Sustainable development is the buzzword nowadays. Everyone works for sustainable development, on pen and paper. Numerous conferences are held every day. Everyone brainstorms on how to make the entrepreneur/farmer work for sustainable development. Very little space is given to the actual doers to make decisions for themselves at this stage. They eventually join the process under some scheme funded by government or other domestic/foreign agency. A very insignificant portion of the ‘targeted’ population has actually understood the goal so far. As most of these people are struggling with their livelihood, they cannot fathom the long-term gain and end up losing interest once the fund flow ends and it’s their turn to ‘sustain’ by themselves.

Northeast being an area where vices of modern agriculture are yet to make devastating impact unlike rest of India, is more suitable for the sustainable slogan. Prime minister Narendra Modi, with all good intention, declared his aim of turning the entire region into an organic hub. Modi’s announcement is reflected in the ever increasing conferences, workshops, trainings and seminars held on the famous subject in the region. Some of them, with area of concern being North-east, are held elsewhere especially in the national capital. For policy makers, these exercises are necessary to achieve the goal. But the top-down approach always has one thing missing – participation of the target population.

Even if participation of the grassroots is sometimes ensured, language barrier becomes the roadblock. Most educators being from outside the region or a different state or a different tribe/community, infusing the idea of sustainable growth becomes all the more difficult, if not impossible. As most of these trainers move from state to state and not confined to one place for years for a particular work, they do not bother learning the local languages. The reason that no bottom-up approach is seen so far is that there is hardly any research being carried out in the targeted area before launching a project. If this has to go on for long, the educated will end up being more educated about the lives of those uneducated, who would remain at the bottom for ever.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on October 22, 2016)

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