Where NGOs reign

Imkong Walling 

Nagaland, the past week, was swept up in a mix of excitement, reticence as well, surrounding the long-delayed elections to the Urban Local Bodies slated for June 26.

The hectic public campaigning in Dimapur, Kohima, Mokokchung and other towns was contrasted by an Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) bloc seemingly detached from the election mood. This, however changed, when aspiring poll candidates sneaked their way to sign up for the poll contest, only to be stopped by angry volunteers enforcing the ENPO decision to boycott elections on account of an unfulfilled Government of India pledge for the proposed Frontier Nagaland Territory. Others, who were able to, were forced to withdraw.  

Constitutionally, the action of the candidates was justified. Common sense, however, would have considered otherwise, knowing full well that their furtive bid was sure to invite trouble, which they almost achieved. 

The week was further peppered by a series of wacky directives from governmental and non-governmental entities.

One was an order, dated June 10, purported to have been issued by a Deputy Commissioner, directing “all illegal liquor and gun shop(s)” to shut down from June 12-30, 2024, as a precautionary measure in preparation for the ULB polls. The directive, presumably, was an error in language, but it did not fail to place the state government machinery in an embarrassing situation. It gave the impression that illicit alcohol and gun shops can resume business after the elections.  

The other was a ‘summon letter’ issued by the Mon Area Students’ Union (MASU) to the Chief Veterinary Officer of Mon district for alleged absenteeism. According to the letter, dated June 8, the officer was found “absent/out of station without proper leave” when the union conducted a surprise inspection on June 7. The union sought explanation for the officer allegedly absenting from work, while imposing a fine of Rs 50,000. 

Government employees, not all however, absenting without official leave or not turning up to the place of posting with impunity are well known. This was what the students’ union must have assumed. Their move, though bold, revealed a willful disregard for the rule of law, coupled with a sense of vainglorious immaturity. The inclusion of a monetary fine further served to question their integrity.   

As an NGO, they should have instead posted a strong complaint to the government authority. 

It was a government officer’s forum, and not the government, that responded to the diktat. The forum, while it acknowledged the union’s supposed watchful intention, pointed out the limits of a civil organisation. It asked the union to take their concerns to the “right authority.” 

The forum’s letter sounded firm. It said, “It is neither within your purview nor permitted under any established law to arbitrarily take action against any government employee according to your own terms...” 

The students’ union subsequently issued a statement, nonchalantly justifying the summoning, while expressing regret at what was termed as “misinterpretation” of intention over the fine imposed.

A bigger tragedy was the government steering clear of the episode. It chose to remain silent, as usual, reinforcing the notion of a supine administrative entity letting the world go by. 

The writer is a Principal Correspondent at The Morung Express. Comments can be sent to imkongwalls@gmail.com