Tripura double delight: insurgency-free literacy topper (2016 In Retrospect)
Sujit Chakraborty (IANS)
It was a year of double delight for Tripura. The border state emerged as an island of peace in the otherwise violence-prone northeastern India with no incident of militancy reported in 2016 -- and also topped India's literacy map with a nearly 97 per cent rate, beating Kerala at 94 per cent.
On the political front, the Left-ruled state was not as quiet with the opposition Congress almost facing a vertical split after six out of its 10 MLAs, along with other party leaders, joined the Trinamool Congress.
Tripura has been ravaged by decades of terrorism since the mid-1960s. But sustained counter-terrorism measures coupled with developmental initiatives slowly but steadily won the government its race against terror, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar told IANS, counting how the state progressed to being peaceful.
"Due to our holistic approach and multi-pronged strategies, we have tamed the decades of terrorism in Tripura," said Sarkar, who has been Chief Minister since 1998.
"Though we have withdrawn the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the state, we are not complacent. We remain vigilant" against terror that may still raise its head, he said.
Former state police chief Saleem Ali said the battle against militants, besides the government's "policy to carry out developmental works across the state", was also won by building a sense of security among communities in the "demographic faultlines of the state" and restoring tribal faith in the official machinery.
He said the use of Information Technology in counter-insurgency operations, taking assistance of surrendered militants, tightened the gaps on the border along the Chittagong hill tracts of Bangladesh.
This, Ali said, put "pressure on the operational capability of insurgents, forcing them to surrender".
"And Tripura is today an island of peace."
Realising that education was a key not only to promote and sustain peace but also to combat poverty, ensure social justice and democracy, the Sarkar government launched a three-phased state-wide literacy campaign in 2011, when the literacy rate was at 87.75 per cent.
This year, the Chief Minister declared that the rate now stood at 96.82 per cent -- a feat that attracted visits of many officials from other states to study the efforts that brought the success.
The outgoing year also marked a momentous moment in terms of northeast India's connectivity with the national capital when, on July 31, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu flagged off the Agartala-Delhi passenger train services on the newly laid broad gauge track. This peacefully culminated a 67-year-old popular agitation for railway services to Tripura.
The year will also be remembered for some political upheavals in the state. Protesting against the Congress' electoral alliance with the Left parties in West Bengal, six of the 10 party MLAs, scores of party leaders and thousands of workers quit the grand old party and joined the Trinamool.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which heads the central government, remarkably improved its electoral position in the state ruled by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front for the last 18 years.
In by-elections to two Tripura assembly seats -- Khowai and Barjala -- the Trinamool and the BJP secured second and third positions, respectively, pushing the Congress to the fourth spot.
Tripura also retained its top position for the seventh consecutive year in providing jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act with a staggering 94.46 person days per household against the national average of 48.51 days.