Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Don’t disband ~ get tough, get going

Nothing has come as a matter of great sadness and disappointment as the news about the winding up of the Nagaland Legislators’ Forum (NLF) so early in the year, as reported in the January 20, 2019 issue of Nagaland Page. Equally sad and disappointing is the absence of reaction from the public and particularly Nagaland’s medical and health community ~ as also, NGOs working for people living with HIV/AIDS. As for the people living with HIV/AIDS, one can only imagine their desolation and their sense of abandonment. Their silence mustn’t then be misconstrued as conceding defeat but as wordlessly putting up with another hindrance forced upon by a Government that has turned its face away at the time they most needed. As it is, there have been numerous reports of the lack of crucial medications regularly required by people living with HIV/AIDS ~ which suggests that the State of Nagaland wasn’t serious and sensitive to the basic needs of the affected. This further suggests a kind of disregard by the state Government of the Right to Life, enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution ~ not to mention human rights. Yet the NLF gave hope that our Legislators provided a direly-needed crutch to the most alienated and marginalized people in Nagaland ~ not only in terms of financial assistance but also to use their influence to create awareness and educate, as also sensitize, the people about the threats of HIV/AIDS and the imperatives of mainstreaming people living with HIV/AIDS, every which way, in our societal life ~ therefore the reported news about the state Government deciding to disband this very vital Forum comes as a shock ~ and is actually quite scandalous ~ because reportedly one of the main reasons for the state Government’s decision to disband the NLF is paucity of funds. If any vulnerable section of society needs funds the most, it is this section and the state Government ought to have focused all energy to ensure that their medication and treatment are not jeopardized and their lives endangered. True Nagaland’s economy is nothing to write home about, but since our Legislators take delight in regularly knocking at the doors of Central Ministers, taking photographs with them and mailing them to our local newspapers for publication, surely, one such visit could have been devoted solely to beg for funds for our people living with HIV/AIDS? This particular begging would have been the most worthy of all other begging. Moreover, since the Centre hasn’t exactly been generous with funds despite our state Government’s close ties with the ruling dispensation at Delhi, it is understandable that our Legislators are experiencing paucity of funds, but surely a lakh a year isn’t going to reduce them to the BPL (Below Poverty Line) or bring some major infrastructural project to a grinding halt that would revert Nagaland back to the 1960s? The state Government can think of so many other expenditures to cut back ~ e.g. the Hornbill Festivals (mini and maxi) that are clearly feel-good exercises of high investments but low returns ~ and must now seriously implement austerity measures ~ reduce the number of expensive vehicles allotted to Legislators and senior bureaucrats. If anyone needs to lead this endemic threat from the front, it is our Legislators ~ they are, after all, representatives of the people and policy-makers. But abandoning this worthy cause because of paucity of funds sends a terribly wrong message to the world at large and most of all to people living with HIV/AIDS. It’s almost like saying that they are lost causes ~ which would be the most insensitive and inhuman thing to say, or even imply, to anyone. Moreover, disbanding the NLF ~ reportedly mainly due to paucity of funds ~ sends another unambiguous message. It says that Nagaland is on the verge of irreversible economic liquidation, as well as suffering from irreparable bankruptcy of ideas, which is indicative of irredeemable leadership insolvency. It is said that when the going gets tough, the tough get going ~ and so it’s time for the state Government to prove its toughness and get going in matters of serious governance, the basics of which is tending to society’s most vulnerable people. It can begin by NOT disbanding the NLF and working on getting and generating funds for our neediest ~ and while doing so, ensuring that it doesn’t become obligatory for the people to do the Government’s job.