Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Echoing silence

Finally the Public Action Committee (PAC) of the Naga Council Dimapur (NCD) has brought out in the open what the people of Nagaland ~ not just of Dimapur ~ have always known and suffered. On September 16, 2019, citizen volunteers, under the PAC’s aegis, stopped all illegal collection of tax by state Government Departments, underground groups and all kinds of unions/associations in all three check-gates at Dimapur. Not surprisingly, this had an immediate impact on the market with reduction of prices (reportedly up to 50% to 100%) on most goods, particularly perishable items. But surprisingly, even after two days of this very crucial action, we are greeted with absolute silence by the state Government. This underscores the abdication of the state Government of its moral and constitutional obligations and responsibilities and speaks unambiguously of the total absence of governance in Nagaland. The state Government’s silence is also echoed in the silence of our political parties, NGOs and civil societies and the Church on the issue of illegal taxation by sundry state and non-state agencies, which accentuates the absence of a moral compass of Nagaland. As for the various underground groups, suffice it to say for now that the economy and an economic vision was never the strong point of the Naga political movement. What about the Central Government? Illegal taxation have been going on for decades yet the Government of India has never considered it an issue to take up with either the State Government or the underground groups ~ not even with our NGOs and civil societies, who also run parallel governments. Obviously the question is why should the blood, sweat and tears of honest, hard-working people feed the indolent sections of our society, some of who are employed with the state Government? That this is the major factor for Nagaland’s economic woes and development-deficit must be acknowledged, addressed and redressed at the earliest and must be the Central Government’s top priority. Because the Governor of Nagaland has a unique responsibility vis-à-vis Article 371 (A), it is expected that our Governor would focus his Government’s attention towards illegal taxation collected through numerous means post haste. Secondly, illegal taxation or even the collection of donations for various reasons by all kinds of groups ~ overground, underground and middleground ~ denote not only total ignorance of how money is earned, saved and invested to create wealth but also signify the absence of a moral fibre. And what is being a Christian, a civilized person and society and being “different” from “others” mean without a moral fibre, a moral compass? In fact, even across India, the “others” don’t indulge in illegal taxation and those who do are considered criminals ~ often nabbed and put behind bars. Now, donations are given on one’s own volition, not forced upon a person by regularly depositing envelops in one’s residences, as is done by our Churches. Ultimately, if an organization does not have the funds and cannot earn its requirements, it should not make the people pay for their dreams and schemes. Not living within one’s means underscores a characterless society. These aren’t new thoughts ~ they have been in the minds and hearts of every upright citizen of Nagaland for decades. Because of the absence of moral leadership in our society and state, we are enslaved and this enslavement will be more pronounced if the people remain silent ~ for, who do we go to for redressal? Ironically, on the day the PAC citizen volunteers’ action made headlines in all our local newspapers, our DGP’s interview with a local newspaper was also published. As per his interview, he spoke of the “major revamp” of our Police Department in terms of modernization of arms, procurement of vehicles, cadre review, irregular promotions, setting up of Special Task Force (STF) to deal with “newer crimes”, the State Security Guard (SSG) and Cyber Crimes Lab, etc. What is noticeably absent is any attempts to “revamp” the cop as a human being, who wears the uniform and carries the weight of the state and government powers to enforce not just law and order but the rule of law. That this “revamp” endeavour has not been attempted ~ perhaps, not even thought of ~ is underscored by the illegal taxation indulged in by police personnel posted at check-gates. There are very few of us who hasn’t seen money changing hands in broad day light. Against this background, the people’s silence would soon be fatal for our precarious survival.