Agatha Sangma seen as beacon of hope in northeast

May 31st, 2009 - 2:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Azera Rahman
Shillong, May 31 (IANS) Young and well-educated, 28-year-old Agatha Sangma’s induction into the newly formed Manmohan Singh government has spelled a wave of “renewed” hope in the minds of the people of northeast, especially in the Garo Hills, where many residents have long felt “neglected”. Agatha, they say, is now their beacon of hope.

For most people in the Garo Hills of Meghalaya - where Agatha Sangma hails from - there are two main concerns affecting their daily lives - lack of good roads and potable water.

Therefore while there is jubilation in these picturesque hills for having their representation in the government, hopes and expectations are riding equally high on the shoulders of the country’s youngest minister.

Agatha has been named minister of state for rural development - a portfolio which she had expected - and is due to take charge June 1 or 2, according to one of her aides.

Mita Songdi, a 35-year-old Garo Hills resident, said since Agatha has become a minister, she is hoping for better water facilities in their homes.

“We are very proud of her (Agatha). Finally we have someone who is from this place, has seen the troubles of our daily lives and now can do something about it. Lack of clean drinking water is a big problem here. Every now and then my children, like many others, fall ill because of that,” Songdi told IANS.

“No one cares for us here. The officials are apathetic to our condition, but I am sure Agatha will change things. I heard someone say that she has promised to bring change for us in Delhi,” the homemaker said cheerfully.

One of the wettest places in the world, the Garo Hills are a part of the Garo-Khasi range of Meghalaya and is mostly inhabited by tribal dwellers. Tura, where Agatha Sangma contested the elections and emerged victorious, is one of the three districts in the state.

Better roads is yet another “change” that people of the Garo Hills are hoping for.

Devi Rengta, a school teacher in Tura, said: “We definitely need better roads here. The roads are perpetually in a bad state because of the rains and otherwise. We may be a little better off in the town, but in the villages you have to literally look for the road once the showers come! They become completely cut off.”

The young minister, on her part, is confident of bringing about the change that people in her state and indeed in the rest of the northeast are hoping for.

In a conversation with IANS at her 34, Aurangzeb Road residence in the capital, Agatha said: “I have a big responsibility - to integrate the northeast with the rest of the country. Economic empowerment of women and giving employment to youth without losing our cultural heritage will be my priorities.”

Talking about improving connectivity in the region, she said that work is on for building a national highway there which, once completed, will ensure that one doesn’t have to go through Assam to reach the Garo Hills.

Salim Hasan, a college professor in Guwahati, Assam, said: “People of the northeast, more so in Meghalaya, have a lot of expectations, now that two of their representatives - Vincent Pala and Agatha Sangma - have been inducted in the government.”

“Despite a lot of natural resources and potential, the northeast has long felt neglected and development has been slow. When in news, it’s always because of an insurgency attack or a bomb blast. But now people want change,” Hasan told IANS.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at

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