Yes and so it begins ~ the hula and the hoopla, the pomp and the ceremony, the fêtes and the festivals, the festivities and the celebrations. No wait ~ the celebrations began earlier with the thanksgivings and the felicitations ~ the rest are merely the natural corollaries, the follow-ups. And, as we can see “change is coming”; it is still on the way and considering our road conditions, it will take time even if cosmetic surgeries are underway ~ however much they are supervised, which by the way make for photo-ops and provide fodder by way of “news”. While mini-Hornbill Festivals in district headquarters are not exactly a new idea, as they were suggested years ago, this decision of the “new” state Government also cannot be categorized as ground-breaking “policy-making” that would change the economic realities or even the cultural vibrancy of numerous Naga tribes. At best, food-sellers, handloom and handicraft and sundry “entrepreneurs” would make some money to last them for a couple of weeks. By all means, let’s have mini-Hornbills (and we can even think of Tragopans, mini and maxi) across the state but let us also have the state Government deliberate on a sustainable economic policy encompassing agriculture and allied sectors, tourism, small and medium industries, health, education and everything enabling and fueling sustained and sustainable development to create the environment for economic stability and confidence. See, it may be quite good fun and make good publicity for our elected representative to make trips to Delhi to meet Union Ministers, take photographs with such dignitaries and get them published in our local newspapers but they are nothing more than the notorious fifteen minutes’ of fame, especially seeing that nothing happens after these visits and the Delhi dignitaries only make assurances, hardly make good their assurances. One cannot blame them because there are constitutional financial norms and rules ~ besides certain things called Utilization Certificates ~ so no amount of visits by our elected representatives would change the financial framework, so to speak. Talking of which, who started these visits and why? What has been the impact of such visits on the economic and development scenario of Nagaland? In fact, who started these thanksgiving and felicitation programmes, especially felicitations programmes of political heads by Government Departments? Shouldn’t the Chief Secretary take serious note of such programmes and come down heavily on Government servants, who apparently forget that they are Government servants, not party workers and sycophants? By all means, Government Departments must instruct the political heads on the objectives and functioning of the Department but they do not require a “programme” analogous to publicity blitzkriegs. We must then necessarily ask why do we feel the need to publicize the work we do ~ for which we are constitutionally and morally obliged and for which we are paid salaries and enjoy the powers and perks of office? For any Chief Minister or Minister or bureaucrat or even the humble SDO to inspect a road, a bridge, whatever, there is no need for party workers, public, sycophants and the media to accompany and make a huge publicity event ~ it’s his job to do it. And if the IPR Department is well-attuned to subtle public relations interfaces, such inspections will definitely be brought to the public’s notice. The in-your-face kind of publicity blitzkriegs that the public is made to suffer actually boomerangs ~ especially when sustained and sustainable development doesn’t complement the talk, much less the photo-ops we have seen umpteenth times before. Remember that don’t-eat-the seeds speech repeatedly rendered about fifteen years ago? But yes, the VIP culture has to go however it is not the proscribing of gifts to Chief Guests or the removal of lal butties and nameplates from vehicles that will end this most undemocratic culture. As long as elected representatives, bureaucrats, public leaders and even tribal and church biggies actually believe that they are VIPs and conduct themselves as people above the hoi-polloi, the VIP culture will continue. Very briefly, it’s all a matter of not knowing what democracy is and what it demands, especially humility, of those who are entrusted the responsibility of public service constitutionally, legally and morally. Clearly on this score, our biggies need edification, not mere literacy. In any case, as the term “VIP culture” also suggests, it is acquired and isn’t innate ~ ergo, it can be discarded, if there is the will. But is the will there? Change begins with a scarce commodity called integrity.