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The one with ‘Shouting Rights’

The sowing season -literally and metaphorically – is here in Nagaland. While the former is muted, the latter is being played out in a grand scale, culminating on February 27. The harvest, however, will be far-reaching.


Election time is ‘maalamaal, malamaal’ (jackpot or abundance), rapturously crooned the supporter of a winning candidate in the thought-provoking 2017 Nagamese movie, ‘Nana – A Tale of Us,’ after they harvested their ‘sowing’ in the form of a pyrrhic victory.


Describing the movie as the “finest films to come out of India” last year, and a ‘Little film of Big Hope’ critic Piyush Roy opined that the movie's succinct perspective on often repeated “governance issue plaguing the society like institutional corruption, electoral malpractice, proxy voting and buying of votes and daily struggle with bad infrastructure…”


"The protagonist (Nana) carries the dreams, hopes and happiness but also warns every Naga family to see the future of their children in the present act,” Asangba Tzudir wrote in a review, adding everyone is “equally responsible to face the pathetic society and now to transform the society into a better and peaceful tomorrow.”


In a nutshell, the movie is biting commentary on how the inherent institutional maladies and assorted electoral mal-practices perpetuate the desolate state of affairs in Nagaland.


As Nagaland goes to poll on February 27, every voter needs to ask pertinently, whether they are just momentary investments – a conduit for others to climb the ladder in the grand scheme of electoral politics.


The benefits are momentary. Take the case of monetary benefits. Reportedly, huge sums of money are spent in buying votes but simple arithmetic estimate will show that in the long run, the benefits are minuscule. A one-time payment of Rs 1,00,000, spread over 5 years comes to a paltry sum of about Rs. 54 per day. Since distributions of money supposedly trickle down according to hierarchy, the foot soldiers mostly earn below 10,000 – just over Rs 5 per day.


To put this into context, the ‘generous’ methodology of Rangarajan committee poverty measurement in India is Rs. 972 per-capita per month for rural and Rs. 1407 for urban areas, translating into roughly around Rs 32 and Rs. 46.9 per day respectively. The World Bank criterion is $1.90 per day (about Rs.122.95 in present exchange rate) as the level of “perceived deprivation in terms of basic human needs.”


A non-monetary exchange such as transfer of jobs or appointment or other consideration makes one forever obliged to the benefactors, guilt-ridden. Whatever the case harvest is not good.


In this glorious melee, ironically both sides blame each other. In ‘Nana,’ while the voters blame the politicians, the latter washed off their hand saying, do we pay the money from trees? What was to be paid was given during the election time. The hapless protagonists, in their moment of cathartic realization of the futility of their actions, console with themselves with the fact that one cannot urge others to change when one’s own eyes are dirty.


Tragically, it was too late for reel ‘Nana,’ her symptoms neglected over the years, and beyond recovery. In the context of electoral politics in Nagaland, while the innocence has been lost and the symptoms are acute, it is not irrecuperable. A good idea, however, overwhelming in execution, will gradually bear fruit. Notwithstanding the scepticism and apparent failure in many areas, the clean and fair elections campaigns are taking roots in many areas. The use of ‘Common Platform’ and ‘white flag’ in many households itself are signs of things to come.


As someone rightly remarked, “While no one is speaking about development, only money, I did not take anything. My conscious clear and my ‘Shouting rights’ intact.”