Calcutta, Dec. 9: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s introduction of himself here at a session of the Pan-IIT Global Conference 2012, partnered by The Telegraph, was marked with humility and purpose.
“I may not be the perfect person to speak on education as I am not that educated. I am a person of politics,” Gogoi, an LLB from Gauhati University, said.
A line that set the tone for his larger focus on the importance of education to deal with grassroots issues and the wisdom we often receive from “people we call uneducated”.
“Education should enable us to cope with problems of the world. We have managed to cope with many pressing issues but many more remain and several more have come up. Proper education will help us identify the cause of these problems and lead us to solutions,” he said.
The chief minister pointed out that Assam is deeply affected by the environmental crisis.
“One grave issue of our times is the damage to the environment. In Assam, we are faced with severe crisis of land erosion and floods. Innovations in the field of science and technology should enable us to find solutions for these,” he said.
He added that he welcomes IITs and other institutes of excellence to come up with the required innovations.
He went on to add that in sorting issues that affect a country as diverse as India or even a state as diverse as Assam, the voices of the underprivileged sections hold great importance.
“We can get a lot of education from people we do not consider educated,” he said.
He said education should ensure that we come up with better economic models and approach, that would reduce inequality and pointed out even countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh score above India in the UNDP social indices.
Gogoi added that these countries, however, do not have nearly as many centres of academic excellence as India.
He pointed out that it is this inequality that is causing unrest across the country.
“Insurgency has a cause — we often ignore the concerns of the weaker sections of society,” he said.
He said we should strive to have a society with less inequality, and proper education would ensure that.
Tata International chairman B. Muthuraman, management consultant Partha S. Ghosh and management scholar Danielle Bilieau Aares were the other speakers at the session.
On the sidelines of the conference, Gogoi said education has a great role to play in addressing the root cause of the ongoing ethnic tension.
“The tension has been primarily caused by economic deprivation. Education, which reaches the grassroots, will ensure that people have more skills to be a part of the economic progress. If people have proper employment and other basic facilities the situation would definitely ease out,” he said.
When pointed out that recently Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had said the prolonged violence in Assam is creating pressure on Bengal, Gogoi said, “I doubt if there are any refugees in Bengal. If so then please provide us a number and we shall act accordingly.”
He also asked all refugees of the conflict to return home.