Service with a smile

Print edition : June 20, 2008

A woman seeking information at the Deputy Commissioner's office in Diphu. Karbi Anglong is the first district in north-eastern India to get ISO 9001:2000 certification.-

Interview with M. Angamuthu, Deputy Commissioner, Karbi Anglong.

When he took over as the Deputy Commissioner of Central Assams Karbi Anglong district in September 2006, M. Angamuthu could think of nothing else but law and order. All that he read about the place were disturbing pieces of information ethnic clashes, insurgent violence, and so on. However, the doctorate holder in Agriculture soon discovered that it was also one of the most resourceful districts in the country. Within a year, Karbi Anglong started hitting the headlines once again this time for being one of the most happening districts in the country.

An Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer from the 2002 batch of Assam-Meghalaya cadre, Angamuthu hails from Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu. What Karbi Anglong needs is innovative and down-to-earth approach to utilise the resources for the benefit of this Autonomous Hills district, he said in an interview to Frontline. Excerpts:

Karbi Anglong has 2,633 villages but only six towns. Overall development indices of the district have remained poor because of the backwardness of the villages. What measures have the district administration initiated to reverse this?

The district administration will act as a bridge between various government initiatives and people like the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana [RSVY], an enlistment initiative meant for a typical backward region in which critical gaps in real needs are filled. The district administration is planning for the convergence of various government schemes and resources, and the divergence of manifold activities under a new initiative called Integrated Village Development Plan. This is a target-oriented intervention where all the people, government departments, banks and non-governmental organisations are brought together for the uplift of the socio-economic condition, well-being and standard of living of the people through livelihood support and entrepreneurial development. To begin with, we have selected three villages Rongkhongthir, Ram Inghee and Kheronigaon for the implementation of the plan.

Why these villages? How do you intend to implement the plan?

These villages were selected purposefully because in the last Karbi-Dimasa clash, people here really suffered, especially children, women and elderly people. As part of the initiative, first a gaon [gram] sabha was held with almost all the departments and banks participating. It has been decided to include at least one member of a family in this cluster of villages in an SHG [self-help group] and have one village adopted by banks such as State Bank of India, NABARD [National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development] or UBI [Union Bank of India]. Each family should have a bank account.

We are planning for 100 per cent education; electrification with new and green energy resources such as biogas, gasifiers; cooperative dairy units with joint liability groups; contract farming of medicinal plants; and cultivation of jatropha with the support of State Bank of India and a buyback arrangement for the same. We plan to set up bamboo, cane and broom clusters in the villages. NGOs such as Jirsong Asong are involved in this. Ultimately, the goal of the district administration is to establish a chain link between government departments, the public, banks and NGOs for mutual benefit and sustenance.

Karbi Anglong is known for horticultural resources such as cane and bamboo. How does the administration plan to utilise these for the uplift of the people?

Karbi Anglong is called The Green Lung of Assam and is synonymous with its forest and other natural wealth. Almost 40 per cent of the total area is under forest cover and it is famous for various forms of cane and bamboo products. People of this district are known for their agility and craftsmanship. But lack of resources and technical know-how is the major problem. People really dont know what to produce, how to produce and how to sell it.

To reduce these bottlenecks and foster craftsmanship and entrepreneurial skills, the district administration has undertaken a pilot project, under the RSVY, to harness the wealth and resources of this district, especially cane and bamboo.

M. Angamuthu, Deputy Commissioner, Karbi Anglong.-

A cane and bamboo craft centre will aim at giving skill upgradation and training to artisans; marketing their produce; developing new design skills with modern machines; generating employment and livelihood support; promoting bamboo and cane as kalpavriksha; and promoting the manifold use of bamboo as food, construction material, tiny and cottage industrial material, wood substitute, medicine and packaging material, and so on. An ethnic craft centre at Kaziranga under the RSVY will act as a ready market for cane and furniture. Necessary support will be taken from the Cane and Bamboo Technology Centre in Guwahati and the Forest Research and Craftsman Training Institute in Kerala.

There would be ginger-processing and value-addition plants, fruit-processing units (for oranges and pineapple), turmeric value-addition units, and cotton-processing units.

The district has become the first government organisation in the north-eastern region to get ISO 9001:2000 certificate. How is it going to help in removing backwardness?

The district administration wants to achieve excellence in service delivery, and wishes to reach out to the public with the concept of service with smile. We have introduced the concept of Government at your doorsteps with prompt service delivery. In this office, a mixture of Japanese Kaizen and total quality management principles is in practice.

Do you have any special initiative for expansion of educational facilities in the district?

Though the literacy rate of this hill district is 58.83 per cent, the people are yet to enjoy the full benefit of development schemes because of lack of awareness. Education is an important social indicator by which the development status or standard of a society is gauged. But Karbi Anglong is lagging behind in educational standards in comparison to other plains districts of Assam. It is the largest district in Assam but the population density is very thin only 78 a sq km. A student has to walk a long distance to reach school and education has become a difficult proposition in remote areas. This results in high dropout rate among students, especially girls.

The district administration has taken initiatives under the RSVY for the construction of hostels for tribal students in schools located in interior areas and also more school buildings and classrooms in remote areas. Each hostel would accommodate 100 students and have facilities such as reading room, dining hall, kitchen, water supply and electricity. The school management committees concerned will manage them.

Does the administration have plans to upgrade rural entrepreneurial and other skills in rural areas?

Yes. Karbi Anglong is richly endowed with various forms of natural, mineral and agri-horti resources and tourism potential. Through GIN-FED we would be able to market our ginger in the international market. Now, with the revival of fruit-processing plants and the introduction of tissue culture technology in banana farming, we will be getting premium quality products. Organic certification and geographical indication [GI] tag for Karbi ginger are also in the pipeline.

In the Kaziranga area of Karbi Anglong, we want to showcase the district as an ethnographers museum with an ethnic craft village and tap its tourism potential. About eight fringe villages will benefit and the entire project will be managed by the local people.