RN Ravi was not just a Governor adorning the Kohima Raj Bhavan. He had a kindred spirit with the people of Nagaland. He would say, “People have so little expectations from the Government. They ask for small things. An example is that of an agricultural marketing shed at Yaroba village in Phek district which he is helping to establish.
Feeling pained at the fact that those who come to Dimapur from distant villages for medical treatment have no place to stay, Ravi worked out a project for a 100-room hostel the expenditure for which would be borne by the Union Power Ministry. Ravi had negotiated with Union Power Minister RP Singh to fund this project. He has meticulously worked out the draft rules for governing this institution so that only those coming for medical treatment and their caregivers would be accommodated in this hostel. As soon as the funds are released for this project work will begin and Ravi says he will continue to monitor the project to ensure it is completed in record time.
Sensing the decline of Science education among students of high and higher secondary education because of which most of them end up pursuing the arts and humanities studies, Ravi has pushed for Science education at the Higher Secondary level at village Chesezu in Phek District. He has personally met and persuaded Union Education Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan to make funds available to encourage and promote Science studies in Nagaland.
To make sure that students are incentivised to take up Science as a subject at the Higher Secondary level Ravi has instituted an annual award of Rs 1 lakh, 50,000 and 25,000 for the first 3 position holders in Higher Secondary Science. A corpus of Rs 1 crore has been set aside for this endowment fund. To make sure that this project is not aborted Ravi had discussed threadbare with the Chairman, Nagaland Board of School Education, Commissioner & Secretary, Education Department, and Principal Director, Nagaland School Education, and finalised the details.
So the Governor of Nagaland did something which most Governors have let alone which is to empower citizens by way of improving the educational system and especially the primary school system which he found to be in a shambles with many more children out of school than inside the classroom. RN Ravi was not overly obsessed with his job as Interlocutor and one suspects that after having come to Nagaland as Governor he realised that his energies are better spent in taking the fruits of development to the people ~ a task that successive elected Governments of Nagaland have failed to deliver. While the wealth ranking of the elected and their businesses have multiplied ten-fold or more the lot of the voters remain unaddressed.
It’s normal to use the yardstick of Dimapur and Kohima to measure the progress of Nagaland but the irony cannot be starker. Beyond these two towns and the third one ~ Mokokchung ~ other distant villages are marked by a sense of desolation and hopelessness with non-existent roads or roads that resemble craters on the moon and dusty as ever in the dry seasons. The NSCN (IM) which is looking for a settlement with Government of India has never once in recent memory tried to address the development backlogs in the State of Nagaland because as someone rightly remarked, even if Nagaland were to become a sovereign country as desired by the rebel groups they would at least have the basic infrastructure in place.
The gentry that can afford to have sent their children to the best schools and colleges outside the State. The ones left behind are those that have neither political clout nor the voice to demand a better educational infrastructure where students are taught by qualified teachers and not by absentee teachers appointed not because they are qualified but because of their political affiliations and tribal loyalties. This has killed education not just in Nagaland but in the hill States of the North East where kinship ties and political loyalties score above merit.
As far as Naga nationalism is concerned it has travelled a long way and compassion fatigue has set in among the common folks who have no stake in the peace process as much as they have been left out in the cold as far as governance is concerned. In the recently released assessment report of the NITI Aayog where 103 out of 120 districts of the 8 States were assessed for their ability to reach closer to the 15 sustainable development goal (SDGs) as laid out by the United Nations, Nagaland scores last with Meghalaya just a step ahead. The small State of Sikkim scores well on all indicators which include gender equality, peace, justice and strong institutions, life on land, climate action, responsible consumption and production, sustainable cities and communities, reduced inequalities, industry, innovation and infrastructure, decent work and economic growth, affordable and clean energy, clean water and sanitation, quality education, good health and well-being, zero hunger and no poverty.
It is clear from the indicators that some States have shown no progress especially in sectors like education, climate action and decent work and economic growth. But States don’t seem to care for these indicators because there are no disincentives for non-performance. The Government of India continues to pour in funds without monitoring how they are spent and we know where the bulk of that money lands up. The notion that tribal societies are largely equal is flawed. Corruption is incorrigibly high and attempts to correct this will lead to displacement of those who make such attempts at social engineering. RN Ravi the Governor tried to do that. He had to be shunted out because those at the helm of power don’t want their well-designed plans to build their earthly mansions disrupted. Period.
(The writer is Editor, Shillong Times)