What can Prabaxi Oxomiyas Do?

The upcoming " Prabasi Asomiya Sanmilan" to be held in Guwahati in January next year brings the subject to the forefront once more. However, many of us who might have had interest in participating are asking: In what ways can I be of assistance? What can I contribute? There has been talk of expectations from the Assam political establishment, time-to-time, about NRA (Non-resident Assamese) INVESTMENTS in Assam, like the Andhra expatriates, or Gujarat expatriates and so forth. This particular expectation however, has been a definite discouragement. The handful of Assam expatriates, mostly wage-earners in private industry, or in academia, and a few professionals who have done relatively well, are hardly in a position to go become investors and entrepreneurs in Assam. The environment of non-accountability that pervades every sphere of life, not merely in Assam but throughout India, is hardly going to entice anyone to risk the hard earned nest eggs. It is an unrealistic expectation. Had there been huge entrepreneurial successes amongst us, like those from elsewhere in India that made it big, like in the Silicon Valley gold-rush of the ninety’s, or those with a legacy of business involvement that have done well in other arenas and thus had the luxury of taking risks; it could be different.

But in spite of these, we can do a lot of little but extremely valuable things for Assam. In fact I am partial to taking on only little undertakings, those that are achievable without much capital, those that utilize the huge knowledge and experience pool, those that produce visible results and start producing benefits immediately, those that could be sustained without major efforts or undertakings, those that could be embarked upon without continuous ongoing involvement, those that can give a helping hand to locally generated efforts.

There are many different arenas that we can participate in the above manner. A database of possible areas could be generated through an ongoing dialogue between Assam society and the expatriates. A good forum for examining them could be the Assam Net (assam@pikespeak.uccs.edu). We can set up a facilitator in Assam who would receive ideas and suggestions from those who do not have ready access to the Internet and then post it in Assam Net. A website could be the repository of such an information bank.

This article is not the right place to examine the many possible areas of our involvement. But for starters, I take the opportunity to suggest one:

Start a Reading Room, or a dedicated special interest section in a public library, such as the District Library at Guwahati, or at the Cotton College Library. Ex-pats can provide books, periodicals, professional journals and pay for the services of a custodian/librarian who would be responsible for managing the operation. The ex-pats could obtain further assistance from American and British universities, the US Information Services, the British Council and the like. The sponsors could pay for a few computers, Internet hook-ups, public copying facilities and link-up with libraries and reference sources in the US and Britain and so forth.

Such an undertaking can immediately begin to be extremely beneficial for students, researchers, educators and even business and industry, while accessible for all segments of society.

We can provide expertise in refurbishing a section of such a library, air-condition it, and provide other physical amenities including security.

It can become a model for improving other such facilities elsewhere in the region and show a way for its ongoing management and upkeep, breaking the cycle of a pervasive and steady degradation that has been the tragic hallmark of our public institutions.

I hope readers would build upon the concept and will come up with other achievable undertakings. And even if we cannot participate in the upcoming "Prabasi Asomiya Sanmilan" in Guwahati, we still will be able to offer a tiny bit towards making it meaningful.

- Chandan Mahanta, St. Louis, Missouri