Recently at the North East Students Fest (NESFEST) hosted by the University of Delhi, I had an opportunity to both listen and interact with the Hon’ble Minister of State for Rural Development Ms. Agatha Sangma. The youngest Minister in Dr. Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet, Ms. Sangma is pretty much the face of NE youth now trying to make mark in India’s development story.
Born and brought up in Delhi but with full respect for her roots in the North East region, Ms. Sangma considers both the NE and Delhi as her home. What is also a fact of interest to me, is that Ms. Sangma holds a Masters in Environment Management and surely has a good understanding of the environmental challenges faced by the NE region.
It was in 2009 when Ms. Sangma took the oath as a Minister. Wearing a traditional stole and sarong in beige and white, the then 28 year old Ms. Sangma folded her hands into a gentle namaste for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi sitting in the front row, before taking her place beside President Prathibha Patil (Click here to watch the video).
Speaking about the oath taking ceremony at the NESFEST, she proudly shared how when everybody expected her to take the oath in English, she surprised everyone by doing so in Hindi as she believes she is equally a part of India as anybody else.
During the NESFEST, Ms. Sangma addressed the audience and other guests with a smile and began her speech by speaking about the issue of Indian citizens having multiple identities yet the nation standing as one largely due to the ‘unity in diversity’ that is inherent to the working of this nation.
However she admitted that regionalism has been an inseparable part of India and one outfall that it has had is the unfortunate violence incidents against NE students in Delhi. In response to the increasing number of such incidences in the capital, Ms. Sangma informed how she and few other MLAs and NE students organised a meeting with the Prime Minister.
Ms. Sangma also realizes the lack of information and awareness among the people from different parts of India about the the Northeastern region. She considers the integration of culture as a very important parameter for national integrity and to facilitate this, she shared about her meeting with the Education Ministry Mr. Kapil Sibal.
She has already initiated the process of ensuring that the syllabus of Indian history includes the contribution of the NE people as well. She feels that through such an integration process, the people of NE will feel more connected to the mainland while at the same time, rest of India will be able to learn about the role played by the people of the NE region during independence and later on for the betterment of the country.
During the Fest, I approached Ms. Sangma and introduced her to the working and objectives of NE Greens, my experience of working with Delhi Greens and how I now felt a strong need to return to my hometown of Duliajan and initiate a lot of green work in order to promote sustainable development in the region. Her first reaction to this was a comment on the region itself.
Ms. Sangma believes that the existing lifestyle of the people of the Northeast region is very sustainable. However, the modern wave is changing a lot of that and there is a strong need to protect the cultural diversity and sustainable practices in the region. This coming from a politician appointed as a Rural Development Minister is indeed noteworthy, and very encouraging. Ms. Agatha Sangma is said to be the face of NE India in Indian politics and meeting her indeed convinced me of the same.