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India is a land of natural abundance. So is half of China, which is still bigger than India. No wonder life flourishes in these lands and they comprise about 36% of world’s population. The North-east of India is world’s one of the best places for human beings to survive. Things to fulfill basic needs of people are available here. No wonder the plains of Brahmaputra valley was invaded by foreign forces time and again. There have been migrations to this land for thousands of years. But this natural abundance had a darker side. The indigenous population lacked industrial and agricultural skills, one of the basic reasons of the current influx imbroglio. The region became infamous as the ‘Land of Lahe Lahe (slowly)’.

Skill development is one of the key factors of economic progress. Despite its enormous base of knowledge cultivated through millennia and being the world’s longest surviving civilisation, India was in the middle age when British landed in the subcontinent. India’s lack of industrial skills gave British the edge to rule over the mighty land comprising dozens of kingdoms. Today, Indians are appreciated worldwide due to their skills. What the country badly need are good policy makers, who can take bold and futuristic decisions. China overtook India by decades, thanks to the optimum use of both skills and policy. The one-year-old Prime Minister Narendra Modi has put huge emphasis on skill development as well as policy changes to speed up economic progress.

Some initiatives are also being taken for skill development through various initiatives in north-eastern region where most of the skilled work force come from outside. Simple works like that of cobbler and hairdresser are not done by the indigenous population. Initially, there was a feeling of demeanour toward such jobs, but later on it was taken for granted. So is the case with jobs requiring high technical skills. Although the number of skills development workshops and career counseling programmes might create a hope for fast positive change in this sector, the ground reality is not so encouraging. The other day nearly 20 companies could not attend a skill fest and job fair at Nongpoh in Ri-Bhoi district of Meghalaya, thanks to the bandh called by a Khasi militant outfit. Although these outfits proclaim to have taken up arms for their ‘own people’, it will take them years if not decades to understand the adverse impact their bandh calls had on the economic progress of ‘their’ people. On one hand, they blame ‘outsiders’ for snatching the jobs of locals, and on the other they deprive their own people of jobs. There has to be greater willingness of indigenous population to take part in economic progress by truly contributing to the process and shed the ‘Lahe Lahe’ tag.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on May 30, 2015)