By Dr SC Jamir
Nagaland, today, is in the throes of a terrible crisis; perhaps, one of the most serious since its formation. Insurgency-induced conflicts have over time been compounded by a combination of several disturbing factors. These factors-political, economic and social, often driven by narrow competing interests, coupled with naked corruption and massive youth unemployment have led to an incendiary situation in the State. Available figures from the Employment Exchange indicate that there are more than eighty thousand educated unemployed in Nagaland. This is a time-bomb ticking away slowly but surely. The situation is so grim that the State finds itself at the bottom end of the pyramid in comparison to others and at a time when India is poised to be an emerging economic power.
Prolonged insurgency and the absence of peace and stability, no doubt, impeded the State’s progress and development in the initial years. The pace should have picked up after agreements of cease-fire were signed between the Government of India and various underground outfits. Sadly, that has not happened due to political instability, rank mis-governance and rampant corruption indulged in by those in power. As a result of all this, Nagaland is now perceived as a failed State while the rest of India has marched ahead.
It is important to ponder over why it is so. Only an honest and dispassionate analysis based on a multi-dimensional approach will reveal why we are in this sorry state of affairs.
Poor Governance: Nagaland, today, is reeling under an administration which has no sinews. There is no rule of law nor an effective mechanism to deliver services to the people. The gulf between those governing the State and the governed has never been wider. Public servants are a demoralized lot under a climate of fear and intimidation and a political leadership that is both inept and dishonest. Discipline in all echelons of the administrative machinery is conspicuously absent.
In spite of the cease-fire and a framework agreement to solve the long-standing Naga political problem, the guns are still booming. Emergence of new underground outfits, factional fights among them resulting in killings and rampant extortions have created a gloomy climate of fear amongst all sections of the people. Poor governance and abdication of constitutional authority on the part of the ruling dispensation have further exacerbated the situation where all developmental activities have come to a grinding halt. In fact, it will not be out of place to say that this has affected the honesty, courage and moral fibre of the Naga society as a whole.
Elections in Nagaland have proved to be the fountainhead of corruption with both the givers and takers indulging in shameful selling and buying of votes. Unacceptable levels of election expenditure during the polls have forced members of the ruling party to demand and accept bribes from the contractors for execution of all development projects. Even public services which in a democracy are the citizens’ rightful due are not exempted from bribe. There is no mechanism against political corruption. The State Vigilance Commission which is supposed to act as a bulwark against corruption in the bureaucracy is toothless.
Besides, the political executive being neck-deep in corruption, there is no fear of any punitive action among the government officers and staff also. Since funds meant for development are siphoned off, there is no visible signs of progress in the State. Infrastructure is in a state of ruins and so is the case with the social sector-be it health or education or drinking water supply. In a nutshell, corruption, now a way of life, has eaten into the vitals of the Naga society and all the virtues that it once stood for.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE:
Right Choice of People’s Representatives
To overhaul the entire system in Nagaland, it has to start from the roots. Commercialization and auctioning of precious votes during elections must be stopped completely. All Christian voters who believe in truth and righteousness must show their faith and belief in action. Towards this end, the Churches in Nagaland ought to take up this righteous cause without any delay. The youth of the State also must raise their voice against this growing cancer. Sanctification of Naga polity has become imperative, if overhauling of the present system has to succeed.
Secondly, time has come to elect representatives to the Nagaland Assembly, who are enlightened, committed with vision and mission for the future of Nagaland. They should be men of strong characters. Side by side, the people imbued with new ideas and vision should create a new favourable and conducive environment to allow their representatives to design a better future for Nagaland through the Nagaland Legislative Assembly.
Creation of a safe environment for investment and development
Peace and security are pre-requisites for economic development. Development cannot thrive where there is deprivations and frustration of popular aspirations. No sensible investor would like to step in with his money where even his life is not secure. Potential investors from outside will never come to Nagaland under the present situation where even the locals are facing threats. At a time when Chief Ministers of States are hosting investment summits at home and abroad to woo investors to invest in their States with a slew of incentives, Nagaland has remained totally untouched by this surge of investment, including FDI, that is taking place in other States.
Creation of avenues for employment of youth:
As stated earlier, unemployed youth can be a potential source of trouble for the State. The youth unemployment scenario in Nagaland is like a volcano waiting to explode. The bureaucracy in the State is already quite large and, therefore, avenues for employment under the government are limited. This necessitates launching of innovative schemes for promoting entrepreneurship and self-employment of the youth with an attractive package of incentives. In the interim, grant of an unemployment allowance may be considered for all the youth without employment. The government of the day may not treat this as a serious problem but once the youths take to the street, the situation might implode with serious social consequences.
The topmost priority in Nagaland is to bring the entire administration and governance system back on the rails. The machinery for maintenance of law and order must be strengthened and the police force in the State equipped properly to deal firmly with miscreants and law-breakers. The opacity with which the present system is shrouded has to be lifted and transparency restored. Contact and communication with the people is the hallmark of good governance. This must be ensured by the Ministers and officers in the field undertaking tours to the villages and explaining to the people how the government is working and how funds meant for development are being utilised.
Strict monitoring of execution of projects and implementation of schemes by the political executive and senior bureaucrats will not only result in preventing leakages but also restore the confidence of the people in the administration. Along with this, strict discipline in government offices through surprise checks by Ministers and senior officers must be ensured. The State Vigilance Commission must be revamped by bringing in senior officers from outside the State on deputation, if needed. To check political corruption, we might seriously consider appointing a Lok Pal or Ombudsman under the provisions of the Lok Pal Act as has been done by many States including Meghalaya in our region.
Looking ahead-the Framework Agreement and beyond:
We can safely presume that the framework agreement signed on the 3rdof August 2015 in the presence of the Home Minister and the Prime Minister was within the boundaries of the Constitution of India. Hence, any final agreement that would emerge will also not in any way disturb the system of governance under the Constitution. It is expected that whatever agreement is drawn up would be in the best interests of the Nagas .Recognizing the contemporary political reality, let us, instead of indulging in political polemics, call upon the Nagas to rise up in unison and urge upon the Government of India to hammer out an honourable solution of the Naga problem without any further delay.
Meanwhile, the Central Government should be honest and bold enough to make public the full contents of the framework agreement to the people of Nagaland. With the dawn of a new political environment, the people of Nagaland can embark upon once again a well ordered and progressive administration to promote rapid economic development of the State in order to catch up with the rest of the country. This would require renewed determination, dedication and commitment for the people of Nagaland. Let the final political settlement be made first and, thereafter, let us collectively usher in a new era of peace and prosperity in Nagaland.
(The writer is former Chief Minister of Nagaland and also served as Governor of several States in a long career in public life. The above is a statement issued by Dr SC Jamir on September 14, 2018)