalaya are reeling under floods the last few days and lakhs of people are affected.
Current cloudbursts were not monsoons
Here, I am not mentioning about Assam’s monsoon floods, which are a regular phenomenon every year affecting the lives and properties of many in various districts of Assam. And God knows, what the State Government and the Central Government have been doing all these years because floods and monsoons go hand-in-hand in Assam. But here I am focussing on the recent cloudbursts in Meghalaya, leading to severe floods and landslides in Assam and Meghalaya.
It started with torrential rainfall on September 20. Then a cloudburst in the the Garo Hills the following day which led to landslides and flash floods, and the devastation shifted to Assam. At least 88 people have been killed so far, and more than 10 lakh people are displaced in flood-hit Assam and Meghalaya. The city roads of Guwahati had turned into river ways and boats were used for plying. The worst affected areas are the districts of Goalpara, Kamrup and Boko in Assam and the areas of Tura and seven districts in Garo Hills area in Meghalaya. Though there are signs of water receding now, damage has already been done and there has been huge destruction in these areas due to flood water. Most roads in Meghalaya and Assam are badly damaged. After the rescue operations of the flood affected people for more than a week in the two States, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has now shifted its focus to relief operations.
Compare Kashmir with Assam and Meghalaya
For all those who are away from their home town, there was nothing in the national media about the floods. I fail to understand why there is no coverage in the national media? We have faced similar situations in Kashmir and Kedarnath and these two areas had almost continuous coverage with every journalist and media person trying to access these places and report on the situation. It is due to this media coverage that thousands of Indians staying all over the country, from every State are coming forward to do something, to provide relief to the people. Is the North East not a part of India? Then how come today, most of us are not even bothered about what is going in that region.
While Narendra Modi’s visit was given a live coverage from the moment he reached the Delhi airport to his arrival in the US, few have cared to report that a few hours later, Kiren Rijuju, Minister of State for Home, was flying over Assam and Meghalaya, to survey the situation there.
Leaving aside a few newspapers, TV news channels have totally ignored the two States and did not send any of their correspondents to cover the floods. Maybe a few visited the States but barely made any reports.
Increase public awareness through media
To be very frank, I belong to Assam and I am thoroughly disappointed at the indifference shown by the media. While we are all proud as Indians and our achievements, I think each and every State should be equally treated and reciprocated. Over the years, the scenario has not changed. The region was and is always been neglected. A State Governor from Maharashtra considered his transfer to Mizoram as a punishment. Most civil servants prefer for a transfer to a Metro city if by any chance they are posted in any of the NE States. People feel neglected and unwanted.
But North East as a whole needs its fair share of media attention so as to increase the awareness of people of the other States about this region. There are so many good things that is never ever highlighted about the region. We have Vaishnav Guru, Shankardeva, who worked for the social up-liftment of the lower class, dowry is alien to the North East people, when everyone talks of status of women, we have one State in India, a matriarchal society, where women still rule the house and work, and that is Meghalaya. We have Mawlynnong, the cleanest city in Asia. We have the State of Mizoram with 100% literacy. The North East is abound with scenic beauty and historical places. These are just a few of the significances of this region and can make this area of India as interesting as others. Over time, this will change perhaps. The only way is raising the awareness.