By Debkumar Bhadra

Never before in the history of Independent India has anyone given such a resounding and mature message of Unity with Inclusion unlike Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi did when he said : The only code of conduct of the Government should be “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” [Collective efforts inclusive growth]. The paradigm reverberated in the Honble LG’s address delivered on June 18, 2014 during laying the foundation for a Multipurpose Indoor Stadium at Knappuram village in Wimberly Gunj. Reiterating his commitment of commencing a new college from the academic session (2014-15), the LG said demand to establish Andaman College (ANCOL) in Bambooflat/Wimberly Gunj area is genuine as it will benefit many rural students. He did keep his commitment. Two schools namely : Govt Secondary Senior School (GSSS) Haddo Hindi Medium and GSS Haddo English Medium has been elbowed out/merged with a third school and ANCOL installed in its place on July 26, 2014 by borrowing a school building, a few teachers and a Principal from various schools and institutions and set the ball rolling for ANCOL. But whet ever happened next is a clear departure from the paradigm for governance.

A press release carried in the state media said the permanent campus of ANCOL will come up at Chakkargaon. Another release said for identifying a suitable site for the permanent campus of the Andaman College, wide consultation with public representatives, Officers of concerned department, educationists and other stake holder was done.

Finding the decision in contrast, the lone Member of Parliament Shri Bishnu Pada Ray publicly objected and distanced himself from the decision. Similar views of dissent have been put forth by Chairperson Zilla Parishad (SA), Miss V K Mariam Bibi and the State President BJP Shri Vishal Jolly. Though rarely seen, elected representatives and their political affiliates, cutting across party lines unequivocally urged the Administration to review its decision and consider Ferrar Gunj tahsil as the site for permanent campus for the proposed ANCOL.

Sidelining the requests from public and their elected representatives, a decision is known to have been taken to set-up ANCOL near Port Blair which already has three degree level colleges (JNRM, TGCE & DBRAIT). We have been given to understand that at a brainstorming session, majority voiced in favour of Chakkargaon for ANCOL. How far the effort was transparent or for that matter, the outcome trust worthy, could be judged from the fact that the all important session has been conducted on the day cyclone Hudhud threw life out of gear for the islands. The day was declared a holiday for educational institutions since public transport including ferry services was suspended/cancelled due to safety concerns. Consequently those students hailing from rural areas who could have opined Bambooflat, Ferrar Gunj, Tusonabad or some rural area got selectively excluded from the whole exercise.

The bid to rope in students in decision making is welcome, but students are students. If someone from Mayabunder is given a choice, he would opine that the college be situated in the city, may be near Marina Park so that they could spend their spare time chirping with birds under the shade of Casuarina. A patient waiting in que for his turn at a hospital in Rangat, if given a choice will opt to be treated at GB Pant Port Blair. An officer waiting for allotment of residential accommodation would opt Goal Ghar over Chakkargaon. Someone in the social media said, if given an option he would like to see it (ANCOL) at Ghanta Ghar. Jokes apart, it is for sure after ANCOL, the next few generations will not see another college coming up. Therefore such important decision cannot and should not be left to what a particular group says or thinks.

If the authorities really feel student’s interest is paramount and uphold it, they need to look beyond the city limits. Let a session be conducted somewhere in the Ferrar Gunj tahsil involving students from Class XI-XII, who would seek admission to ANCOL in the coming years, their views should be taken. I am sure the authorities will get an answer different from what they got from the chosen ones at Haddo.

The decision to set up another college is going to have its impact on the entire Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Therefore it ought to be taken at an appropriate level with appropriate representation. Rural areas having land resources and target population also need to be included in development initiatives so that benefits which the city counterpart hitherto enjoy percolate to rural population as well. Least the authorities could do in this regard is to revert to the commitment made by Honble LG during laying the foundation for a Multipurpose Indoor Stadium at Knappuram village in Wimberly Gunj. Let the paradigm set by Govt of India be the guiding force. Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.