Jigsaw pieces

The past week has provided us with some sobering doses of reality. Three distinct events have conspired to highlight our bleak state of affairs and how our Government ~ one after the other ~ appears loath to learn from history and past mistakes. Only a few days ago, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had inaugurated a DUDA Guest House at Sovima, Chumüokedima. There he had made the announcement that Nagaland Government would soon be providing interest-free loans to micro-farmers and entrepreneurs. The Chief Minister explained that even though the Government would bear the interest for the loans, the beneficiaries should obtain the approval or guarantor from their respective village authorities in order to avail the scheme. To promote this scheme as well as to encourage the State’s youth to pursue entrepreneurship, he said that a State-wide campaign would be launched and interactions held with micro-farmers and entrepreneurs. As long as the beneficiaries are genuine and deserving (in which case, it would indeed set a rare precedent), the initiative deserves its run. At the same time, it is no secret that since coming to power in 2003, Rio has always attempted to project himself as youth-friendly ~ especially targeting musicians and entrepreneurs. Barely a week before the Chief Minister’s announcement, there was another declaration in the newspapers. The Joint Action Committee (Workers Union and Pensioners Union) of Nagaland Pulp & Paper Co. Ltd. (NPPCL), had announced a protest from August 12 on NH 61 at Tzudikong in Mokokchung district till the workers are paid their salaries with effect from August 2017 till date and also till the retired employees and the families of the deceased are paid their terminal/pension benefits. In a representation submitted to Rio on June 10, the Committee informed that the liabilities of NPPCL for payment of wages and dues to superannuated and deceased employees as assessed up to December 2021 was Rs 27,33,89,777. The tragic story of Tuli Paper Mill ~ established sometime in the early part of 1970s and shut down in the later part of 1992 ~ still struggles for its closing chapter. By a stroke of coincidence then, these two seemingly distant and separate trails on the same entrepreneurial landscape were pulled together yesterday. A press release issued by the Business Association of Nagas (BAN) informed that its members, along with Government officials, had visited the Industrial Estate at Firing Range, Dimapur. The Association reminded that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has been occupying a good portion of the Industrial Estate and some industrial sheds for many years. Though the initial arrangement was supposed to be for a temporary period only, the CRPF has now extended its stay, the BAN stated. Then came the Association’s shot: “The continued occupation of the Industrial Estate by the CRPF is a loss for Naga entrepreneurs who could have availed the industrial sheds at reasonable cost. A good number of employments can also be generated if industrial activity takes place”. According to the Association, the State’s Department of Industries and Commerce has assured to take appropriate steps in respect of vacating the occupied areas at the earliest. The Nagaland Industrial Development Corporation Ltd. (NIDC), under the Department of Industries and Commerce, manages and maintains the two Industrial Estates at Dimapur, which were taken over from the State Government in 1976. The Industrial Estates, covering a total area of 40 acres, has 25 ready-built Standard Factory Sheds, according to the Department. The sheds are being rented out at concessional rate in order to encourage and promote industrial activity but the revenue earned as rent from these sheds are sorely insufficient to maintain even the sheds themselves, it states. While the demands for more ready-built sheds are on the rise, the Department maintains, the infrastructure facilities available are acutely inadequate. These three distinct snapshots between June 12 and June 18 are simply jigsaw pieces that form the larger puzzle. And right now, the ones moving the pieces ~ trying to put it together ~ appear just as confused as those watching.