The nation is welcoming the New Year 2017 with lots of expectations, with the understanding that after a week, it is the end of the 50 days sought by Prime Minister, Narendra Damodardas Modi even as, post demonetization it will still take some time to normalize the banking system. Business during Christmas is said to be the lowest this time, due to the ration of bank withdrawals. Meanwhile, in Tripura it was a year of double delight as it emerged as an island of peace in the otherwise violence-prone Northeastern India with no incident of militancy reported in 2016. The state also topped India’s literacy map with a near 97 per cent literacy rate, beating Kerala at 94 per cent.
Tripura has been ravaged by decades of terrorism since the mid-1960s. But sustained counter-terrorism measures coupled with developmental initiatives slowly but steadily won the government its race against terror, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar who has been Chief Minister since 1998 proudly recounted how the state progressed to being peaceful, added that due to their holistic approach and multi-pronged strategies, Tripura Government has tamed the decades of terrorism in Tripura.
Also realizing that education is a key not only to promote and sustain peace but also to combat poverty, ensure social justice and democracy, the Sarkar government launched a three-phased state-wide literacy campaign in 2011, when the literacy rate was at 87.75 per cent. This year, the Chief Minister declared that the rate now stands at 96.82 per cent, beating Kerala at 94 per cent, a feat that attracted visits of many officials from other states to study the efforts that brought the success.
It may be recalled that the Left- ruled Tripura on May 27, 2015 withdrew the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which gives sweeping powers and judicial immunity to security forces in conflict-hit areas. The law was enforced in the state 18 years ago to curb terrorism, while on the other part, the Iron Lady of Manipur or Mengoubi - Irom Chanu Sharmila recently ended her hunger strike against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 which she had been on for the last 15 years. She started her fast on November 2, 2000 after ten civilians were shot and killed while waiting at a bus stop. The incident, known as the Malom Massacre was allegedly committed by the Assam Rifles, one of the Indian Paramilitary forces operating in the state.
The Act was imposed in Tripura on February 16, 1997 following a spurt of violence by the ultras in the state, bordering Bangladesh where the local tribals had to flee the state for safety. AFSPA is also in force in Manipur (excluding the Imphal Municipal Council area), Assam and Nagaland and in several districts of Arunachal Pradesh. A pertinent point to take note of here is that all of these states are demanding the lifting of the Act.
Former Meghalaya Governor Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary, who was a former chief of the National Security Guards (NSG) and the Border Security Force (BSF) while addressing the police chiefs of North East in Shillong in the year 2011 opined that the prolonged use of the Act has made it ineffective. There are reports of abuses of the Act. He also said that if the Act is suitably amended, the situation would not worsen, in fact it would improve.
Sarkar, decided to withdraw AFSPA from the entire state after considering the reports of the security forces, who recently exhaustively reviewed the law and order situation in the state. The decision was taken in view of the decrease of militancy-related incidents in Tripura over the last few years. However, the security forces would be watchful over the situation. Sarkar, who also holds the home portfolio; said plying of vehicles along the Assam-Agartala national highway (NH-44) - the life line of Tripura - would be allowed until midnight instead of 10 pm.
Tripura has shown the world that if rules under an iron fist are enforced, some of the most disturbed states in terms of militancy can be turned into peaceful areas. Besides maintaining law and order under Sarkar’s leadership, Tripura witnessed a substantial 18 percent reduction in overall crime, including crimes against women during the past one year.
The state today has topped for the sixth consecutive year by providing 88 person-days’ rural jobs per household under the job guarantee scheme during the 2014-15 fiscal.
With the surplus electricity that it has generated, the state is seeking the centre’s nod to sell this surplus power to Bangladesh. The neighbouring country has shown its interest in purchasing power from Pallatana (gas based) project in Tripura and had also sought permission for the Tripura State Electricity Corporation Limited to sell 100 MW power to Bangladesh.
In the month of February this year, Northeast India’s biggest and the first-of-its-kind 5MW capacity solar power plant in Tripura has begun commercial production. The state-owned North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) has commissioned the solar power plant at Monarchak in western Tripura. The solar power plant was set up at a cost of Rs.40 crore. All the power from the plant would be transmitted to the Tripura power grid.
Besides that, communication by way of railways and international airports are also in the pipeline in Tripura.
Manik Sarkar has managed to turn one of the most disturbed states into the most progressive state. As the country’s poorest Chief Minister, he has no house or car in his name. Even his wife takes a rickshaw while travelling, with no personal security guards. Sarkar donates his full salary that he receives as a Chief Minister to his party and in return, gets Rs. 5,000 per month as his allowance. Some official sources list his monthly salary as the lowest salary among all the Chief Ministers in India. Sarkar has often been called the ‘cleanest and most honest Chief Minister in the country’. He had paved the way for the rest of the Chief Ministers to follow. He is truly a politician India is proud of, and will be remember for time immemorial.