On March 12 this year, Meghalaya saw the beginning of New Dawn. A group of young and prolific citizens came together to start a movement against years of corrupt governance and mismanagement of the state. The three-month-old organisation is already making its presence felt by taking up various issues afflicting the state. “Though we formally started this year, the energies and ideas have been brewing for a while now among the various members of the organisation. We came together to voice a common concern… We feel very strongly about inequality and justice,” says New Dawn spokesperson Avner Pariat.
Most of the members of New Dawn are below the age of 30 and are determined to bring reforms through inclusive economic policies in the state. Wealth and prestige are not what they seek. They believe in creation and struggling for a cause. In an email interview with Sunday Monitor, the members say, after observing the works of various groups in the state, that “unless one engages in electoral politics, very little will change”.
“We are a bit brash. We have seen the success of young people elsewhere in the world and we believe we can do something similar here. We believe in ourselves. You can say we are a movement in the long run but we also have electoral goals in the short run,” they say. Excerpts:
What are the issues on your priority list?
We are anti-corruption, pro-opportunity. These two ideas cannot live side-by-side. We have seen how the former obstructs the growth of the other. There are so many issues but broadly we will be concentrating on Health, Education (we have already submitted our suggestions to the government regarding the PGI report 2019-20), Agriculture and its Allied departments, Social Welfare and of course the remaking of the Finance and Planning departments of the state.
What is the plan of action?
The immediate plan of action is to recruit more progressive-minded people who can help us delve deeper into state policy-making, kick-starting positive socio-economic reforms and building a better platform for Meghalaya to defeat the many issues which have haunted us for decades.
We want to confront the corrupt, the regressive, the bigoted and their enablers in the government. Many parties have had years of ineffectual service and are now moribund, rotting from within. It is time that they reinvent or be pushed aside by the energy of the young.
New Dawn had earlier mentioned about taking up the causes of the poor. How are you going about it?
Many of our members are frontliners who have risked a lot to be out there in these hard times. Like so many people, New Dawn have been pitching in whatever way we can to help those less fortunate than ourselves. This year, Meghalaya (India in general) has suffered much more loss and mourning than the last. Where is the assistance for the poor this year? Last year’s financial assistance from the government was inadequate but this year has been a total and complete failure. It is as if this Modi puppet state government is purposely trying to get the citizens to take up its duties and has given up on its own role as a servant of people. Our Deputy CM’s remarks regarding jhur and ja (vegetables and rice) exemplifies this callous indifference. We can only really help the poor by replacing such cruel politicians with capable ones who are pro-people.
About the economic policies of the state, New Dawn had said it has a road map. Can you please share more details on how you are envisioning economic change here?
We can see various avenues for Meghalaya to grow in. We want to be in a position to create opportunities for our people. We have certain key sectors which we want to fight for. Agri and agro businesses, creative industries, MSME empowerment, entrepreneurship. We want to get our people work, and to reduce the high rate of unemployment. We have plans for financial restructuring of our economy into one that works for everyone. An economy which does not leave the majority poor and destitute. This unjust, unfair economic order was started by the Congress but kept intact by the NPP. We have the people within New Dawn who can make this change a reality.
Can economic change come without socio-political evolution? If no, then how are you perceiving your future action? Is New Dawn prepared to be overwhelmed by the changes?
You may like or dislike Karl Marx. We can debate this but the man understood something very clearly. That Economic Forces underpin everything else. This is why when you’re poor you can’t always be in a position to enjoy the “finer things in life”. It is a harsh reality and one which we must change. We must give our people — the people of Meghalaya — that chance to better themselves. That will never happen if they run from 8 am to 10 pm everyday for a measly Rs 300. Unless we make the economy work for everyone, all political interventions will be doomed. There will be no evolution.
Will New Dawn join electoral politics?
Yes. We have stated that from the get-go. That we would use politics to open the door of the economy. Politics is a tool for us.
Do you think entering the political arena would dilute anyone’s good intention?
If the good stay silent and do nothing, evil triumphs. It is an old saying but it is what we believe firmly in as a collective. We have spent our young lives complaining about bad politicians and corrupt governments but we have done nothing substantial to change that. We were always in a state of self-doubt. This attitude has changed in us now and we know now that politics itself is not inherently evil. It is people who make it good or bad.
To propagate modern vision with strong traditional roots is a tough task and which often fails. Can New Dawn take forward the Khasi tradition and culture on the modern track?
Well, the opponents to our methods will be many. We know this. But we are confident we can nudge people in this direction. Not just Khasis, but Jaintias, Garos, minorities and all who dream of a better Meghalaya and who are willing to work towards making that a reality. We welcome them. Modernity is a wave and it cannot be halted. At the same time, we are aware of our need to listen and adapt strategies as required by the time and place and the people who we come in contact with.
You have been spreading awareness on vaccination. How is the response? What role are you playing during the pandemic?
Given the resistances people have had against social distancing and masking, we had multiple brainstorming sessions and came to the consensus that what the government is trying to do on those two fronts would be an uphill task. However, we saw that vaccination was the most promising of all its initiatives as the data clearly shows us that the vaccinated are far less likely to get seriously ill. We thought this was currently the only way to halt this Pandemic and that is why we pushed for it and helped the government in this regard. We are for anything that is good for the people.
The response has been very interesting. Often, we raked in better viewership and numbers than official government sources. This is because many in New Dawn are consummate professionals and we think deeply about things before implementing them.
There were many organisations pledging to fight but many of them vanished. Will yours be just the same?
I hope not. It is important to study why these others failed. So that we may not repeat their mistakes. I think it is important to dream of a life beyond a personage or personality. New Dawn is young but will need to learn this.
There are many groups in the state. What difference New Dawn would make?
Most of these groups don’t focus on policy, livelihood or sustainability in a constructive manner. They have been sticking to the same agenda for the past 10 years and have not been able to break away from age-old prejudices. We want to present the youth with an alternative model.