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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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Akon Chandra Buragohain no more

9 Oct 2017 - 8:25am | Akshaya Pranab Kalita

Akon Chandra Buragohain (89), a retired State BVFCL Officer, social worker, founder of Namrup Music College , B.ed College, Namrup College, Namrup Tai Kristi Kendra  breathed his last at Aditya Nursing Home at 7.00pm on Sunday due to old age illness. He was born on 1928 at Sibsagar Panibeel Lanka Gohain Gaon. He completed his studies in Naira H.S. School and Shillong Edmund College. After graduation he joined as Block Development Officer at Naharani, Naharkatia subdivision. Later he joined Namrup BVFCL in 1963  as a security officer. He left behind his wife, four daughters, son and grand children.

Namrup Sahitya Sabha, Namrup Samalaya Kobi Chakra, Namrup Press Club, Namrup Swargam kala Niketan, Namrup BJP and many other organisation mourn his death. 

NE Business summit in Kolkata from Jan 8

31 Dec 2009 - 3:30pm | editor

The fifth North Eastern Business Summit to woo investment from outside, organised by the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region would be held in Kolkata on January 8 and 9. According to informaiton, organised by DoNER, in the summit, Indian Chamber of Commerce took the initiative to bring foreign investors from Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia besides leading business groups.


All chief ministers of the region, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Minister for DoNER, B K Handique, Union Commerce Minister, Ananda Sharma are scheduled to participate in the summit. Noyably, the first North East Business Summit was held in Mumbai in 2002 and the subsequent three summits were held in New Delhi and Guwahati.

Time to ponder on International Children's Day

13 Nov 2007 - 3:32pm | editor

We gather once again on 20th November this year to commemorate globally the 'Convention on the Rights of the Child' which was signed by the United Nations on this day in 1989 and sanctioned by several countries to provide basic rights to the children. In India Children's Day is celebrated on 14th November, the birth anniversary of Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first prime minister of free India and a great lover of children and roses alike.

The sole purpose of setting aside this day was to promote the children's welfare and to protect them from harm . And yet millions of children worldwide work under slave like conditions ,searching for a childhood which does not exist for them. India is discredited with having the largest number of working children in the world ( anywhere between 60 to 115 million) who start working from the age of 5 years due to economic reasons. More than half of them will never be literate. Most of them will be irrevocably sick by the time they become adults, likely to be dead by 50.

A child's mind was once thought to be a mind of pristine innocence ,free of rigid ideas. Alas it is no longer now. Neither for those whose childhood is mortgaged for a few rupees, nor for the privileged few who mature even before their 'age of innocence' arrives. The city kids ( all over the world), as young as 3 years old, have very definite views about what they want or not want, be it food, clothes, toys or even household gadgets. By the time they are 6 or 7 they make their parents proud (??) with their deft handling of mobile phones, internet games and TV sets. More than 50% of 3 year olds in UK have a personal TV set in their bedrooms and those in the age group 11- 15 years spend almost 53 hours a week in front of the computer/ TV screen.

Thus with eyes glued to the flickering screen images, ears tuned to the i-pod and hands holding a pack of chips/ coke / burger, today's urban child seems to be the very antithesis of a healthy and carefree existence. An alarmingly increasing number of teenagers are becoming emotionally hostile and attention deficit due to their addiction to online games, pornography, cyber sex and chats. So much so that China's health authorities have placed Internet Addiction on par with alcohol/drug abuse and gambling as it is responsible for most juvenile crimes. The situation is so grave that Internet De-addiction Centres are being opened in many South Asian countries like China and Thailand as internet use( rather abuse) explodes. Recently IIT,Mumbai,( a world class premier engineering institute of India) restricted internet access in its hostels saying that addiction to surfing/ gaming/blogging was making students reclusive and even suicidal and was replacing the old hostel culture of camaraderie with depressive and dysfunctional lifestyles.

From petty thefts to rape, abduction and murder JUVENILE CRIME has entered a deadly new phase in India, mostly in the upper strata of society. In October 2007, 3 Ahmedabad teenagers killed their 6 year old neighbour to raise 25 lakh rupees in ransom to lead a life of luxury. In August 2007,a Mumbai teenager was killed by 4 friends who demanded Rs.2crore ransom from his parents. A 14 year old girl helped a woman to hack her mother in law in return for a new mobile phone. A teenager ,near Sonepat, molested a girl and shot dead her brother when he protested.

Our kids are indeed living in violent times--violence in movies, within families, on the roads. The 'Age of Innocence' is over. It has been overpowered with the lust for easy money and substance abuse. Even those few, who are brilliant achievers in various fields, cite money and power as their main aim in life.

The exuberance of childhood has been replaced with an uncouth brashness. Niceties of manners and finesse of language have become obsolete. Instead ,we have the crass I, ME and MYSELF attitude. 'Shit and 'Bastard' have become the most often used words in kids' conversations.

And all this because primarily we as parents, elders, teachers have failed miserably in our duties and responsibilities. Changing lifestyles, crumbling joint families and a market driven society has left our children rudderless and valueless. Instead of giving them quality time and selfless love we are smothering them with material goods.

With education perceived as the only means of advancement in the ultra competitive society (especially in Asian countries), parents expectations are unrealistically high. American psychologist Madeline Levine has identified a growing breed of 'helicopter parents', so called because they hover over all aspects of their children's lives. They push them so hard to excel at everything, from Maths to English to sports and music, that they end up as hopeless failures. The struggle to please over ambitious parents leads to violent and immoral behaviour and feelings of self hatred. ( I come across many such parents of my pupils. Sadly, even when I point out their fallacy they refuse to listen saying they are doing it for the good of their child).

With both parents working long hours, preparing balanced meals at home becomes difficult. So salty snacks and fizzy drinks have become the main meal of cranky, pampered kids. This is fomenting a health crisis in Japan, the home of sushi, seaweed and world's longest life expectancy. The U.S. food chains are helping it to rear a generation of young sugar addicts spending their adolescence fighting obesity and acne. India unwittingly boasts of being the largest snack market in the Asia Pacific region. Emotional stress is linked with junk food faddism. Only if could make our kids skip the fries and go hard on soft drinks. Housewives could take this as a business opportunity to supply tasty wholesome homemade food to working parents and school canteens.

Only if we would not treat our kids as our prized possessions whose achievements alone are to be showcased as trophies. They need our love and assurance the most when they deserve it the least. Let them know that failures are as much part of growing up as success. Let us consciously try to remove the imbalance of power ( still prevalent in most Indian homes) which makes the sons believe that they can get away with everything. Let us give them a sense of belonging and not expensive gifts. Let us respect the law and not indulge in a sick display of opulence.

We may have our own dreams about our children but as they grow older we need to respect their interests and choices in life and not stifle their growth as still happens so often in Indian homes which sometimes even results in the so called 'honour killings' of adult sons and daughters who choose to marry of their own accord outside their caste and/or social status.

Let our children grow to be a trifle more sensitive about the needs of the millions of those underprivileged Indian children who are working under miserable conditions in stone quarries, in the carpet industry, as domestic help, as ragpickers or in the sex market, with no access to schools and two square meals a day.

On this Children's Day let us try to gift our children their 'Age of Innocence' and a 'safe childhood' sans junk food, TV/internet abuse, conspicuous consumption, sedentary lifestyle and an insensitive couldn't-care-less attitude. Let us guide them lovingly yet firmly on their path of self discovery.

by Shobha Shukla

(Shobha Shukla teaches Physics in India's noted Loreto Convent, and writes on human interest issues in Asian media. She can be contacted at: shobha1shukla@yahoo.co.in )

Photo: School children giving floral tribute to statue of Jawaharlal Nehru during calibration of children's day in Agartala capital of Indian northeast state Tripura, November 14, 2007.India, which celebrates Children's day on November 14 each year, is estimated to be home to the second largest child population globally. Children's day in India coincides with the birth anniversary of independent India's first Prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who loved children. After his death in year 1963, his birthday has been celebrated as Children's day. Pix by UB Photos.