Trees mean water. Water means bread. Bread is life … Preserve forests (Ki dieng ki pynman um. Ka um ka pynman bam. Ka bam ka ai jingim. Iada ia ki khlaw)
That is what one of the signboards in the Laitkor (P) Forest on the western boundary of Green Block, by the side of the Risa Stream reads. And after seeing everything that has come about under the Locality Beautification Scheme that was launched by the first Conrad Sangma government last year, we truly have the least right to be in any way despondent for we now know that we live in a system of cooperation, encouragement and enlivening hopes, for the outcome of the scheme has attracted and found appreciation among all the early morning walkers who visit the forest from far and wide before the sun shines on the treetops and even by those who visit it in the day time.
It is always nice to have one’s opinion corroborated by others, because sometimes one tends to distrust oneself if one’s friends are unanimously in opposition. The signboards were put up because the residents of the nearby localities were greatly worried about the immediate future of the forest as it is not wholly government property – government holding it on a lease as of now. The lease expired in 1983 and has not been renewed, and if what is happening on the illegally settled land holdings in Assam at present is any indication of what could happen here, we the people have the right to choke on our happiness. The government must do something to immediately acquire the forest land, if only to enhance its protection, as there are many who are highly dangerous to its existence.
In 1986, if not for the residents of Risa Colony and Cleve Colony coaxing the Forest Department to step up its protection machinery the forest would have long been lost and gone by now. Even now there are severe threats to its protection as the inspection paths are used by unscrupulous groups that come in vehicles to frolic and do god-knows-what in its sanctity. A permanent obstruction needs to be put up at every entry point so that four-wheelers are prevented from entering the forest.
There may have been a number of “dark spots” in the first Conrad Sangma government, but in the case of the Locality Beautification Scheme the headmen of the localities in Shillong owe a warm thanks and an even warmer appreciation to Conrad for conceptualising and implementing the Scheme which has yielded fruit beyond words, and which the headmen were quite incapable of doing on their own, as they could never find the resources to meet their requirements. What I mean to say is that, even though the MLA scheme does reach the headmen, the amount is never sufficient to meet all the locality’s needs.
What the first Conrad Sangma government did was to reach out with a gift of friendship to the headmen, and that is exactly what the headmen had in mind though any attempt at expressing it just couldn’t be put to word, and it was certainly a good thing that the words got stuck in their throat and that it finally found expression in the way it did. The views expressed herein will naturally reflect the views of the locality I belong to, but there is one thing that troubles me greatly and that is, will the scheme be continued in the current year?
The scheme was for all purposes a big hearted one and a brave comradeship-in-arms that fell into the midst of the pessimists – what a spectacle! All the headmen who received the scheme are beside themselves with joy at the complete success of the scheme. They are continually praising and stressing particulars of the schemes they implemented, they continually say that the scheme was in accordance with their opinion in every respect as beautification of the locality is the first priority in the locality’s maintenance, and well, we know what good Khasis mean by this predicate. The discussions on its value still go on to this day.
Last year was quite a wonderful experience for them. Many of the troubles that come crashing upon the headmen and which are inherent in the upkeep of the localities were finally sorted out with the funds that were made available. Everyone can see the good that has been done by the release of funds to the headmen, especially on the trust and faith that the government had in the sincerity of the traditional heads. Let us hope and believe that having seen the success in the implementation of the scheme, the scheme shall be carried over to the current year and that this participation between the government and the headmen will only strengthen and improve the growth of our good intentions in our race toward ever more noble and distant goals.
I am certain we shall reach them and that after every victory the goals will then be marked further off, and we shall run more courageously ever onward to even greater ventures. The generous support from the government aroused in me the wish that someone should express a word of thanks but since it has not been forthcoming I have decided to do so myself. For the part of the headmen there is only one spectator they would want to hear and that is Conrad Sangma – the man behind the scheme, because to gratify him stimulates them more and raises them higher than any other power does.
People who think and conceptualise a plan, like the one mentioned above, are the ones who see their own actions as experiments and questions – as attempts to find out something, and success or failure are to them concrete answers to all questions on the matter. To be annoyed or to feel remorse because something goes wrong is for the weak and for the followers – not for the leaders; leaders leave this to those who have received orders and who have to reckon with a boot when the boss is not satisfied.
In the Locality Beautification Scheme, as far as anyone can see, there has been only success, there are no complaints, no condemnations, though condemning and complaining about the way the government is functioning have become as common as reading and writing among us these days. In a way, everybody has practiced condemning and complaining in some way or another and it is one thing we seem to get a lot of practice in; it has become a matter of moods and a matter of luxury these days. In time, everything shall pass away but I tell you complaining will not – that is human nature.
Coming to the role that the headmen play in the locality it goes without saying that the headmen work without thought to the pay they can get from the work they do, and in a more civilised community all good men are of one opinion on this matter. For the headmen, work is an end in itself not a means to something else, hence they are very refined in their choice of work, like the conceptualisation of the simple yet meaningful signboard we see in the forest mentioned above.
The truth is, to be a headman, one must be a rare species, the kind who finds pleasure rather than fortune in the work…they do not care for the rewards that come from the work they do. Artists and contemplative men of all kinds belong to this rare breed and these apparently are the people that Conrad Sangma was in search of when he conceived the scheme, and having found them there is that belief that their utility will be exploited to the maximum in the interest of the government and the people of the State in the days to come. This is what builds up team spirit and there is a lot of team spirit required if the government is to bring about development in a complex and complicated State like ours.
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