Saturday, December 2, 2023

Initiatives & obligations

Editorial 1

It is very encouraging to see our communities, led by tribal hohos, or on their own, and churches initiating an increasing number of infrastructure development activities in their districts, right from the village level. These activities are indeed the finest examples of the deep-rooted enduring collective community bonds that epitomize the distinctive Naga identity, culture, traditions and strength. These activities are also the backbone of the Naga polity and economy. A couple of the latest instances are the ‘Citizens Good Road Campaign’ initiated by the Sumi Hoho in Zunheboto district the other day and the “The People’s Bridge”, constructed on Yijung River in Tuensang district, which our Chief Minister inaugurated virtually on November 9, 2021. The latter, of course, is a joint initiative of Eleutheros Christian Society (ECS), the community, The Hans Foundation, various Government Departments such as PWD, RD, PHED, Assam Rifles, Border Roads Organization, etc. These initiatives irrefutably underline Naga society’s capability to stand on our own feet and address and redress our development deficit. So, as a society, we have proved several times over that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. This was exactly how our ancestors lived and their genes clearly live in us. However, what about our State Government? Constitutionally, infrastructure development is the moral obligation of the State Government ~ which is why the Central Government allocates crores in Nagaland to fulfil this obligation, as ostensibly we cannot generate substantial revenue to meet even 10% of our requirements. It is laudable that the people are participating in our own infrastructure development ~ but it is a pity that our State Government hasn’t been initiating and participating in its obligations. Perhaps, our Government “allots” a certain amount of money, provides some technical expertise and extends some human resources towards these initiatives of our communities in various districts but clearly our Government isn’t leading in its obligations of infrastructure development. It is merely riding shotgun but is taking a lot of credit for leadership, which is our communities’ due. We have that very old folktale about the pig and the dog ~ needless to say who is the pig and who is the dog. Needless to remind who is eating the seeds too. It’s all very fine to academize on ‘Convergence as an approach for infrastructure development’, etc., which are the mantras of today’s highly Twitterized political, economic, bureaucratic and social leadership in India. But that doesn’t answer the question: what happens to the crores the Central Government pumps into Nagaland ~ for evidently the community, the individual, NGOs and corporates are footing the bill for development in the areas of infrastructure, health, education, etc. Over the years, civil societies including tribal bodies have been taking political and economic decisions. They also play a very significant role is civil and police administrative decisions and now infrastructure decisions too. So, what role is our Government playing exactly? Exactly what responsibilities is it shouldering? Considering that even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, it was our communities across the State that proved to be the primary support-system and the major back-bone of an unprecedented situation, it is not surprising that the leadership qualities ~ or their lack ~ is the talking point of people who see and think. Unfortunately, their votes are few and very few of them vote. The other interesting aspect of these community infrastructure development initiatives is the wealth owned by communities, NGOs and civil societies. Yes, there are a lot of extremely hard working people out there and very austere and economic people too ~ profits in the private sector certainly seem to be very high. As for the church, we know it is the most lucrative non-governmental and private sector organization. Now, nobody is accusing anybody of anything but apparently our communities are not as “poor” as we believe. After all, quality infrastructure development doesn’t come cheap. So, a revisit of the “Nagaland is rich but the people are poor” thinking is required, no? Only Economists and other experts in the field of money matters will be able to explain exactly how money and wealth are generated in Nagaland and the relationship(s) between this money and wealth in our political and economic market dynamics ~ and then spill over to basic infrastructure development. Like all our characteristics, it appears that our economy and economics too are indeed unique.