After a long week of intense work and having spent the previous weekend on a work related conference in Pune, I was really looking forward to the upcoming weekend where I could finally relax and catch up on all my favorite sitcoms, when my phone rang.
I looked at the caller id and immediately knew what the call was going to be about. Any calls from Pa Amo, Ningsang Jamir or Seihaso Khansu on a Friday meant only one thing - that there was going to be a meeting conducted for all Northeastern representatives of the "North East Helpline Mumbai" (NEHM) during the weekend :)
Even before anything was mentioned, I sheepishly confirmed I would be attending. In order to make this venture of having a common platform that serves as a means to make the lives of Northeasterners living in Mumbai better a success, all of us have sacrifices to make I guess. And since this meeting was not just the first NEHM meeting of 2015 but a lot of important agenda were going to be discussed, the DRC (Deputy Resident Commissioner) of Mizoram House too participated, hence making the two of us representatives of our Mizo community.
And so, on 10th January 2015, we all met at our North East Helpline Office, Mini Rose Apartment, Kalina.
More than 20 representatives of various North Eastern states and communities attended the meeting, and it was great seeing a lot of familiar faces. We caught up quickly, wishing each other a happy New Year and stuff. Those who attended the meeting included, in no particular order, Aola Kichu, Beltezzar Thong, Thanshing WS, Yureimung CH, Pamsho Muivah, Ningsang Jamir, George Neihsial, Bishal Lama, Tengsek A Sangma, Sophayo Khamrang, Peter Sekhose, Asif Iqbal, V Zaithanmawia, Kevin Guite, Thomas Haokip, Aning Muinao, Jacob Tao, Lalramthang Amo, Tim Raror, Henmi, Subir Mhd, Deepen Rajkonwar and yours truly.
As mentioned before, this meeting was held on the 5th floor balcony of Mini Rose Apartment. The view was beautiful, and my Oneplus One phone captured the mood perfectly :)
The meeting started at 2:30 PM and was adjourned by 6:00 PM. During the meeting, various topics and important agenda were discussed, and here is the minutes of the meeting just released by the NEHM media wing -
1. On the need to have a "North East Association" here in Mumbai - In order to make our North East Helpline a legitimate and official organization, it is of utmost importance to have a registered Body under which the helpline will function since the existing helpline (NEHM) cannot be registered as an organization. After a long discussion and deliberation, it was decided that such an Association will be formed and registered by the designated representatives of the various Northeastern Associations present in Mumbai.
2. Another important decision taken was deciding the name of the new organization to be formed. After a couple of discussions regarding different names, a consensus was reached on the name "NEWAM", which will stand for “North East Welfare Association Mumbai”. The NEHM (North East Helpline Mumbai) will function under the NEWAM.
Both the two important points mentioned above were not finalized, and it was decided that each representatives present in the meeting will then go back to their respective parent Associations and get their official approval, post which the NEHM will conduct another meeting to discuss the way forward.
3. There was also a request from people of Darjeeling (West Bengal) residing in Mumbai to be a part of the North East Helpline community as they do not come under the North East technically, and it was unanimously voted that residents of Darjeeling will be clubbed with members from Sikkim, hence bringing them under the fold of the NEHM.
4. Our representatives also brought out another important issue of people not getting paid by their employers. At least 60% of the complaints we have received are about non-payment of salaries. Some of the NEHM representatives mentioned the difficulties they have faced while pursuing such complaints because in many cases, there were no proper document/agreement signed by the North East employees, and in other cases, their place of employment was not a properly established one, while in a few cases, it was the NE employee who was at fault, hence leading to a lot of time and resource wastage of the NEHM representative handling the case. It was even suggested whether the NEHM should no longer follow up cases involving non-payment of salaries and that if such a complaint comes in again, NEHM should just direct them to the police instead of hand-holding them all the way through. However, a consensus was not reached on this and discussions regarding this will be continued in the next meeting.
5. The NEHM is set up to assist and help people from the North East, especially when it comes to racial discrimination or abuse, but if people from the North East are themselves the perpetrators, then they deserve the same reprimand or punishment as any other Indian citizen. The NEHM will not get involved in these matters.
6. Another important decision taken was regarding the introduction of a North East cultural festival here in Mumbai, where various North Eastern Associations under one banner (NEWAM) will come together to showcase their culture and traditions to the people of Mumbai. This will also serve as a good opportunity for the local residents to interact with us and get to know more about us while educating them about our different cultures and societies. The date and venue for this program will be discussed in the next meeting.
7. It has also been decided to hold a joint Sports programme among different members of the Northeastern community in Mumbai, like conducting a football tournament, basketball tournament etc where different NE associations will compete with each other all in the name of good spirit and comradeship. Similar to the cultural festival mentioned above, the date and venue for this program will also be discussed in the next meeting.
All in all, it was a fruitful meeting, and the date and venue of the next NEHM meeting will be announced shortly.
After the meeting, I caught up with some of my friends living in Vakola as I hardly get time to come to this part of the city. This was followed by dinner, complete with our traditional Mizo dishes and pork. A day well spent indeed.
Here’s to the NEHM. Cheers.