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Connecting The Seven Sisters to the Mainland: Sitting Down with Sri PB Acharya

Sri PB Acharya, honourable Governor of Nagaland, visited Manipal on 4 January 2018. His visit entailed going to his former school, where he spoke to the students and the locals, and delivered a speech that enthralled everybody. He also visited Manipal Academy of Higher Education, where he declared a 5 lakh rupees grant for students from the North-East who were excelling in their respective fields of education.

Sir, you have a degree in law from Mumbai University. So can you tell us what exactly motivated you to pick law as your profession?

It’s strange actually. Whatever degrees I have- B.A. Honours, B.Com, Law, and Journalism- are just by chance. I had the time and somebody told me they had evening classes for law. I worked in the mills from 5 to 12 when I was doing my BA Honours. After that, someone told me that I could complete B.Com within two years instead of one. So I got myself enrolled in Podar College.

I felt that if I had gone for some smaller institute, I would have learned some skill. If not for my association with the ABVP, I would have been unemployed, as I had no skills whatsoever.

Sir, as a person who’s been through India’s education system at various levels and in various fields, is there anything you’d like to convey about education in India?

The country’s educated people have a greater responsibility to use their education for the betterment of society. Their mentality of “I’m empowered. I have a right to become rich and enjoy”, is unacceptable in a democracy. For years together, our Education Minister has been the weakest man in the government. Had education been given its due importance, education, and hence, employment would have automatically come up. India would have developed by leaps and bounds had that been the mindset.

Sir, you’ve been the Governor of Assam, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, and now Nagaland. There are so many problems these states are facing. Despite being a vital part of India, why are the seven sisters relatively in a state of neglect?

I am the Governor of Nagaland. I was given the additional charge of Assam for twenty months. Simultaneously, I’ve been the governor of Tripura and then Arunachal Pradesh. Apart from that, I’m the ambassador for Swachh Bharat, appointed by the central government for the whole of the North East.

Knowingly or unknowingly, the developed states have not taken care of the weaker states. If the whole country has to be strong, then every state, every pillar, has to be strong. If any pillar grows old, the entire building may collapse. You have eight medical colleges in Mangalore alone and not even one in Nagaland. The problem is that nobody wants to go there because they have meaningless fears about Nagaland. Even if there is a reason to be afraid, you have to understand that you cannot run away from a problem. You have to face it. Sitting at home will not solve any problems. The problem in the first place is that, in spite of wonderful universities in the North-East, these universities do not have any interaction with trade, commerce, and industries. Since there is no interaction, the unique products manufactured here don’t reach the rest of the country, and hence, hold no value.

Besides being of immense strategic importance, the North-East is one of the most culturally vibrant and diverse parts of India. But certain local elements seem to be demanding for a ‘Greater Nagalim’ state comprising parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Myanmar, Manipur, and Nagaland. What measures do you think should be taken by the government to stabilize the region?

It is not a very major problem, to be honest. The desire for the welfare of the people is natural, whether it is in Nagaland or outside. If anything happens to an American, even in Timbuktu, the whole of America will stand up. The welfare of American people is the point there, not Timbuktu. In the same way, the welfare of the Nagas should be the concern, not amalgamating the area. We’re now slowly starting to hear about the Nagas of Nagaland. We take care of the Nagas even if they’re in Manipur or Myanmar. Dividing an area, a city or a town is not acceptable to anyone. So, if the welfare of the nagas is taken care of, the thought of Greater Nagalim will become obscure on its own.

The region you govern is known to be hostile, being surrounded by more foreign lands than India itself. Do you predict that peace will come about soon?

A hundred percent! We will have peace. We now have a great Prime Minister. In 17 years, he is the first Prime Minister to have visited Nagaland. Last year, as soon as a new President was appointed, he visited Nagaland. That shows their care and love. It is not drama or politics.

Sir, you were the National In-charge of the SC/ST Morcha and were actively engaged in the ‘My Home is India’ initiative. So, what was that experience like?

‘My Home is India’ has nothing to do with politics. As a student activist when I visited the North-East, I observed that they have hardly any contact with the mainland. They have a lot of love for film stars and movies can be a great medium for communication.

Similarly, the country should give them the love they deserve. This is why I invited 17 kids to my home. I personally made it a point to visit the border. I could have simply visited like a tourist, returned, and written a book, and considered myself an authority on the North-East, but I didn’t do that. I did not bring forward anything that divides us.

Our deficiency, and our greed for becoming rich has denied them their development. I cannot say that I will build a school for them out of nowhere, but Manipal University must, because it has the required resources. They have already made their brand prevalent there, but they must go into the interiors. I am proud that I am a product of our glorious country, but I will be very, very sorry if universities and corporates continue to have big hospitals and other monetary assets and strengthen the business tycoons. Today I announced a grant of 5 lakhs which was matched by the University. Out of these 10 lakhs, awards will be given in the name of North-Eastern achievers. Nobody knows who these brave heroes are, like Capt. Nongrum, and Capt. Kenguruse is. They made India the safe haven it is today. And we don’t know anything about them. They are equal to Rana Pratap. We should know about them and treat them well.