Sunday, 31 July 2016

Seventy years of Independence and Nicobar

India, with her kaleidoscopic diversity is a country whose charming variety emanates from its history, shaped by its geography and adorned by myriad cultures. A few days from now, we shall be celebrating our 70th Independence Day. Years ago, India made a “tryst with her destiny” and the hopes and dreams of a great nation were envisioned and dreamt.
Today, we are a proud nation with the third largest economy (in PPP) and possess the second largest human resources. We have sent mangalyana and are envied by the world for our indigenous technology. We are also poised to fight the demons of unequal development and socio-economic infrastructure bottlenecks.
Here, in the southernmost district of the country, we are proud of being a part of India’s progress. The district has seen the worst of natural disaster and yet its people are so resilient that they have bounced back to normalcy in record time. This quality of people of Nicobar is our greatest asset.
Usually, we associate growth and development only with the economy and completely ignore the social aspect of it. From Nicobar, the materialistic world can learn a lesson or two. Whereas, in the rest of the country, the position of women even after 70 years of independence is still questionable, the Nicobari women are independent, free from the fear of foeticide, gender discrimination, eve-teasing, dowry deaths, domestic violence, acid attacks and even the social ostracism which only a woman faces in case of child out of wedlock. It is indeed a great achievement that the people of Nicobar treat their women so well and help in materializing the true spirit of freedom envisaged by thinkers like Tagore and Rousseau – the freedom from the fear and a dignified life.
Figure 1: A group of nicobari women in their traditional dress.
Photo: Greatheart Nicobari

The tuhet system that takes care of the orphans, the old, the sick, the disabled is yet another strength of the people of Nicobar. It’s indeed a great freedom from insecurities that the people of the district ensure for one and all. Our friendly neighboring country, Bhutan is well known for its high happiness index and the people of Nicobar too can boast of the same as they are so socially advanced, resilient in the face of adversities, so happy, simple and content.
Yet, we are certainly not a Utopian district. We have more than our fair share of problems which have made administration in this district an arduous task. The biggest challenge for the administration is the long gestational period of developmental projects due to the very geography of this district. The district comprises of 22 islands and eight of them are inhabited. These islands are not only far from the nearest economic hub i.e. Port Blair but also separated from each other by a very tempestuous sea, making transportation of people, goods and everything that is important for the development of infrastructure a slow and cumbersome process. The lack of mobile and internet connectivity along with this geographical isolation also inhibits the islands from taking giant leaps towards progress. The smaller islands like Chaura and hamlets in Nancowry and little Nicobar also lack some very basic facilities like water and 24x7 electricity. Though the administration has been taking steps like floating a tender for de-salination plant in Chaura Island, installation of solar street lights, commissioning an exclusive boat for the southern sector etc, the common islander still has a lot to wish for. Therefore, a lot has to be done by the administration, by in fact everyone, from the lowest MGNREGA functionary to the district administration to the highest policy makers for the betterment of this beautiful district. With the 70th anniversary of India’s independence not far off, we must understand that the only way forward is as enshrined by our national government’s motto .i.e. “together with all, development for all” and to achieve this, we all must join hands and play our small role in this glorious march to a better India. Jai Hind.