Khekiye K. Sema, IAS (Retd)
This is a fairy tale with an unusual ‘sadly ever after’ ending possibility rather than a “happily ever after” conclusion. It calls for a concerted effort of all concerned Nagas to strengthen the script thus far written to make it end on the usual happier note like all fairy tales do. The first Chapter of Naga history records a tragic but proud story of freedom struggle of our first generation people standing tall despite suffering inhuman brutality meted out to a defenceless populace by a more powerful alien aggressor called India. What started out emphatically with a single minded devotion to protect their inherent birthright of freedom, floundered somewhere along the road. The second Chapter is obnoxiously stained by hypocritical leaders placing themselves before the cause with Individual ego problems, self-perpetuating priorities with heightened love for money thus causing an ugly turn to secretly reshape the history of the Naga race. The once united house has been led down the path of fragmentation beyond recognition as a result. The vibrant vision of freedom that once ignited the spirit of our people has all but dissipated into a murky blur. The following is our unhappy story:
Once upon a time, not very long ago, a race called the Nagas lived care-freely in their headhunting wilderness unencumbered or threatened by any interference or influence from beyond their isolated existence other than themselves. At that time other races broadly classified as the Arians and the Dravidians in the Indian Subcontinent were under British Colonial regime. The Naga’s environment of freedom was steadily getting violated as the colonising British started making inroad into the Naga territory to protect their expansionist economic interest in the neighbourhood. The British commanded the advantage with their advanced weaponry. They achieved a partial penetration into the Naga territory. When the British finally left the Indian Sub-Continent, the Nagas were exposed to a new wave of foreign invasion in the form of ‘Free India’. The bulk of our rural Naga population supported the Naga National Movement with their heart and with their soul. Despite being poor, the Nagas gave their all to be a part of the National Movement without any reservation and bravely shouldered every humiliating treatment inhumanly meted out to them by the sadistic Indian Army. With the passage of time our ‘National Movement’ gradually transformed into a ‘Frankenstein Mafia’ that we see in our midst today. ‘Sovereignty’ has become just another word for a crazy money making machine. The world of the Nagas has been turned upside down and is now reeling under an unbearable taxation being imposed by the so-called ‘National Workers’, hypocritically flying the banner of “Sovereignty” that no longer looks the same as before. The once hero-worshipped National Workers now collect contempt and teary curses with every rupee they extort in the name of Sovereign Tax.
On the other hand, the Government of Nagaland in reality is more the helpless “Shadow Government” with the real authority being exercised by the NNPG factions from behind the screen in almost every sphere of existence through the mechanism of “fear psychosis”. To paint a politically correct picture the GoN has been officially issuing notifications time and again that no government servant should pay tax to the NNPGs. The comical part of reality is that those who are responsible for issuing such a notification are the first ones to pay this tax to the NNPGs… starting from the Chief Minister’s Office downwards. This farce has been played out ever since the time our Political Parties mortgaged their soul to one NNPG faction or the other in order to win their election. Like a eunuch in a harem the GoN has helplessly watched all government servants pay 24% of their salary to the NNPGS under compulsive duress. The audacity is crystal clear with NSCN (IM) officially notifying that the government servant’s salary tax is now being reduced from 24% to 12%…which is an official confirmation that all government servants were paying 24% earlier to this Faction and they will now continue to pay 12%. The Government also keeps its eyes shut while paying 5-6% of all development funds to the NNPGs and pretend that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. The State Finance Department functions as the hub of information circulation to the NNPGs who get the first copy of the “Drawl Authority” of fund being released to the departments even before the concerned department officially receives its copy. NIA are you listening? By-and-large the 5-6% development funds then get deducted at source through the Drawing Disbursing Officer (DDO) of the concerned department. The Administrative Heads of Department (AHoD) and the Heads of Department (HoD) would normally prefer to remain incognito by not strictly instructing their respective DDOs not to carry out this business transaction with the NNPGs. This tacit understanding emboldens the DDOs to run their own money making industry. In many cases the deduction at source by DDOs is precise to a paisa. No calculation mistake is committed. Many of the DDOs then conduct a brisk negotiation with various NNPG factions for the relaxation of their ‘sovereign tax’ percentages. The concession achieved becomes the net profit of the DDO industry. So lucrative is the income that there are some DDOs who have gone to the extent of threatening their own staffs… who object to deduction of their salary. Come to think of it, Nagaland DDOs should be inducted as part of the negotiation team to carry out the Naga Political parley with the GoI in real time. It is no mean talent being able to convincingly negotiate a reduction of a tax demand from one lakh rupee to even less than one thousand rupees! Nevertheless this is more an expression of extreme case scenario that has been happening. It is absolutely true that most of the HoDs and DDOs are helplessly functioning under real palpable “fear” without personal security. This is what reality looks like.
The fundamental issue here is that the corruptive compromises being made, starts right from the highest office in Nagaland. Bureaucrats have their share of advantages that they conveniently salvage hiding under the cover of Politicians. Put the two scavengers together… under the principle of “I scratch your back you scratch my back” … and we have a potential destabilising concoction that has crippled Nagaland. Given this nexus of complacent conspiracy between the Politicians and the Bureaucrats without transparency or accountability… Nagas have been travelling the pothole riverbed road that only leads downwards.
Therefore, if NIA means business they need to carry out their investigation on a realistic expanded perimeter starting from the TOP of the chain of command. Nothing substantial will happen as long as NIA hunts for rats and allow the rogue elephants to roam the jungle. In another word the purpose of fishing is negated when the focus is only on the helpless fingerlings rather than the big fish in the corrupted pond.
If Nagas really want change…we ought to encourage NIA to intensify their investigation and pointedly focus on the nucleolus source of corruption starting from the top of the pyramid without compromise. For better or for worse, the word …ACCOUNTABILITY… missing from the Naga Dictionary must be reinstated to its rightful place no matter what the cost.
Let it however be said that even as we attempt to set our house in order, Nagas across the board would still dare to pay ‘sovereign tax’ to a Unified Naga National House on the simple principle of “One Government, One Tax” as annunciate by ACAUT…but not in the present insufferable form of multiple Factions and multiple taxations… Not in the present form of trying to secretly decide the destiny of the Nagas without telling them what that future holds. Nagas have not been struggling for sovereignty for so long so as to lose their individual Freedom to ‘NSCN Chinese Communism’. It is time for the Nagas to climb out from the well of fear and stand our honourable ground like our forbearers for the sake of our posterity and allow our story to conclude in a happier positive note.