Save NorthEast Campaign is a movement, lead by a group of youth from Northeast. The campaign aims for the overall sustainable development of Northeast. In a conversation with the founder-volunteer of Save NorthEast Campaign, Mr. Pritam Das, the Managing Editor of Cachar Chronicles, Swagatam Roy asked the following questions which were answered by him and are mentioned underneath.
Q. Will you please brief about ‘Save NorthEast Campaign’.
A. We believe in ground level activities. We look forward to improve Northeast in general. Our focus is on different aspects of development in Northeast like conservation of biodiversity, development of infrastructures etc. Saving the traditional heritage of Northeast throughout our course of action is something, we always take care of. We aim to make Northeast plastic-free. In addition to that, we are working to safeguard Dibang Valley. Dehing Patkai is in our checklist too. Dibru Saikhowa is the subject we are presently working on. Son beel and Chatla have our attention too. Besides, promoting local products is one of our objectives. In brief, we primarily aim for sustainable development in Northeast. We have our volunteers in different parts of Northeast: Upper Assam, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, North Lakhimpur, Guwahati, Barpeta, Baksa, East Khasi Hills, Garo Hills, Jiribam, Karbi Anglong, Kokrajhar and ofcourse Silchar (Lakhipur).
Q. Enlighten us about your steps towards making Northeast plastic-free.
A. Our land stands adjoining the Himalayan belt. Whatever we do to this land today, will come back in a 10 times larger form after 10 years. We have to pay for everything we do. We don’t have any recycling plant in Northeast. Having said that, the commodities that are brought into this region from different parts of the country are usually wrapped in plastics which eventually end up in large landfills, staying stagnant there for infinite period of time into the future. We want to make entire Northeast plastic-free, quite similar to Sikkim.
Q. The people of Northeast become the victim of racism in other parts of India, can you please comment on that? Having said that, what are your opinions on the rising religious racism in India.
A. I condemn such social misdeeds, but discussing about them won’t solve the problem. We believe in solving problems from the root. This type of racism will eventually end when Northeast would standup as a self-sufficient region, and we are working for that very cause. Coming to religious racism, according to Swami Vivekananda, where there is religious tolerance, there will be greatness. Every religion shows the right path, however, the interpreters show variation in their thoughts.
Q. You have talked about promoting local products, but do we really have alternatives which can replace the international giants?
A. Ofcourse we have, I will give you a single example, however there are many. We are fond of Carbonated Beverages that are mostly produced by MNCs, but Barak Valley has large reserves of Asia’s sweetest pineapples; why don’t we invest on them? These pineapple reserves have the potential to give rise to one of the best chilled drinks.
Q. The tea-garden labourers of Assam face a lot of exploitation. Please comment on that.
A. The generation we belong to, brings in equality. There was a time, when everything was hereditary, you inherit things from your forefathers, but now, we need to compete to achieve anything, irrespective of our caste, creed, gender etc. Involvement of this generation in any activity will lead to its development. The conditions of tea-garden labourers of upper Assam are way better than those of lower Assam. The simple reason is, the involvement of youth in the development of tea-garden of upper Assam. We just need to do the same in our locality too.
Q. Can you please reveal the financial support, Save NorthEast Campaign has?
A. Upper Assam produce surplus quantity of tea leaves. We plan to start selling them on national level using the ‘organic’ tag. Basically we are planning to start a start-up which will fetch us money to work for the good cause and at the same time, promote the local product. However as of now, while distributing food relief, a group of students from Switzerland’s University of Zurich, arranged us the money to serve 1000 families; the reason behind this gesture is that they have trust on Save NorthEast Campaign and they believe that their money would be utilized in a justified way. In return, we sent them all the documentations. Moreover, they are redy to continue working with us.
Q. What has Save NorthEast Campaign done with respect to the Dehing Patkai issue?
A. We don’t like taking credits as long as our actions do not fetch the appropriate result. However we were one of the first groups to use the hashtag ‘#SaveDehingPatkai’, and since then, we have never looked back.
Q. Where there are oil reserves or coal reserves, we must dig in to extract these fossil fuels because we are still far away from completely shifting to renewable energy resources. But when these actions are taken in areas that are in proximity to wildlife heritage, it creates havoc. However we cannot shift the reserves anyway, what should be the solution then?
A. See, oil extraction or coal extraction near areas full of wildlife heritage is possible too if all the rules and regulations are strictly followed. However, it has not been the case for an indefinite period of time. Thus, we are worried about the natural heritage. If all the protocols are followed, people are always welcome to build up power plants. But, we should build power plants outside a range of atleast 10 km on all sides from an area which has a rich natural heritage.
We wish Save NorthEast Campaign all the strength that they must have to overcome all the difficulties in the path of this noble cause.