By SHWETA RAJ KANWAR | April 06, 2018
With doctor being his first profession, Dr. Arun T from Mysore Karnataka realized that just serving patients was not his end objective and that he wished to further his services for the betterment of common people. That was when he decided to take a leap and crack the civil services examination. His posting in Mizoram on December 2, 2015 initiated his journey in Northeast India and soon, people of the district where he was posted in were all praises for their DC.
His tenure in Mizoram came into the limelight after his unexpected transfer order from the Mizoram Chief Minister citing the reason that people of Mizoram preferred a Mizo DC. However, people's rant on social media handles proved otherwise. This was when I got in touch with the DC who was then awaiting the next place of his transfer. While speaking to him and many other people about the controversy following his transfer order, I realized that the DC of Lawngtlai had implemented many noteworthy policies and programmes during his short tenure in the state of Mizoram and this is how TNT- The Northeast Today decided to interview him.
"I did my MBBS and went on to specialize in the field of dermatology. I realized that being into civil services, I could serve the people on a much wider level which is why I decided to be where I am today", Dr. Arun says.
Originally from Mysore, Karnataka, Dr. Arun .T was posted in the state of Mizoram on December 2, 2015. His first posting was at Kongpui in Kolasib district following which he was transferred to Vairengte in Kolasib district itself as Sub Divisional Officer, Civil. Thereafter, he was appointed as the DC of Kolasib following which he was given the position of DC of Lawngtlai District.
When asked about his administrative achievements, he says, "Whatever I have done is a very normal thing that any IAS officer would do so there is nothing very great in what I have done".
It is important to mention that he was the pioneer of telemedicine in Kolasib district of Mizoram. The first ever telemedicine centre in Mizoram began with the aim of sharing health education, medical education as well as patient care consultations and was established through an MoU signed between Jipmer (Puducherry) and District Hospital, Lawngtlai. Dr. Arun advocated this move by citing that various diseases such as AIDS, cancer and drug abuse were prevalent in this remote region of the country and Jipmer's expertise would go a long way in alleviating the problem.
Under his tenure, Mizoram also held its first ever Rhododendron festival in line with the Hornbill festival of Nagaland between March 8-9, 2018. It showcased the districts' tourism potential, wildlife potential, local products besides others. The event was held with the support of many NGOs as well as people who together helped to make it a successful and a fulfilling experience. Rhododendron is a flower which is present only in the Lawngtlai district of Mizoram and are usually found only in high altitudes.
"To create awareness in conserving this species as well as to promote eco tourism, the festival was initiated. It will also help to promote the local economy as tourism generates a good amount of revenue. Also, given the fact that the Mizoram government is also focusing on 'Magnetic Mizoram' initiative, events such as the above mentioned festival will definitely go a long way in promoting the economy of the state. We are vying for it to be made an annual event the proposal for which has also been sent to the NEC (North Eastern Council). They seemed pretty impressed and we also received funds from them in a very short period. The Governor had agreed to be the chief guest of the event which was a pretty big thing for us", he added.
"When I was the chairperson of CADC (Chakma Autonomous District Council), I had come to know that there were many teachers who had begun to work as receptionists or clerks in many departments. I issued an order to send them back to school due to which many schools got their first teachers under the rationalization of teachers programme. The teachers who were appointed after 2005 were sent back to schools because they were all employed in the offices", Dr. Arun said while adding that this was quite a satisfying experience for him. The press statement with respect to this can be found below:
"Even among the teaching professionals, there is a tendency that everyone wants to be working or posted in urban areas and not in rural or far flung areas. Hence, an order was issued in this regard to rotate the teachers from rural-urban and vice versa. This was a big thing for many localities because due to this policy, many schools got their first teachers. This took place in CADC area and was implemented in the later part of 2017.
Talking about the public grievance redressal mechanism, the DC said that one such initiative was started at Kolasib district which was called 'Mipui Aw'- Voice of the People also known as the grievance redressal day. The first day of every month would bring about a culmination of all the department heads from 10 am on wards to cater to the grievances of people from the district while trying to find solutions to the problems. This initiative garnered a lot of appreciation from people.
Also, it may be mentioned that almost about 59 villages in Mizoram does not have electricity coverage. Hence to solve the problem of energy deficiency, the proposal for roof top solar panel in Kolasib district was also sent during his tenure as a sub divisional magistrate. The sanction has arrived already and which is yet to be implemented. This would bring about 500 KW of energy in the region.
When asked why social media was not extensively used for policy implementation purposes, the DC says, "As much as we would like to incorporate the digital mode of policy administration, the major issue here is network connectivity" ahile adding, "Lawngtlai is one of the remotest and backward districts of Mizoram and shares border with two different countries: Burma and Bangladesh, thus making it a sensitive region. There are numerous issues that plague this region like poverty; access to health care connectivity is one major area where we need to focus and accessibility is also a major issue. Education is another important area to focus on. These are the priority areas where work is needed".
Connectivity is one major sector where focus is being emphasized on many schemes. The literacy rate in Lawngtlai is around 66 per cent which is one of the lowest in Mizoram. The Infant Mortality Rate is also one of the highest in Mizoram with 29 per cent, vaccine coverage stands at a minimum percentage of 50-60 per cent, hence the need to focus more on social sectors, especially on health, education and skill development.
Speaking about the challenges faced while implementation of policies, he says, "Infrastructure is the biggest bottleneck faced by the people here. 30 villages in Mizoram are totally inaccessible, around 59 villages have no electricity at all. 35-36 villages have almost been electrified and if another 24 villages would get electricity, it would be a very big achievement. In the last 4-5 months, almost 7000 toilets have been built to achieve the aim of Open Defecation Free (ODF) status in Lawngtlai. It takes a travelling time of almost a day to reach the corner of the district, say to cover 120 km due to bad infrastructure. Due to this, implementation of various policies becomes difficult".
Network is another major issue. there is no network in mobiles in remote areas hence monitoring of work becomes extremely difficult. Geo tagging is impossible hence the priority totally changes. Immunization coverage also suffers as people cannot visit hospitals frequently.
"Hence festivals like the Rhododendron Festival helps people to promote their local produce while also stressing on the need to improve basic infrastructural facilities thereby improving the economy gradually through inflow of money", Dr Arun states.
Speaking about how well he could speak the Mizo language, he laughs and says, "I am not very fluent with the language but I can use it to communicate on a day-to-day basis. I have also given a few speeches in Mizo language but I make a lot of mistakes and I am still learning".
Talking about hobbies, he says that after coming to Mizoram, he has begun to play badminton and especially after moving to Lawngtlai, his motivation to play the sport has increased because there are many good badminton players here, as he says.
When asked about his take on the sudden transfer order and the support shown by the people of Mizoram towards him, he smiles and says, "When I was transferred from Lawngtlai, people had become very emotional and began protesting against my transfer order. So much of love and emotion is overwhelming. We come all the way from Karnataka, we work here and getting so much of love and support in return is the best reward. Nothing more is required other than their affection and love".
"The transfer order was pretty surprising for me, it was unexpected. I had been in Lawngtlai for only 6 months. But anyways, transfer is part and parcel of the bureaucratic work that we do. I was transferred to Lawngtlai district from Kolasib on September 9, 2017 and it is surprising for me that people have actually shown so much of affection and love towards me. My stay in this part of the region has been full of enjoyment. Even the weather of Mizoram resembles that of Bangalore", he adds.
People have a notion that Northeast India is a hostile region but during his stay here, Dr. Arun says that he realized Mizoram is one of the most peaceful states and people should leave their apprehensions behind and visit the region more often.
Well, Dr. Arun T, IAS has another 5 months of service left in the state of Mizoram and the people of the state surely seem like they would remember him as one of their own!
Interviewed by Shweta Raj Kanwar for TNT- the Northeast Today. The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com