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Would Priyanka 1.5 really augur Assam 2.0?

(Disclaimer 1: I don’t always believe what they publish in certain pulp-fiction Assamese dailies, but if what they say is true – Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra pitched and confirmed as official brand ambassador of Assam Tourism– I have deep concerns, against which, I’d like to engage in Wishful Thinking.

Disclaimer 2: I have nothing against Priyanka Chopra. Yes, I think her fake accent is a little overdone but I have no claim to begrudge her over it. She is successful and I do not whine about it.)

What can a judicious, daily expenditure of 1.5 crores do for the economy of the state?

Consider Assam.

1.5 crores spent every day on strengthening the security network of the state would probably engage better infrastructure, stronger vehicular and arms supply for beat cops and officers-in-charge who can reach a Place of Occurrence faster and hence deal with matters quicker, preventing collateral damage from taking place. It might also enable the security system of the state – police, army, paramilitary forces etc. – to grab the insurgent, terrorist and poaching rackets by the foot, if not the neck, and proceed even more strongly in taking them to task. It would also mean better pay structure for the cop who is tempted to pick a tip for sah-pani (tea and snacks), hence preventing the chronic annoyance that common people have to deal with. It might also entail training all officials in latest security and management modules, thus giving them (even the constabulary) an edge over crimes – both petty as well as ideologically organised and supported.

The next big and chronic depression that Assam faces – floods, could probably see a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel, if 1.5 crores are spent daily, in understanding the malady, remedying the loophole and diverting the overwhelming waters during monsoons for say, a hydro-electrical project which could in turn light up lamp-lit corners or help in running fuel-run factories. More water-borne power would mean fewer fuel deposits and contamination on the environment. Besides, that should help in increasing daylight hours and 24×7 productions, hence lifting the production graph, probably making monsoons a hero, in being gauged the most productive season. Also, ambitious builders would probably cool down their greed and invest in keeping the city green instead of slicing off hills to expand habitat in the city. Nah, that’s a far cry!

As an agrarian state, that much amount spent on its crop production and improvement could yield much healthier results, and stave off technological backlog by introducing modern agricultural know-how for faster and exportable crops. Since supply would be ample, ridding of syndicates in the market would become easier. That would lead to price fall and let the common man have a peaceful meal. (This – even after leaving out a slice that could go into research and development that could take Assam to the leagues of states like Punjab maybe, if not countries like New Zealand and Canada.)

With production and devastation looked into in a much sharper way, notice could probably be made in diversifying indigenous industries and increasing employment opportunities for the wasted youth of the state, the one which engages in fights, arson, eve-teasing, molestation and collecting protection money like a birthright. Cottage industries manufacturing the state’s indigenous resources could be given a makeover and uplifted from exporting ‘cool handicrafts’ to ‘exotic souvenirs’. Why, block-making and printing could be introduced among our artisans to reflect cultural or social signatures like the Assamese jaapi, dhol, pepa or the flora, fauna, endemic to the state. This should definitely save textile entrepreneurs taking flights to Western and Southern India and save their money.

I also sincerely believe that the education system, the curricula of our colleges and universities, and the amount of exposure for the teacher and student fraternities, could be enlivened if more money could be pumped into it. The lack of proper educational infrastructure could be compensated and students could avail international standards of not just education and guidance but internship and practice. Besides, if the overall atmosphere for development is conducive, technological and other companies could set offices and recruit budding aspirants or willing expats could make a home run.

A daily amount of 1.5 crore rupees spent in constructing ‘black-topped roads’ (read: a term, exhaustively mentioned in annual governmental souvenirs) would also probably encompass the remotest regions of the state, which hold developmental promise but lack commutation ease. Imagine driving on well-laid and not haphazardly constructed roads. So many productive hours could be saved! Far-flung areas would no longer be flung so far and people can easily reach and return from places that would otherwise take days and mud-loads of a commute.

An amount like that used to augment tourism could refurbish our historical monuments – like the Sivasagar and Dhubri palaces – which would inevitably mean more footfall. Ensuring sophisticated accommodation and easy travel to and from the places and tourist safety could work triple-fold in announcing them as the next travel destination. I say triple fold, by virtue of engaging historical-cultural-culinary engagement of tourists, generating employment to adrenaline-driven jobless youths, and ensuring an indelible label of excellence and recognition for the state.

There are surely more areas that I have lesser knowledge and space to include. Using them on the scholarly lists of to-dos should certainly give impetus to an ardent government, ready to make a change. Instead, I heard of the official employment of Priyanka Chopra – who has no relation to the state (maybe even to Manipur, but not ours) whatsoever – as tourism brand ambassador, and a daily amount of 1.5 crores to be paid to her for ‘paarishromik’ services or in other words ‘wage for hard work’! Seriously? And how is she going to do the hard work to better our state of affairs? By doing a short film (yeah, that’s on the cards) that would be aired and promoted on national television (including Times Now, lol) and sentimentalising the national audience to take heart and visit Assam for god’s sake? By visiting Radisson Blu or Taj Vivanta in October, meeting common and not-so-common man alike at some social/press gathering there or elsewhere? By giving a well-prepared interview/speech on regional news channels, vociferously mentioning how much she loves Assam and its people? By doing a Bihu dance with teen singer Nahid? Seriously, what’s the agenda? Or did I just spell it all out?

I cannot remember Sikkim doing something like that and yet, several earthquakes after, it is still a much-visited place. Nagaland is rocking with its Hornbill Festival annually. Arunachal has Tawang and several options of adventure tourism, monks, monasteries and absolutely photography-friendly locations. Meghalaya became Rock On 2’s stop for filmmaking, but only after international music bands had already left their trails in the musical city of Shillong. Mizoram is belting gospel rock and eating oranges with Ziona Chana (world-famous for being the head of the largest single family). Manipur has Mary Kom and Tripura has Dipa Karmakar. All in-house talents shaping the state’s identity and pride. Period.

No, I’m not clamouring for a ‘local’ replacement of Pri Chops to represent the state. I just want to see an economic usage of state money to pave better prospects for the green lands I love, and not to fill coffers for birthday bashes at Quantico TV show.












13 thoughts on “Would Priyanka 1.5 really augur Assam 2.0?

  1. You know whatever you have written here would have been my reaction if I were in my early twenties. Your main point is, such an amount should be used in somewhere useful rather than giving a celebrity to promote our land. Isn’t?
    I would like to disagree with you. Why? Let me explain.
    Our tourism is not flourishing mainly because the places we have here are not visible to the tourist nationally or globally. Previously I thought it’s due to connectivity problems. We have few airports and railway services to the exact places of interest, but today after having seen places like baishno devi temple, ladakh etc I feel we have farely nice connectivities for the tourists to reach here. What we lack here is a presentation that can attract the outer world. They might have heard about our places but in doubt and confusion whether to visit .
    I think if government can get a national celebrity to promote ‘incredible assam’, the impact will be huge. Presentations matter in today’s world. People like to spend money on brands and it’s a psychology that should be used in our benefit. Priyanka is a global celebrity now. If she accepts the deal our land will be obviously benefited.
    And please grow up. You seemed like an intelligent lady. There are people in this country who like to say things like ‘why spending money on space research, people are dieing here hungry, money should be spend on poor people’ and there are people like ‘ why spending money on girls’ education, they won’t do anything for the family’. Please wise lady, don’t join that group.
    We should spend money on stuffs which in turn benefit our people. Getting a huge name for our state will promote our places in a much easier way.
    There are so many problems to solve, if we only concerned about problem solving and not growing ourselves with the available options, our growth will be stopped.
    Think about it.


    1. Thank you for replying, first of all. I’m glad you took the time to reply elaborately to my post. So I’m going to overlook the subtle jibe about age and wisdom that you mentioned.

      Now, coming to your argument. I agree with you. Our region needs visibility, yes. And I do not belong to the bandwagon of ‘why spending money on space research, people are dieing here hungry, money should be spend on poor people’ and ‘ why spending money on girls’ education, they won’t do anything for the family’. But I cannot come to terms with the fact that we launch the visibility campaign without making ourselves and the state ready for it. It is the experience you sell, when you sell a place or for that matter anything else. I have known people who have worked here in Assam and then post-retirement gone back to the states they belong to, awfully missing Assam and coming back here to find some occupation to keep them here. That is an experience we sold on long term. Its either the hospitability of the climate (despite floods) or the hospitality of the people which worked, but it worked for sure.

      For short-termers, I think, it wouldn’t work. For people coming here on a vacation, even though they plan an adventure trip coming up here, they will need the basic amenities — easy and safe commutation, comfortable stay and an experience to reminisce about. If you decide to go to Manas on a huge group trip, you’ll have to consider the fact that there are only handful of lodges/resort that you can stay in. (Plus, you’d have to partly cross the BTAD area while on the way.) Okay forget that. Go to Dibru-Saikhowa. It might have promises of strolling feral horses (one of a kind, apparently left here by the Chinese or such) but there’s only one lodge (my knowledge till now) to put up there. Plus, the roads from Dibrugarh to Dibru-Saikhowa (forget plying from Guwahati) is pretty much in a shambles. They remake the roads once a while, spot-covering potholes with asphalt which is later run down by torrential rains or goods-laden trucks.

      This is just a speck of the tourism troubles we have. I’ll not shy away from the fact that Kamakhya and Kaziranga have plentiful visitors, despite the lack of hygiene during Ambubachi and the steady killing of rhinos respectively. But this is not going to be forever. If the rhinos are done for, I’m sure Priyanka Chopra cannot sell the idea of what a rhino ‘was’, against a real rhino. No rhino, no big deal about Kaziranga!

      I still agree that a brand ambassador can do wonders to a state’s tourism. But I also still stick to the idea that selling fluff without real matter would be like overhyping a Bollywood movie though you know your script is straight out of the loo and you can do nothing better about it. I would rather be glad if they spent 1.5 crore per day for whatever amount of days PC is shooting, in first setting the table, before laying out the platter.

      But thanks once again for setting the ball rolling. Let’s hope that something meaningful comes out of it for the best of tourism in Assam.


      1. Thank you for your reply. I think you are genuinely concerned with development of our state and trust me I myself too want the same, but our thoughts are not similar. I have seen places where tourist does not get comfortable fooding and lodging but still they go for a visit only to fulfil their urges to visit the beauty of the place the way it is. I have seen people appreciating the beautiful assam. If something is going to enhance it, I would just love the idea without any doubt. I do appreciate that you have brought the topic into this platform and let our minds think a little about our land.


      2. Oh. I have just read some of your write ups and really delighted to see your expressions through beautiful writing. If a person like you wouldn’t write, who would. Cheers.


  2. Excellent views…but I am cynical about crop production/local industry etc ..because before that the society should transform itself as an enterprising entity. Something needs to be done on war footing on the god gifted natural beauty of the state. Hiring of Priyanka Chopra may or may not be a good idea for branding of the state.Let marketing experts decide..


    1. Thank you. The mention of the issues other than tourism was specifically to address the expenditure of 1.5 crores a day on PC. I was trying to figure out what could be done if that much money was spent in building the state and hence inevitably touched upon some core issues. But you’re right, something definitely needs to be done on ‘war footing’ (loved the phrase) to make Assam glow in its own natural beauty.

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