Wherever I went this time for ASER survey, a thought always struck in my mind: I traveled to the furthest districts and reached the remotest places with 30,000 other volunteers all over India…
After the formation of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in 2003, many changes have come to the Bodoland Territorial Districts Area (BTAD) in Kokrajhar and people, but it still lacks many basic amenities. With its own hospital, schools and colleges BTC now plays a pivotal role in the area. But still in the BTAD area conflicts regarding land, identity and language are going on and it creates a major hurdle in the progress of the inhabitants who are under constant threat of conflict and terror for the last two decades.
Displacement is a serious problem here and in the last two decades about 10 lakh people have been displaced. If we assume that amongst them 20% were children, then the future of about 2 lakh children has been destroyed with their education coming to a dead end. Language is a serious issue in this area, with a mixed population of people speaking Bodo Bengali, Assamese, Nepali, Konch Rajbonshi (bhatiali), Rabha, Santhal; there is a serious problem of teaching and understanding. With frequent conflicts people are displaced from one place to another, where children have to adjust in a school where the teacher cannot speak or teach the children in his own mother tongue.
The endowed fertile land, Territorial council and a vibrant culture – though these people are wealthy in their own way, still they are not able to move with ease due to nonstop sociopolitical disturbances.
For monitoring of ASER 2013 survey, I went to a densely Nepali populated village on a blazing sunny day. The Sarpanch of the village told us that the riots of the last year made some new Bodo people shift to this village, which was once a Nepali-only village. Using the ASER method we started our survey of the village. Near the village, construction of the third Government Engineering College of Assam is going on. Majority of the inhabitants are working on the construction site of the College. On everyone’s lips there was only one thing- “With the establishment of the college a great change will come to our lives and we will get new jobs”.
I asked the children, “Will you go to that college one day? They looked confused and then after a little silence they replied with a smile- “Oh that place, our Ma and Baba always go to that place for work”.
I calculated silently inside my mind. Books, Uniform, Fees etc. all put together are a grand sum of some lakhs of rupees. I asked the children,‘Amongst you who wants to become an Engineer?’ With utter sincerity they replied: “Oh that place? People will come from outside to that college”.
After talking with children and passing some time with the people when I moved out of the village, I felt that many things are still to be done; ideas and hopes are still needed for these earthly simple people who are living a hard life.
With every passing year of ASER survey, I meet new people, get new insights to their life. With every ASER survey, new questions and doubts arise in me. But a steely answer comes from my heart- that still lots of things are to be done with new hopes. Only with real work, we can bring the change that every needy person dreams of.