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The NEXT STAGE, COMRADE
Subir Bhaumik
The NEXT STAGE, COMRADE
PHOTO : 'The Agartala Doctrine' book launch at New Delhi by Bangladesh Ambassador. TIWN

My book Agartala Doctrine (OUP) has helped massively highlight Tripura's role in crucial national issues -- after being launched in 7 cities and accompanied by panel discussions which brought together some of the nation's finest minds, I can say, even at the risk of beating my own trumpet, that Indians have realised the importance of what Tripura's leaders have done. As famous journalist-author-researcher Sanjoy Hazarika said at my Delhi book launch -" We Assamese need to learn from Tripura". From top diplomats to intelligence officers to generals to academics, all have endorsed the 'Agartala doctrine of neighborhood managemenrt' that I developed on the basis of the role chief ministers Sachin Singh to Manik Sarkar have played . My book has put Tripura on the thought map of the country , to say the least.

It is important to do big things -- but in today's world , it is also important to let people know what you have done.

Manik Sarkar made a mess of that opportunity during his Walk the Talk interview with Shekhar Gupta -- he was less decisive in answering veteran Gupta than he has been in taking tough decisions when he dealt with insurgency , even authorizing trans-border raids by surrendered militants.

Comrade Sarkar has to realise the Tripura example is now known to many not because of his efforts but because of 'Agartala Doctrine'. His coterie of worthless incompetent 'media managers' ( journalists doubling up as propogandists in return of petty favours like jobs for children or transfer of wives) have failed to deliver either in developing his image or that of the state.  Despite my respect for Comrade Sarkar, few years my senior in MBB College, I am against promotion of a personality cult .

I would much rather market a brand of Tripura work culture -- decisive, clear headed, unambiguous, action-driven -- that stands in stark contrast to the West Bengali bhadralok or the Asomiya dangoriya -- too much talk and little action. I think that purpose has been served by the book ' Agartala Doctrine' and  the massive media mileage the book and panel discussions woven around it has got . But we have to build on that.

Let me however warn my fellow Tripuraites -- the essence of the Agartala Doctrine is eternal vigilance and continous performance -- there is no room for complacency or resting on laurels.The Manik Sarkar government has done brilliant work in handling insurgency and developing connectivity with Bangladesh including working to make Agartala the third internet gateway for India by working on the Hasina government.

But after this what !  Comrade Sarkar , an internet gateway is no guarentee for development of IT and ITES industry in our state. Mumbai is India's first internet gateway -- but the industry developed in Bangalore, not in Mumbai. So if a neighbourhing state is smart and fast on the draw, they will take advantage of our gateway , not Tripura. That will be unpardonable. Because the era of centrally funded state jobs ( clerks and teachers mostly) is over. Look at the High Court scrapping the appointment of school teachers -- and then the college teachers , in which TPSC lost the plot . So , comrade, you have to create jobs in private sector. But there comes the catch, your comrade Prakash Karat is opposed to SEZ which is what IT majors want . Denial of SEZ facilities first by the Left and now by Mamata governmnent has stunted the IT industry growth in Bengal. Must we make the same  mistake !  In a previous column, I had written about Goa's new IT policy . Realising that mere dependence on tourism as the state's driver for economy is not enough, Goa is now turning to use theMumbai IT gateway to develop its IT industry. Study that policy and adopt it for your state.

But IT is not enough. Tripura needs an integrated approach to high tech industry -- our distance from mainland factored in, we can only go for IT, ITES and high value light manufacturing that would bring high return on investment . Example : dont produce a truck worth Rs 15 lakhs , but produce 30 Iphones or similar mobiles worth the same amount, as that is small weight and volume but will bring you same profit margin , if not more.

That is why the organisers of Tripura Conclave ( Saumen Sarker and me) brought in 2015 the Taiwan trade office chief in Calcutta Fu Tan to speak on his country's integrated model of high value manufacturing and service industry . That is the model for Tripura to follow.   But I am sorry to say we are not aware of any definite , concrete move by the Sarkar administration to attract IT majors or other foreign or Indian investors in high value light manufacturing. No roadshows, no policy announcements so far. Tata Sons may promise some charity but the state must get Ratan Tata to bring in TCS here . That will create jobs. Tata may have good reason to pat Comrade Sarkar -- he is a good M and Mamata the bad M for Tata. 

Tripura will have to crack the growth riddle in the next 2-3 years. A recent survey has shown a villager on the outskirts of Delhi earns 50 times more than his counter-part in Tripura. So wake up Comrade Sarkar ! The bottom rung of your population, who vote for you in droves and keeps your partyin power , have not gained much from your administration , though you may have given them cause to cheer by crushing the deadly insurgency. They vote for you because you saved the head on their body -- now you need to fill their empty bellies which means you need concrete economic performance now rather than sit on your laurels. In this , you have to work out your own solutions without depending on your useless comrades in PB and CC. Will you trust the future of your party and government to someone whose time at the helm of CPI(M) has seen the Left presence in Lok Sabha drop ten times ! 

So here are five things you need to do now . And forgive me because I dont want to sound pompous . The day your party suffered the humilation of defeat in 2000 ADC polls and you were at your wits end handling a brutal insurgency, we came forward to work out an informal 'unified command' that brought together a few dedicated officers and civilians to plan retaliatory strikes on rebel bases inside Bangladesh. One of them went on to become Assam DGP after his tenure in Tripura, another got your CM Medal and then Sena Medal and rose two ranks in the army. Your party representative in the informal 'unified command' has become a CC member. For us, the only satisfaction is the scourge plaguing my dear state was eradicated. So I am not sermonising , I know what I am talking about . I know my state better than your bureaucrats and even urban party leaders -- because I learnt how people live in far off areas like Raima Valley by trekking the whole region walking with tribal elders and my friend the late Rabindra Debbarmaq  for 15-20 days at a stretch. Nripen Chakrabarty declared a huge hill area 'distressed area' after my coverage of crop failure and famine in Raima valley in 1985-86 -- he was so impressed by my detailed reporting.

1. You need to finish the insurgency by either negotiating a settlement with the remnants left . They are our misguided brothers and sisters , irt is our job to bring them back to normal life. They have been punished enough, it is time for magnanimity.  So negotiate the settlement with the remnants of NLFT  and sign a deal within 2016. We will never accept unrealistic terms but accept what is good for the tribals.

2. For heaven's sake, realise the solution to most problems lies in land and social justice. Your Bengal conrades failed to understand this and paid dearly. Please consider what I have long said -- initiate a study on decommissioning the Dumbur dam , reclaim a huge fertile tract and settle all Tripura's tribal landless ( at least most fo them) in that. We will have a huge agrarian growth zone on that fertile land under water for so long. We can keep some part of the water body for environment management and tourism, but I am sure the land reclaimed can take care of most of Tripura's tribal landless. That will take away the very base of tribal insuirgency in Tripura.

3. Initiate a huge growth plan for IT, ITES and high value light manufacturing in Tripura -- target 20000 employment in 2 years, believe me it is possible. In Saumen Sarkar, Bank fo America  Vice President (IT and Global Infrastructure) , Tripura has a bright son who can swing this round . He can mobilise the who's who of Indian industry at the drop of a hat. USE him and dont depend on your bureaucrats alone. I have all respects for Tapan Chakarabarty as a politician and as a human being. He is truly fine. BUt IT is not his cup of tea -- pls get a more capable IT savvy partyman to take charge of this crucial ministry.

4. Attract big time investment on available raw materials -- food processing, rubber , timber. Let us get a brewery to come and do Ginger Ale -- we will gtet all the ginger from Mizoram. Let Pran come and do its proiducts based on locally available pineapple , jackfruits, bamboo shoots . 

5. Look beyond Bangladesh for future exports -- Myanmar and even China is not far away if you seek access through the Chittagong-Teknaf corridor to Arakans and beyond. 

Comrade Sarkar, your fightback against insurgency was positive but essentially reactive . For seven years , you got hammered by the insurgents because you followed your mentor Nripen Chakrabarty's political solution line. Bunches of surrendered militants fed on the state exchequer doing nothing. Then we got the brainwave and you led the fightback . Now we need a proactive policy for future growth so that all our brothers and sisters, specially in the hills, dont go hungry anymore. It is not good enough to prescribe reading 'Ten Days That Shook The World'.  We in Tripura have set up the stage to shake India -- please dont waste this opportunity.

(Mr. Subir Bhaumik is a veteran journalist, former BBC correspondant and author of  three well acclaimed books ‘Insurgent Crossfire’ , ‘Troubled Periphery’ & 'The Agartala Doctrine' )
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