Sabal Bidhayak: A series of Orientation Programmes
for Assam MLAs

organized by

Assam Legislative Assembly

Programme Design & Coordination by

Centre for Development & Peace Studies

Third phase: 12-13 november, 2016

 
 
Mr Arnab Goswami addressing the legislators
 
A brief Report of the third Phase of the Programme
 

On November 12 and 13, 2016, the third phase of the Sabal Bidhayak programme for the Assam Lagislative Assembly Members concluded successfully. The six-phase orientation programme has been initiated by the Speaker of the Assembly Sri Ranjeet Kumar Dass while the programme has been designed and coordinated by the Guwahati-based think-tank, Centre for Development and Peace Studies. The programme includes a total of nineteen interactive lecture sessions by experts in different fields. Around thirty speakers from within and outside Assam are participating in the interactive sessions, spread over three months.

 

Session-I

  Chair: Mr Wasbir Hussain, Executive Director, CDPS
  About the Chair: CDPS Executive Director Mr Wasbir Hussain is also a veteran journalist; political commentator and former two time Member of the National Security Advisory Board, India. He has been covering insurgency, ethnic strife, and other major political and social developments in the northeastern states for the past 33 years for major newspapers and magazines. Mr Hussain was Consulting Editor, The Sentinel, Guwahati, Consulting Editor, The Newspaper Today, India Today Group Online, Editor, The Northeast Daily, Guwahati, Special Correspondent with The Asian Age; Regional Editor of The Telegraph; and Special Correspondent of The Telegraph. He bagged the 1996 Sanskriti Foundation National Award for excellence in journalism. Hussain currently writes for The Asian Age, The Sentinel and The Associated Press. Besides, his writings on security issues concerning India’s Northeast and its surrounding foreign neighbours appear regularly in the South Asia Intelligence Review.
  Speaker 1: Mr. Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief, Times Now
  About the Speaker: Founder of Time Now TV and the Channel’s Editor-in-Chief, Mr Arnab Goswami is one of India’s most iconic television anchors. The News Hour, a live debate hosted by Arnab at 9 pm during weekdays, has been the most watched news program in India. The other popular programme anchored by him is a one-to-one talk show ‘Frankly Speaking with Arnab’ which has featured top political, sports and personalities from the world of entertainment. His last leading guest was Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mr Goswami completed his graduation in Sociology from the Hindu College, Delhi. He completed his Masters in Social Anthropology from Oxford University in the year 1994. He started his career at The Telegraph newspaper in 1995 and in the same year he shifted to broadcast journalism by joining NDTV. He was involved in the transitioning of NDTV 24/7 into the 24 hour slot in 1998. Arnab had been the host of News Night, a news analysis program on NDTV which won him an award for the Best News Anchor Asia in 2004, at the Asian Television Awards. He also received the Ramnath Goenka Award for Journalist of the Year in 2010.

 
 
The participants with the Resource Persons
 

Mr Arnab Goswami said that it is important for legislators to put people first in their agenda. Addresing the legislators on the topic Legislators and Relationship with Media , Mr Goswami said, “We are all here because of the people. People should come first whether it is in politics or media.”

Speaking to the participants, Mr. Goswami said that Indian journalism is stronger than journalism elsewhere, and the media here can question everything including religion—something not practised by the western media. At the same time, Indian media is independent and secular—it can cover issues for instance as to why a woman cannot enter a place of worship. While in UK, the media is very structured, in India it is not. Stating that his channel Times Now has broken six major scams so far and each case has been followed up by the judiciary, he said that the media in India has kept the judiciary on its toes. Media in India has come a long way. Today’s media is an unusual media. It is confrontational unlike media in the earlier days which had information but little impact.

“Politics is about taking responsibilities. Development follows when the media behaves responsibly and politicians too work responsibly,” Mr Goswami said. Terming the New Media as an Activist Media or Campaign driven Media, he said that today’s media follow ups news until there is response from the concerned quarters. He said that today journalists are no longer disseminators of information only. Media is a reflection of the changing country. Legislatures should open up new relations with the media, and both the politicians and the media people should think about how they can work together and not how they can fight, he added.
 
 

From Left: Mr Samudra Gupta Kashyap, Mr Keshab Mahanta, Mr Ranjeet Kumar Dass,
Mr Arnab Goswami and Mr Wasbir Hussain

  Speaker 2: Mr Keshab Mahanta ,  Cabinet Minister, Assam 
 

About the Speaker: Senior AGP leader, former Member of Parliament and a three-time MLA, Mr Keshab Mahanta is a Cabinet Minister in the present Government of Assam holding portfolios of Water Resources, Science & Technology and Information Technology. A Master of Arts in Political Science from Gauhati University, Mr Mahanta was a lecturer at Kaliabor College before he joined active politics.

Mr Mahanta’s interest in culture and sports drew him to serve in both the fields in various capacities. Besides being the General Secretary, Kaliabor Central Gana Sangram Parishad, during the Assam Agitation, he was president, cultural secretary as well as advisor to All Assam Students’ Union at different times, was founder secretary of Kaliabor B. Ed. College and Kaliabor Junior College, former Vice President of Indian Hockey Federation, delegate of International Hockey Congress (Netherlands) 1998, observer from Indian Hockey Federation at Sydney Olympic. His special interest is strengthening Youth Organisations.

 

Mr Keshab Mahanta addressed the MLAs on the relationship between legislators and media and said that media is of great importance for the legislators because it is the medium to reach the masses. He said that media can function even without talking about the politicians or the Government. But, for the politicians, it is rather difficult to ignore the media as it helps them to reach the masses.

In his address, Mr Mahanta also discussed about corruption in media and politics. If there is an unfair ‘understanding’ between media and the politicians, it is bad for the people of the country. However, both media and the legislators should keep a good relationship for the benefit of the people, he added.
  Speaker 3: Mr. Samudra Gupta Kashyap, The Indian Express, Northeast India
  About the Speaker: Veteran journalist Mr Samudra Gupta Kashyap is the head of The Indian Express’ news operations in the Northeast. He follows politics and social developments across the Northeast closely and has been writing on these issues for the past three decades. Mr Kashyap is a well-known broadcaster who has conceptualized, researched, written and scripted a 26-episode television mega-serial called “Brahmaputra: An Endless Journey” for maestro Bhupen Hazarika. He is the winner of several awards including the Bhupen Hazarika Award in 2015 for covering issues related to the Northeast for over 20 years.
 

Mr Samudra Gupta Kashyap stated that media and politics are inseparably related and while media plays the role of a watch dog, it also has its own responsibilities. Mr Kashyap said that the style and nature of journalism has gone through a vast change since the early 1980s when he joined his career as a journalist.

Stating that the Indian Constitution does not define media like in western countries, Mr Kashyap said that media in this democratic country takes the centre stage. Referring to his past experiences, Mr Kashyap explained why the relationship between media and politicians should be honest in order to serve the people and the State.

 

Session-II
Chair: Prasanta Rajguru

  About the Chair: Mr Prasanta Rajguru is the Executive Editor, Amar Asom, a frontline Assamese daily from Guwahati, Assam. He is a Rotary International Peace Fellow and did an International Course on Conflict Resolution at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. He is also a recipient of the MAJA KOENE Social Journalist Award 2015, initiated by CESCI (Centre for Experiencing Socio-Cultural Interaction) Foundation. The award was given to him in recognition of his vital contributions in the field of journalism and peace building in Northeast India. CESCI is an international organization based in India and Switzerland. Mr Rajguru has been 32 years in journalism, and has written and commented on various socio-political and other issues concerning India’s Northeast.
 
 
A section of the Resource Persons and Participants
  Speaker 1: Mr Abdul Muhib Mazumdar
  About the Speaker: Mr Abdul Muhib Mazumdar is a veteran political leader of Assam who has been a two-time Cabinet Minister in the Assam Assembly during 1983-85 and 1996-2001. A four-time MLA from Hailakandi, Mr Mazumdar did his Masters and LLB from Cotton College and Aligarh Muslim University, respectively. Before joining active politics, he taught Economics and Political Science at Pragjyotish College (1956-1961), Law in University Law College (1961-1980) and served as Advocate General, Assam (1980-1983).

Son of Late Abdul Matlib Mazumdar, freedom fighter and Minister in the Gopinath Bordoloi Ministry, Mr Mazumdar also has been a senior advocate in High Court and Supreme Court apart from being Deputy Leader Opposition (1986-1991), Former Vice Chairman State Planning Board, Member State Security Commission, Former Member AICC and Vice President APCC, and Former Chairman APCC Minority Cell. He is also Adviser Minority Department APCC.

 

Mr. Abdul Muhib Majumder addressed the participants on the topic Procedural Devices Available to Members to Raise Matters of Urgent Public Importance on the Floor of the House. He said that an MLA can draw attention of Minister even by a supplementary question (Chapter 9, Rule 49). “Questions should have sufficient public importance. Regarding the interpretation of Rules, the Speaker of the Assembly has the absolute authority to regulate all the questions”, he added.

In his typical way of expressing matters with humour and logic, Mr Majumdar explained to the MLAs how to raise matters of urgent public interest by following the rule of law. Well supported by his own experience of over three decades in politics, he imparted important ideas on the topic.

  Speaker 2: Mr Prafulla Kumar Mahanta
  About the Speaker: Mr Prafulla Kumar Mahanta had been a veteran student leader and as President of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), he had spearheaded the six-year-long anti-foreigner agitation in the State. After the Assam Accord in 1985, Mr Mahanta, along with his colleagues, floated the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and became its founder President. He joined electoral politics soon thereafter and became Chief Minister in 1985 after the historic State Assembly polls. He once again became Chief Minister in 1996 after the AGP’s victory that year.

A Bachelor of Science as well as a law graduate from Gauhati University, Mr Mahanta has authored The Tussle Between the Citizens and Foreigners in Assam, which was published in 1986. He has been representing the Barhampur constituency for the seventh consecutive term since 1985. Mr Mahanta is one of the Members of the Presidium of newly formed 'National People's Front’. During 1991 to 1996, he was the leader of the Opposition at Assam Legislative Assembly.

 

Mr Prafulla Kumar Mahanta addressed the participants and spoke on Parliamentary Etiquette, Ethics, Customs and Conventions. Mr Mahanta drew on history of the Assam Legislative Assembly which began on 7 April 1937 in Shillong with 108 MLAs. Referring to the Indian Parliamentary system, he said that Fascism has been always short lived while Democracy is long lasting and is proved by the Indian democratic system.

Mr Mahanta observed that the behaviour, dress sense and manner of an MLA has much impact in the Assembly and each legislator should take care to maintain a particular level of decency. They must know how to respect the Speaker while entering or exiting from the House. If the legislators follow the rules and procedures of the Assembly, it will be beneficial both for them and the public, he said.

  Speaker 3: Mr Phani Bhusan Choudhury
  About the Speaker: Mr Phani Bhusan Choudhury is a veteran politician of Assam representing the AGP. He has the distinction of representing his constituency, Bongaigaon, for seven consecutive terms in the Assam Legislative Assembly.

During 1996-2000, he was Member, House Committee of Assam Legislative Assembly and Member, Public Undertakings Committee of Assam Legislative Assembly apart from being a Minister. Between 2009 and 2011, he was Chairman, Public Accounts Committee. He was the leader of AGP Legislature Party during 2011-2016. Apart from his political life, Mr Choudhury takes keen interest in sports and was the General Secretary, Bongaigaon Sports Association (1979-1985).

 

Mr Phani Bhusan Choudhry threw light on General Rules of Procedures of the Assembly - Questions, Legislations and Resolutions. He said that it is very important for an MLA to know how to put a question in the Assembly, which question is to be given priority and how to frame a question. According to him, the question must be focused and proposals should be such that it includes the problems and issues important for the state as a whole apart from then problems of a particular constituency.

Offering some valuable advices to the young legislators on the rules and procedures of the Assembly, Mr Choudhury said that before putting a question in the Assembly, an MLA must be prepared with the question as well as the possible subsequent questions and discussion that may follow his question. He referred to different proposals placed in the Assembly while explaining Resolutions in the House. He said that Bills are of two types—private members bill and Government bill and the new bills are called Original Bill, Amendment Bill, Constitution Bill, Money Bill and Finance Bill.

 

Session-III
Chair: Mr Wasbir Hussain, Executive Director, CDPS

 
 
Dr Gautam Barua (second from left) and Mr Dipok Kumar Barthakur (fourth from left)
  Speaker 1: Prof. Dr. Gautam Barua
  About the Speaker: Prof. Gautam Barua is the Mentor Director of the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Guwahati. He is a two-time former Director of Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati where he had also been a Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering there since 1995. He did his B. Tech (1976) and M. Tech (1978) in Electrical Engineering from IIT Bombay and obtained his PhD degree in Computer Engineering from the University of California, United States, in 1981.

Prof. Barua is an IT consultant to the Government of Assam and to a number of public enterprises. He is governing board member of several organizations, including, CSIR Society, Indian Insurance Bureau, Cotton College State University, North Eastern Hill University, Central Institute of Technology, Kokrajhar, Oil India Ltd, Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Ltd. He is in the High Level Committee of the National Knowledge Network.

 

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Gautam Barua, Director, Indian Institute of Information Technology, Guwahati said that new and relevant courses should be introduced in the ITIs and there should be vocational courses for those students who cannot pass Class X. He stated that the existing ITIs and the Polytechnics are providing Diploma Courses. These institutions have been imparting training on same sectors since several decades. However, with changing time, these subjects need to be developed and new subjects should be imparted that have relevance in current time.

Stating the importance of the gradually developing service sector, Dr Barua said that 10+ students can well be trained in this sector provided the ITIs impart courses on the service sector. Dr Barua said that the pass outs from the ITIs here rarely engage themselves in works like carpentry, masonry, etc due to the mindset of looking for jobs in the Government sector. The Government should give emphasis on imparting skills to the youths in the service sector.

“More than 70 percent people in Assam are engaged in agriculture. But these people hardly get any proper training. The existing 4-5 days farmers’ training is not enough. It is seen that the children of the farmers are not interested in farming and go to places outside the State to work as security guards with a meagre salary. If training programmes target the children of the farmers, such youths will not leave farming which will help to develop this sector”, said Dr Barua. He said that the school education system has to be improved and training institutions have to reach those, such as the tea tribe youths, who are not willing to come out from their area to attend a training course or programme.

  Speaker 2: Mr Dipok Kumar Barthakur
  About the Speaker: Mr Dipok Kumar Barthakur is the Vice Chairman of State Planning Board, Assam. Mr Barthakur has been acknowledged regionally and nationally for his pioneering and tireless efforts in leading and creating large-scale socio-cultural changes through ground-breaking efforts in the areas of education, healthcare, business entrepreneurship and developmental activities in the region.

A Masters in Commerce from Gauhati University, Mr Barthakur is the Founder Chairman of LB Group launched in 1969—a venture started to give impetus to green industries and local skill development. He is also the Chairman, Vivekananda Institute of Culture, Guwahati, Founder and Chairman, Nagarik Samabay Bank, Assam, Founder Trustee and Vice Chairman, Sri Sankardeva Nethralaya, president and founder member of New Art Players, Guwahati, Founder Secretary of Assam Sishu Siksha Samiti, apart from his other associations.

Mr Barthakur is the first recipient of the Lakshman Rao Inamdar National Award for his contribution to the cooperative banking movement in the Northeast in 2013. In the same year he was conferred Karmayogi Award by My Home India at India International Centre New Delhi.

 
 
A section of the MLAs attending a Session
 

Mr Dipok Kumar Barthakur addressed the legislators on Skilling and Regenerating Assam. He said that agriculture accounts for more than a third of Assam’s income and employs 69 percent of total workforce. “We have not had any genuine investments in developing our supply chain for agriculture from the point of cultivation to reaching the market. We do not have a comprehensive policy for tea which looks at the tea industry in its entirety”, he said.

Stating that industrial development in Assam or the Northeast is inhibited by physical and emotional isolation, Mr Barthakur said that a major drawback in Assam is the lack of properly trained and skilled resource pool. He suggested three things in order to achieve success in skilling and regenerating Assam.

  • Coordination of efforts between various departments like Ministry of Labour and Industries, Ministry of Education, North East Council, Department of North East Region, State Skills Mission and NSDC—all involved in skills development
  • Tailoring education to meet employment needs. To justify investments, policies must be grounded in hard data. Regenerate the existing ITIs and make them viable alternative educational choices for the youth.
  • Genuine public-private partnerships should encourage interests of local youth in education and training. A good Make in Assam product should be able to stand its ground and receive Government support and it should not face competition from sub-standard products from outside the State.

Mr Barthakur said that the CSR funds can be routed through National Skill Development Fund with specific outcomes and MLAs will be roped in to oversee and participate in these programmes. An MLA has the advantage of being most closely involved with his or her constituency. An MLA can play an active role in bringing together relevant stakeholders (bureaucrats, training providers, employees, NGOs, local people) and resources (local infrastructure, funds) and catalyse skill development in their constituencies. Mr Barthakur also suggested the legislators to come up with ideas and suggestions that can be implemented state-wide or in their respective constituencies. Concluding, Mr Barthakur said that there has to be a Skill University in Assam to boost employment.

All the sessions of the orientation programme were followed by intense interactions with all the participants.

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