The outgoing Governor of Nagaland PB Acharya during an exclusive Q&A session with The Morung Express on July 20. (Morung Photo)
The Morung Express exclusive Q&A with outgoing Governor PB Acharya
Kohima | July 24
Outgoing octogenarian Padmanabha Balakrishna Acharya popularly known as PB Acharya who was sworn in as the 19th Governor of Nagaland on July 19, 2014 completes his term this month. He will be replaced by RN Ravi.
Dubbed as the people’s Governor, Acharya, during his five years tenure in the state has been very vocal on the Naga political issue, corruption, education and tribal values among others. Greatly concerned for the welfare of the common people, he also toured extensively to interact with the grassroots and initiated a number of projects to alleviate their plights.
In a tête-à-tête with The Morung Express, outgoing Governor Acharya details his five year experience with Nagaland. The following is an abridged and edited transcript of that interview.
- The Morung Express (MEx): Looking back five years, how does Nagaland today differ from the day you assumed the August office? What is your general feeling as you complete the tenure?
Acharya: I am very happy. It has been really a fruitful and productive period for me... I have enriched my experiences and have come know about the people – their problems and issues.
Five years back what the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken up immediate step to solve political issue and people are now have great hope that there is a political will to solve the problem… This is very important.
From the people point of view, enough is enough, and they want now peace; there is a hunger for peace and all people are prepared to plan ahead and to work out what whatever is agreed in peace agreement and implement it successfully.
From political point of view, I am very happy that the present government has a strong opposition. All this year, whenever a government was formed, opposition number was not that strong. For a democracy, opposition is very important thing. We have a strong opposition in the name of NPF (Naga People Front). Politically also, we are also marching ahead. We have to have greater spirit to reach the economic development of the state.
- MEx: Your infallible energy at this stage of life is incredible and inspiring. What keeps the Governor of Nagaland running and what is your philosophy of life?
Acharya: As Governor as appointed by the President of India and Prime Minister, we have different concept. It is not a titular head or a person to sit in the ivory tower. The Governor should be friendly with the people, meet the people, enable the people and find out the problems and try to solve it.
To do outreach is a constitutional duty... The present situation demands that the Governor has to outreach and every individual have to be outreach to strengthen the society. From that angle, I have been moving and meeting the people and see how I help them.
Raj Bhavan gate always opens and my heart is open for the people. Anyone who has a social cause and agenda and wants to do something in his/her area, I invite them and give a helping hand. This is part of the outreaching job.
- MEx: Can you highlight some of the most important accomplishments and lessons learned during your current tenure?
Acharya: For any state to develop, education is very important. For industry, we require electricity, and youth should be employed – 3Es (Education, Electricity and Employment) are very important. We have educational institutions giving education but we have to have more and more academic courses which give them skills. The present education makes them fit for government job but there is no vacancy...
Our universities should produce skilled persons. What resources we have in term of oil, coal, hydro etc. Our universities should teach how to create wealth from these.
The need of the state should be addressed by the universities courses so that our youths can positively helped in the development of the state and stay in Nagaland... For this, change of academic system and skills are required.
Again, go to the villages, many things are there. India lives in villages, we have to care for villagers who produce food for us. The problems or the issues for the development of the state should be the academic agenda of the university.’
- MEx: Generally speaking, is politics in Nagaland different from other states? If so, can you point out some of the distinctive features?
Acharya: In Nagaland, I am so happy that the people are well-organised from the ground level. So we are in an advantage situation. But many a times, these organised groups dictate the political parties to come to a conclusion. This should not be there. Organisations should be to strengthen the government activities.
On women issue, we have to take a decision now. Our women are second to none; they should be allowed to participate just like in the others states in taking part as candidates in the elections. That would bring a great change.
MEx: The Political talks between the various Naga Political Groups (NPGs) and the Government of India is over 2 decades now. What is your assessment of the peace process?
I’m 100% positive by this year we will have a political solution. Already Framework Agreements has been signed by almost all the groups. There are two or three important issues where they have to come to a conclusion – flag, constitution and anthem for the state. Once these three issues are amicably solved, there will be peace and above all, the Prime Minister Modi has a political will to solve the problem. That is very important and all the groups (NPGs) are also cooperating without minimising or losing the main political issues.
We will get this year a respectable solution and we will march shoulder to shoulder with other states in the development activities.
“The problems or the issues for the development of the state should be the academic agenda of the university”
MEx: The Nagaland government recently notified the process of preparing the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants (RIIN). Many people have argued that it is more a diversionary tactic to skip the issue of implementing the Inner Line Permit (ILP) all over the state. Do you agree with the process?
Acharya: ILP is for the non-Nagas who enter Nagaland to safeguard the interest of the people. Now you are requiring a RIIN; nothing wrong in that but we should have a broader mind. All the tribes should be included in that, not only Naga tribes. There are non-Naga tribes like Kukis, Garos, Kacharis, Karbis or there are Hindus; they should also not be discriminated.
Apart from that, there are so many Bengalis, Marwaris and non tribals. The feeling that you are non-tribals and you are separate from the state should be alienated. Those who are here for years together serving the state should be included just like a citizen with equal rights...
It (RIIN) should not be issued to discriminate the people and then create unnecessary division in the society... Some people may take the opportunity to do this but the government should be careful in handling this...
ILP and RIIN should be strictly done and none of the Indian citizen is discriminated and affected by this.
- MEx: One of the keen initiatives during your tenure, Governor, has been in the field of education? What is your assessment of the present education scenario in the state?
Acharya: Ours is a small state with around 20 lakh populations and we are very proud that we have 5 universities and affiliated colleges are also in good numbers; and infrastructure wise, high schools are also many. Education wise, Nagaland is not lacking as universal education is there. But our products, when they came out, they don’t have jobs. So the academics in the universities have to change... When they come out the university, they should be job givers, not job seekers. How it can be done? More and more entrepreneurship should be there. For example, now we have a term organic food. How to create it, commercially use it, preserve it that should be the knowledge the university should be giving. Water shortages are there. How to do rain water harvesting and preserve it or solar energy; such knowledge or traditional concept of Morungs are also missing.
“Any religion should not make you fanatic. You should be broadminded. Unknowingly or knowingly, many fanatics have been created here, who are disregarding the feeling of other religious people... Somewhere, affirming that I am a Christian has given a wrong dimension to many of the people...This mindset should change”
The main expenditures of the government are on education and PWD. But there are many things requiring special attention. Our government schools are attended by the poorest of the poor people. Teachers are appointed, they are getting good salary but the private schools are not paying even half of the salary of government school teachers. Still then, the private schools are bringing good result but government schools are still behind.
There are duplicate teachers, no infrastructure, no library, no sports, many things are lacking, which according to record might have gone, so something is happening and it should be strictly followed why it is not reaching the people.
SSA, MDM –These are very important things. When I visited many schools only one day (in a week) meal is coming. That means somebody is siphoning the poorest of the poor people money. This corruption is not accepted.”
Education, if it is to strengthen, we have to have strong hand and right people that our children are not lacking because of poor governance…We have the institution. We have to change the mindset of government and see that we bring out good result…
We have natural resources but we do not have proper planning to make it into wealth.
8. MEx: You also have been an ardent advocate of integrity in public office and also a vocal campaigner against corruption. Are you satisfied with how the things stand at present and what would you do differently to complete the unfinished task?
Acharya: The root out corruption from the lowest level, the government has to take strong step and it is possible, because Naga society are well organized from the lowest level and the church can play very dominant role in purifying the society.
We are having different denominations (of Christianity) in the state. All denomination should decide how to purify our society and make it free from all evils. They can. I am sure their voice will be heard by the people...
“Be proud that you are Naga and your agenda should be to strengthen Nagaland, not strengthen yourself...It requires you intelligence, you empowerment and your commitment to strengthen your villages”
I am not very happy about the situation. While the present government is bent upon on tackling corruption, it is yet to prove that they take action against the corrupt people.
Corruption is the biggest disease, more than AIDS and cancer and it can be addressed properly if the government is very careful and catch hold of the corrupt people wherever or whoever maybe, things may change.
We have many achievers in small Nagaland but they are not giving back to the society. Whether you are a Christian, Muslim or Hindu, if you are in a position, because of your hard work, to become rich, and keep your wealth to yourself, then religion has not played any role in your life or education has not given you broader mind. An achiever has to become a giver...We have to strengthen the poor man.
11. Are you satisfied with the functioning of Lokayutta?
Acharya: Its hands have to be of Lokayukta to be strengthened. It is a very good step and I congratulate the government for forming Lokayukta as it is the need of the hour. For democratic government, it is one of the important institutions to arrest the corrupt people.
Lokayukta has to be given all strengths so that it can work independently without fear or favour.
- MEx: According to a recent central government survey, Nagaland has the highest unemployment rate in India? Can you share your thoughts on this and some possible remedies?
Acharya: I don’t agree in the sense which has been mentioned here. Unemployment (in Nagaland) means, they don’t have government jobs. This is not the way.
We have the highest numbers of graduates. In a population of around 20 lakh, we have more than 3 lakh highly qualified graduates from every faculty. No societies in India give that much strong education... Our graduates have capacity to create wealth but their direction is only towards government job. We need to change the mindset and entrepreneurship should be encouraged. This is also a legacy of the British, which left an education system to run the government, not the strengthen India.
“Corruption is the biggest disease, more than AIDS and cancer and it can be addressed properly if the government is very careful and catch hold of the corrupt people wherever or whoever maybe, things may change,”
Our people are second to none. Depending only on Delhi for development should be stopped. That should be the agenda of the State government.
- MEx: Apart from economic issues, can you list of issues some pertinent issues requiring urgent intervention in the state?
Acharya: Yes, we are unnecessarily proud of our religion. It pains me as a Governor, when we observe Holi, Diwali and then prepare sweets and give to the people, our own employees here, Nagas says, we won’t take. When Christmas comes and they come with sweets, I eat it. India is a secular country. For no reason, Nagas have become unnecessarily proud about religion... Any religion should not make you fanatic. You should be broadminded. Unknowingly or knowingly, many fanatics have been created here, who are disregarding the feeling of other religious people. This is not accepted... Somewhere, affirming that I am a Christian has given a wrong dimension to many of the people. I have felt here in Raj Bhavan. This mindset should change. Every religion is equal; that is the basic strength of India... Democracy, secularism and respecting diversity, these are the three strong pillars of India...One who does note not believe in God are treated as equal in India.
Apart from this, there are 150 unrecognized villages in Nagaland. They are denied the government schools, hospitals, roads. Nothing is there. If you want to strengthen Nagaland, even the one who disagrees with you either religion or customary law etc, they have rights and you cannot outcast them.
Second important thing, there are many service givers. Those service givers in the state like dobhis, cobblers, and barbers. . Many of these categories of people are outsiders but they are here for generations, years together and they are not getting the benefit of Food Security, while even the richest Nagas are getting it…
Unless you care for the person who gives you services, Nagaland will never become strong. A true Christian should never do this. Caring and sharing should be the principle.
Service givers should be given all the benefits of the central or state welfare programmes.
- MEx: What is your message to the Naga society, particularly the youth as you complete your tenure?
Be proud that you are Naga and your agenda should be to strengthen Nagaland, not strengthen yourself. We you go away from the Nagaland, you are strengthening that state you are working for; Nothing wrong in that but not at the cost of your own state. It requires you intelligence, you empowerment and your commitment to strengthen your villages… We have the potentiality to become very strong, economically one of the richest states in India…
Educated people are there. Resources are there. Create wealth. Work for Nagaland. Make Nagaland strong and be proud that our state is not a beggar state to go and ask money from Delhi.
- MEx: Can you give us peek into next stage of your illustrious life? What’s in store next?
I have got the satisfaction that I have done the right things for our citizens and they love me and they respect me
I am a soldier in the party. Being a governor, I am apolitical man; otherwise I am a BJP activist. When I go back after my term… whatever the government says, if either the President or Prime Minister wants to make use of my energy, I am prepared.
Apart from that, I have great love affection for North East, particularly Nagaland. Anytime, Anywhere, Naga people want me I am prepared. I am at disposal of Nagaland to help and give helping hand to strengthen Nagaland to become equal partners along with the 28 states of the country.”