Call to Action — The dire straits of the border town in the Eastern Himalayas
With the ongoing border tensions & economically difficult situation due to the COVID 19 pandemic, towns, and villages in the East Himalayan borders are in dire straits. In this article, I write about the story of one such town in the border with Bhutan named Jaigaon. This article is also a call to action to help people in the border areas in the North-Eastern region of India to transform and become self-sustained.
Current situation of Jaigaon
Jaigaon is a small town located in the north-eastern part of India, in Alipurduar District. Unfortunately, this place lacks infrastructure and resources that would enable sustainable development in difficult times, such as this one. The town shares its borders with the Kingdom of Bhutan and is a few killometers from Nepal and Bangladesh borders. It is a strategically important town highlighted by the fact that there is also an Air Force Station and an Army camp based closeby.
However, as mentioned, the town lacks infrastructure. There are no super-specialty hospitals, just two government schools, and one university located on the outskirts. Most people living here are involved in the tourism and trade industry with the neighboring countries.
For the past four months, tourism and trade business has wholly shut because of the closing of borders with Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and China. In general, the Indian hospitality business is projected to a revenue loss of Rs 1.25 trillion this year as a fall out of the shutdown on the tourism industry, border closure, and suspension in flight operations after the onset and spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The Indian tourism industry is said to have a revenue loss of Rs 69,400 crore this April-June alone. Also, because of the closing of borders, the businesses facilitated by international trade have sufficiently suffered.
Developments on India’s relations with its neighbors during coronavirus pandemic
Last year, Pakistan had recruited one thousand students for the internship to spread propaganda against India on social media. Also, in the Pakistan Army “Green Book” released in February 2020, it is highlighted that Pakistan is collaborating with China to facilitate Chinese technology and use propaganda against India.
The “Green Book 2020” has also revealed plans to intensify the information warfare, having all the three dimensions of the Chinese “three warfare” that includes psychological warfare, media warfare and legal warfare against India. The objectives involve supporting anti — Modi and anti — RSS sections in India, building resistance in J&K projecting the terrorist activities as a local movement, and linking up of the Kashmiri movement with other insurgencies. The effort to get information from the local persons, exploiting anti-India elements, and using information warfare techniques to manipulate the population in India was emphasized. The recently news about tensions between Bhutan and India was also a part of their propaganda.
It is also a concern that Nepal is starting to build close cooperation with China. Around 90% of Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) in Nepal is from China. It is a growing concern for India’s national security that its friendly neighbors are building close proximity with China and Pakistan.
The concern needs to be dealt with holistically
North Bengal’s economy thrives on trade and tourism. With these businesses shut and with current border tensions, there is a fertile ground being created for another “Naxalbari Uprising,” this time funded by Pakistan and China.
To remind the readers that after the 1962 Sino China War, in 1967, there was the Naxalbari Uprising. The timing of the uprising is not a coincidence. Many analysts have claimed that China had funded the uprising directed against the Government of India and the Indian Army.
The border region of North East India is already dealing with drug trafficking, human trafficking, and various severe crime. The current situation has added to the concern. It is time we all come together to solve this challenge.
Let’s Solve It
The scope of this article was not just to inform you but also to come up with a concrete solution to this. I know a few people in this region who struggle to make a living in these circumstances and assume that there will be many others.