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Interview: Manoj Kumar Das

This week we speak to the Assam Association Delhi Secretary and NEDFi representative in Delhi, Manoj Das. A multi faced personality he speaks about life outside Assam, NEDFi and the Assam Association Delhi which is turning dreams into realities for the Assamese population of Delhi.


What was your background and how did you venture into your current line.

I did schooling from Bordoloni in Dhemaji district of Assam and PU(Sc) from cotton College in ‘79. Pursued Production Engineering from Morvi, Gujarat in 1983 and subsequently MBA from University Business School, Chandigarh, Panjab University. Thereafter I joined Hero Honda Motors Ltd. as Plant Engineer in 1985. I was selected by the Govt. of Assam for a two crore venture under ‘Operation Udyog’ scheme in 1986. I resigned and worked for three years to set up a Steel Forgings unit in Rani Industrial Area, near Guwahati. That turned out to be a misadventure. I got an experience in dealing with failure at quite a young age.

I had to come back again to the job market and quickly changed 3-4 jobs after that. These jobs were in industrial consultancy and Govt. sector. One as Management Officer in Assam Govt. gave me insight into Govt. style of functioning and another as Consultant to DST on a Science Tech Park at Shimla. In 1990 I got married and we had our first child in 1991. As my wife, a doctor, did not get enough career opportunity in Shimla, we came to Delhi and have been staying here since.

I used to work for a Industrial Consultancy firm and in between helped a businessman from Nagaland to set up a plant in Dharuhera as his Project Director. I also worked as Secretary to an MP from Assam for a brief period of one year, apart from being Project Director to Majuli Island Protection and Development Council. We also started one company in 1997 to design web sites with the blessings of Dr. Jayanta Madhab.

There was a long unstable patch in my career. It gave me good lessons in human behaviour though. I am the quintessential entrepreneur, who could not make it..:)

How long have you been outside Assam?

It’s been almost 25 years now. I stayed in Morvi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Gurgaon, Shimla and now in Delhi.

How did the move to NEDFI happen?

I helped Dr. Jayanta Madhab, then Chairman of NEDFI to organise a seminar of MPs in 1997. He found my management and networking abilities quite outstanding and hired me into the NEDFi’s fold.

Any steps taken by NEDFi to benefit people of Northeast.

NEDFi is the public finance institution for the people of Northeast. Bank and industrial finance was difficult to get in NER. Realising this a dedicated financial institution, mandated to cater only to create assets in the NE was created by Dr. Manmohan Singh, then Finance Minister in 1995-96 budget.

NEDFi has been extending term loans and mico finance to Northeast India Residents for the past 12 years. It has established itself as the premier lending institution there, and has been consistently profit booking, despite the not so reputable credit habits of the people.

NEDFi is also the canalising agency for central government subsidies under industrial and investment policies. It has designed a few innovative schemes to serve the first generation entrepreneurs of the region.


How did you venture into the Assam Association?

I used to attend Assam Association’s functions, when I used to stay in Gurgaon. I became Executive Member in 1993 and thereafter I have been in the Executive committee continuously. I was General Secretary for the first time in 1996 and have been General Secretary for three consecutive 2 years terms since 2001. I was treasurer for a term in 1999-2001.

How has the experience been?

It’s very satisfying working for a cause. Delhi’s hectic life leaves us with very little time and resources for social work. It has been a wonderful experience and I enjoyed every bit of it.

sankardeva-bhawanHow did the Srimanta Sankaradeva Bhawan come up?

Namghar is an essential ingredient of Assamese consciousness. Ever since a group of Assamese got together since independence in the National Capital, they have been dreaming to find a place for common social activities, where basic minimum festivities can be held. The current plot was bought from the DDA in 1991, while allocation was made in 1989. Mr. Ataur Rahman, Dr. Nagen Saikia, Dr. Amol Hazarika, Mr. S D Lahkar, Mr. Dinesh Goswami, Dr. Nilamani Sarmah are the elders who went extraordinary length to get the land allocated. Padmashree Jugal Kishore Chaudhury, the noted Assamese architect gave critical inputs during the concept development stage of the centre.

Srimanta Sankaradeva Bhawan was conceived as a cultural centre with auditorium, art gallery, canteen, conference hall, guest house, office, library, open air theatre etc. to make it a centre of excellence and hub of activities of the Assamese people living in Delhi.

While the land cost was borne by the Govt. of Assam, raising the huge construction cost was a stupendous task. We needed to build the credibility of the organisation first, also to clearly chalk out the utilisation plan. Mr. Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, the former CM of Assam brought together the CEOs of oil companies operating in Assam. Substantial amount was received from these companies as donation towards this venture. Every possible sources were tapped. The project cost for the 10000 sqft complex was initially estimated at Rs. 1.5 crores, but with time overrun, it will finally reach to about Rs. 2 crores.

We organised three major events to collect funds. Two were held during my tenure. In one Ustad Zakir Hussain and the Bangash brothers performed; while in the other Dr. Bhupen Hazarika enthralled the audience at the Sirifort. We were fortunate to have Mr. B C Bora, former CMD of ONGC as our President during these very critical years. His personal reach enabled us to collect substantial fund and effect good project management.

Mr. Kuldip Nayyar gave Rs. 20 lakhs from MPLADS fund, Govt. of India gave Rs. 15 lakhs, Mr. Tarun Gogoi gave Rs. 10 lakhs from CM’s fund, ABITA,GAIL, NEEPCO, NRL, BRPL gave Rs. 5 lakhs each and OIL, ONGC gave Rs. 10 lakhs each. At an individual level Mr. Rajeev Baruah of Hongkong gave Rs. 6 lakhs and Dr Jayanta Madhab gave Rs. 2.5 lakhs.

Srimanta Sankaradeva Bhawan is an excellent example of People-People-Partnership; and how a determined lot can achieve a lot despite the gruelling and tough existence that you experience in metro life, if you make up your mind to sacrifice a little for society.


Future plans for Assam Association.

Our term has already ended and the new team will be elected on 28th July. I really cannot dictate any terms for the new EC. Only spell out a few broad milestones. This year is the Diamond Jubilee year of the association and a befitting celebration should be on the cards.

New committee should endeavour to make Srimanta Sankaradeva Bhawan, the first address of Assamese in Delhi and make it a centre of excellence and a proud possession of the people of Assam.

It must also try to bring in the young and vibrant people to the fold. More interaction among the youth is essential, especially it should act as a forum for the youth, where they can mingle and exchange ideas. Future always lies with the youth, and we should catch them young.

Any plans for Assam? How do you feel people outside can work for Assam?

Assam is in a sad state of affairs. It had the potential to be the richest area in the world, but that opportunity has been wasted due to geopolitical fate of the state. Flood plains are a menace. We can reclaim more the n 1.5 million hectares of land, if proper river training and dredging operation is done. Assam is suffering from what is called ‘resource curse’. We have seen tumultuous changes during our own lifetime. My greatest fear is of losing our own identity, in our own land.

People in Assam look upto the ones who have come out of the state in search of own destiny also to help them.. They definitely have more exposure and better soft power and skills. These people should give back whatever they can to the state, especially so when it is going through such a bad patch. We can contribute at various levels. We can provide information on job availability and skill development for suitability to such jobs. We can do events and set up enterprises that help people of our home state, Assam Times being an example. The other example is that these days Assamese youths are coming for jobs like security agents. We can help them by providing low cost shelter for six or seven days, till they are absorbed. We can also pool the information on jobs available in our respective organisations and pass on that information to job seekers.

If a few students sitting at Calcutta more than 100 years back could germinate the seed to save the Assamese language, people sitting in the national capital and all across the globe can definitely sow the seeds of saving the state politically. We need an obsession and a few obsessive people.

Arindam Garg

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Comments

Guess who?'s picture

As usual.... sending me a link to YOUR interviews. Gr8 anyways.
ASHIF AHMED's picture

HELLO SIR, CONGRATULATIONS on the great success of your newspaper. it is a new experience to our people and this technological achievement of yours will take us to the next level of journalism, which is very important for our development. thank you. i have known manoj da since 2001. a very sincere and honest hardworking man, results can be seen from his booming successful career and people acknowledgement of his contributions to assam association along with his great team. he should have been asked to advise new students and youths coming to delhi to start a new life. his advises to us always comes very healthy. ASHIF AHMED, CHIEF ADVISOR ,LUITPORIA registered ASSAMESE YOUTH ORGANISATION, DELHI
Diganta Saikia's picture

People of Assam often says that there is "brain drain" but staying away from Assam if they can spare some time, help the needy people of our mother land than what's the wrong? Kudos to Manoj Kr. Das and his team for raising Srimanta sankardeva Bhavan and Releasing Assamtimes for the benifit of Assamese people.
OMAR LUTHER KING's picture

Reading the interview of Mr. Manoj Kumar Das was an enriching experience for me. I have learned more from his chequered career than from the lives of great men. Sometimes a common man like Manoj contibutes to the society more than a so-called great man who makes tall claims. It is hoped that the Assam Association of Delhi will continue to use his services even after he relinquishes the coveted post of General Secretary. I wish him well and hope to be associated with him in building a people of Assam in Delhi who will prove to be worthy citizens of India.
Prateesha Suresh's picture

Congratulations Manoj! Manoj has been very helpful whenever I have approached him during my Sattriya dance performances in New Delhi. He is always smiling and willing to help. His fear that Assam may one day lose its identity is what I sincerely feel and share with him. But so long as we have the teachings of Shrimanta Shankardev and Shri Shri Madhavdev with us, we can proudly claim our identity. Every assamese should intensely propagate the teachings of the great saints. The Shankardev Cultural Centre stands as a tall claim to the hardwork of The Assam Association, Delhi. Let the name of Shankardev shine and bless us to do greater things.
Abid's picture

Bravo Manoj da, Manoj da is a person belonging to the top rungs, but easily approachable to guide and help. A very down-to-earth being, but with high ideals. We all must be like you. Your fear is also of many like me, but we are not going to loose our identity.
Ranu Baruwa's picture

Thanks to assamtimes for giving a chance to know Mr. Manoj Das, an industrious Assamese. Mr. Das, we expect more from you.
Vipin Dewan's picture

Well done Manoj. I am proud of you. We need more and more well meaning people like you liberate this country and your lovely state from the clutches of very narrow minded and self seeking politicians
subhramitra gogoi's picture

Manoj da! im elated to know about the way u have stuggled to achieve something in life.As you are always a helping hand for students community in delhi i think your advice and guidance is always essential for us..wish u good luck to achieve more in life. SUBHRAMITRA GOGOI,National Secretary,NSUI
Sauman Das Gupta's picture

Your a Legend.What an inspiration to the youth of tomorrow.Our tomorrow.A better tomorrow. A clean ,green,rich Assam. We will do it.Small little steps. Team work,focus and our attitude to dream and work out of the box.Action man.... You take care Manojda...so proud of you. Jai Ai Asom Sauman
Nitul Ojha's picture

i have the privelege of spending a few year with ManojDa as his batch mate in MBA at Chandigarh. His ability to see the positive side even in ordinary times amazed me even then. I am so happy to know the kind of difference he has made for Assam and Assamese people. He has rightly concluded that we need an obsession and a few obsessive people. I urge the established Assamese people all over the world to seize this moment and make the Shankardev Centre a centre for catalytic change in Assam. My best wishes and I am going to be in touch with ManojDa to work how i can be part of the process. Nitul Ojha
Mahesh Daswal's picture

Manoj ji, Thanks to Mahan who sent me the link to your interview. I am overwhelmed to read about your noble deeds and dreams. I have not known you or met you but I can feel through your seamless thought stream that you are a kind man with a proud chest! I happened to have lived in Assam for 7 years at a stretch with my wife and we were blessed with our first son in Jorhat. We always love Assam as our second home. All the people of Assam we ever met and we fondly remember are bound by the barest simplicity, closeness to nature, and form and represent a unique consciousness of our great nation united under one flag by kind hearts like yours! Please accept my salutation and thanks for helping me to relive a moment as fresh as the greenest Assam! Wish you all strength to carry out the most outstanding work! Godspeed! Many best wishes to Assam Times too!!
Mintoo Hazarika's picture

Congratulation! I have only come to know you through orkut. Its really inspiring to see your achivements. I hope that in you will be continuing your good works for uplift image of Assam and Assames people in comming days through your entreprunial spirit and show others the path forward to serve aai axom. Hope to meet you , sometime in Delhi. Mintoo Hazarika
Manoranjan B's picture

Nice to read the interview!
Premjit Singh Marwah's picture

When we had been in Delhi it was nothing of Assam to be looking on too. but as of today we stand under the Shankariya namghar.
Satyam Borkataki's picture

Simply a Great One.
Prodip Borkakoty's picture

Elated again to find it on the net even though I read it before. A lot of people ( me included) can draw inspiration from ur life and your philanthropical objectives towards our motherland Assam.
manoj das's picture

Thanks for the good things said about me! feels good..:)
mayuri kalita's picture

its proud of our nation , we are assmise,
DIGANTA GOGOI's picture

I LIKE UR INTERVIEW VERY MUCH.CAN WE JOINED IN UR ORGANISATION.IF I GOT THE CHANCE I WILL VERY HAPPY. BEST OF LUCK SIR.
Jeeni Borgohain's picture

Great effort Manoj da, Like you, we also love Assam, our culture & tradition. For our studies & carrier we also left our motherland around 20 years back; but still we are feeling ("aami khati akhomiya") & the fragnance of our akhom. Still we miss the "haratar mukta akakh", "pua-gadhulir hewalir hubakh", "niyarat titi thaka dubari bonar sparkha", going to Joysagar college by cycle aaru nanan bahut katha......If we will get a chance to join you for helping to save our simple, but rich culture, we will feel great definitely. Thx....
Hemango Kishore Dutta's picture

I had gone through your interview, its good.. I find interesting as it was simple, clear and full of truth that everyone of us is having today. Thanks and best wishes. HEMANGO Kolkata, WB
Samkar Chhetri's picture

Great going sir..........we are Inspiring from ur hard work. Best of luck 4 ur future planing. Good wish for ur helth Regards SankarChhetri Noida
Romizuddin's picture

Congrats Manoj, pl continue ur endeavour, we (cottonians) are with you.
Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti's picture

Manoj is a marvellous person. His dynamism is tremendous.

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Minor boy killed, 2 arrested

16 Jul 2010 - 6:59pm | editor

Police on Friday have arrested two youths near Guwahati charging the duo with killing a minor boy hours after they kidnapped him. According to information, the body of Kundan Das of Dharapur was found on Friday a day after the Calss V student went missing. Further investigation is goign on

AASU convention gets underway

23 Mar 2015 - 4:44pm | AT News

Students are thronging in thousands at Dudhnoi to join AAS’s 16th Convention which gets underway on Monday.

Local AASU organizers told Assam Times that over 5,000 delegates from different parts of the state are arriving in the venue to join the convention.

Apart from AASU, many organizations have also sent representatives to make the convention a success.

The convention assumes significance in view of adviser Dr Samujjal Bhattacharjee’s formal exit on Tuesday. The student body would elect another influential leader as adviser.

Assam film maker makes new venture

3 Aug 2017 - 10:38am | AT News

Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI)’s newest production “Ishu” is a feature film that will instantly take the viewer to a world of a kid whose innocent and happy-go-lucky world turns topsy-turvy thanks to the superstitious society of adults around him.

Set in a remote tribal Rabha village in Lower Assam area bordering Meghalaya’s Garo Hills, this Assamese feature film is based on renowned Assamese writer Manikuntala Bhattacharjya’s popular novel “Ishu”, and marks the feature film debut of National Award-winning film critic and acclaimed documentary director Utpal Borpujari.

The film takes a look at the inhuman practice of ‘witch hunting’ that is prevalent in parts of Assam as well as some other parts of India, through they eyes of an innocent child whose favourite aunt is branded as a ‘witch’ by the evil village “Bej” (quack) who conspires with another aunt to do so.

Treated like a fairy tale albeit set in today’s times, “Ishu” is a sensitive take on how such incidents impact a child psychologically, with the narrative taking the viewer along protagonist Ishu’s quest to find his aunt who goes missing after being assaulted by the villagers at the instigation of the villainous quack.

The social evil of ‘witch hunting’ has been a recurring problem in Assam, so much so that the state Assembly unanimously passed the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill 2015, following years of sustained campaign by civil society organisations and an intervention by the Gauhati High Court. The Bill, however, is still awaiting the President’s assent to become a law.

Several incidents of witch hunting has been reported in Assam during this year too, while according to data placed in the state Assembly, 93 cases of witch-hunting were reported and 77 persons, including 35 women, were killed during 2010 to 2015.

“However, despite its sensitive and serious backdrop, my film treats to subject in a way that it is suitable for viewing by children. In fact, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has given it a U certification without any cuts,” says Borpujari, who believes that children’s films can affectively take up social issues if handled sensitively.

CFSI Chairman Mukesh Khanna said this movie will give a clear message to the people that social evils are bad and must be eradicated from the society. "Children are the future of our country and should always be motivated. By practicing social evils like 'witch hunting', we are making circumstances worse for children and disturb their psychology. This will have an adverse effect on the children and will not help them in their career and overall development." 

"Movies like 'Ishu' bring awakening in the society about the ill-effects of social evils and educate people about their harmful aspects on the society. CFSI will continue to make and promote such films whose themes are aimed at bringing about transformation in the society for the benefit of mankind, particularly children,” he says. 

 

According to Dr Shravan Kumar, CEO of CFSI, "This is a highly sensitive film in which exploitation of people due to social evils such as 'witch hunting' is highlighted. The movie is informative, educative and throws light on the harmful effects of social evils practiced by people in the society. The movie tells the audience that such evils harm children and have an adverse effect on their psychology. Our attempt at CFSI has always been to focus on issues concerning children and their welfare." 

 

"I am happy to note that in Assam, a Bill to prevent social evils like "witch hunting” has been passed by the State Legislative Assembly, and is awaiting President's assent. Let us hope that it would become a law soon." 

 

"This is the first feature film made by well-known film critic and documentary film maker Utpal Borpujari and we hope that children as well as elders will like it,” he says. 

Incidentally, the script of “Ishu” was chosen as the only Asian entry into the 2012 Junior Co-Production Market of Cinekid International Film Festival, Amsterdam.

In the film, the lead role is played by 10-year-old Kapil Garo, who hails from Sonapur area near Guwahati. Kapil, who has given a performance with a maturity much beyond his tender age, was selected for the role after the director and his team interacted with nearly 300 kids across Assam. “Kapil has the required innocence and charm that I had visualized in Ishu, and being from a village himself, he blended naturally with the character,” says Borpujari.

The film also stars two-time National Award (Special Jury Mention)-winning actor Bishnu Kharghoria and National Award-winning Manipuri actress Tonthoingambi Leishangthem Devi, along with veterans like Chetana Das and Pratibha Choudhury and talented younger actors like Monuj Borkotoky, Dipika Deka and Nibedita Bharali. Others in the cast include Mahendra Das, Rajesh Bhuyan, Naba Kumar Baruah, Monuj Gogoi, etc.

Along with Kapil Garo, other child actors in the film include Mahendra Rabha, Srabanta Rabha and Uday Rabha. 

The film’s dialogue, with emphasis on how the Rabha people living near Goalpara area speak Assamese with a particular accent, has been written by Borpujari in collaboration with award-winning theatre director Sukracharjya Rabha of the famed Badungduppa Kala Kendra of Rampur, Agia.

Several actors from the Badungduppa group, including Dhananjay Rabha and Basanta Rabha, have acted in pivotal roles in the film, which has been shot in pristine locations of several Rabha tribal vilages near Agia in Goalpara, located on the south bank of the mighty Brahmaputra.

It may be mentioned that NSD graduate and actress Pranami Bora conducted an 8-day workshop for the actors of the film at Badungduppa Kala Kendra premises, and Madan Rabha and Basanta Rabha were in charge of imparting accent training for the actors so that all of them could deliver their dialogues in the local accent.

The film has been edited by the legendary A Sreekar Prasad, while its sound design is by Amrit Pritam Dutta and music is by Anurag Saikia, all National Award winners. The cinematographer is Sumon Dowerah, a veteran of many award-winning and mainstream films in Assamese, while other prominent crew members are JItendra Mishra (executive producer), Hengul Medhi (final sound mixing), Monjul Baruah (associate director), Homen Borah (production manager), Golok Saha (art director), Rani Dutta Baruah (costumes) and Achitabh (Shanku) Baruah (make up). The assistant directors of the film were Ghanshyam Kalita, Ronal Hussain and Monuj Borkotoky.

An M.Tech in Applied Geology from IIT-Roorkee, Utpal Borpujari won the Swarna Kamal for Best Film Critic at the 50th National Film Awards of India in 2003. As a professional journalist, apart from cinema, he has written extensively on politics, society, culture, literature, etc., while working with some of India’s top media houses. Since 2010, when he decided to turn a filmmaker, he has made several acclaimed documentary films that have been screened across the world in various film festivals. Among them are “Mayong: Myth/Reality” (2012), “Songs of the Blue Hills” (2013), “Soccer Queens of Rani” (2014) and “Memories of a Forgotten War” (2016). Borpujari has also served in international film juries as an erstwhile member of the International Federation of Film Critics, apart from having served on juries for National Film Awards and Indian Panorama. He has also curated films as well as served as a consultant for the Northeastern sections in the International Film Festival of India as well as various other film festivals. “Ishu” is his debut fiction feature. He is currently developing scripts for a Hindi and an Assamese film.



 


ঈশ্বু: Duration: 91 minutes; Assamese; 2017


Produced by Children’s Film Society, India; Screenplay & Direction by Utpal Borpujari)

Adapted from: Manikuntala Bhattacharjya’s novel “Ishu” 

Screenplay & Direction: Utpal Borpujari
Producer: Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI)
Associate Director: Monjul Barua
Executive Producer: Jitendra Mishra
Cast: Kapil Garo, Tonthoingambi Leishangthem Devi (Manipur), Bishnu Kharghoria, Chetana Das, Pratibha Choudhury, Dipika Deka, Nibedita Bharali, Monuj Borkotoky, Basanta Rabha, Dhananjay Rabha, Manuj Gogoi, Naba Kumar Baruah, Mahendra Das, Mahendra Rabha, Uday Rabha, Srabanta Rabha
Editor: A Sreekar Prasad
Cinematographer: Sumon Dowerah
Music: Anurag Saikia
Sound Design: Amrit Pritam Dutta
Location Sound: Debajit Gayan
Sound Final Mixing: Hengul Medhi
Music Mixing: Bhaskar Sarma
Dialogues: Utpal Borpujari & Sukracharjya Rabha
Assistant Directors: Ghanashyam Kalita, Ronal Hussain, Monuj Borkotoky
Actors’ workshop: Pranami Bora
Sand Animation: Diganta Madhab Goswami