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‘Tribalism’ in fund allocation puts Naga CM on a spot

The Central Nagaland Tribal Council (CNTC) says “the funds should be equally distributed district wise and not tribe wise”…writes Nirendra Dev

 It is generally known as the ‘worst’ form of allegation or a crisis to hit any government in Nagaland — it is called ‘tribalism’.

The row pertains to alleged discrimination in fund allocations to various districts and regions in the state where each district is essentially known by its tribal affinity and strongholds.

The Central Nagaland Tribal Council (CNTC) says “the funds should be equally distributed district wise and not tribe wise”.

The CNTC comprises three districts of Mokokchung, Wokha and Zunheboto and it claimed that the allocation of funds was “a clear indication of lackadaisical and step-motherly treatment towards central Nagaland”.

This would suggest – of course allegedly – that the state government has done discrimination against Aos, Lothas and Semas.

The CNTC has demanded that Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio must review the funds and projects and ensure ‘equal distribution’.

The CNTC version was readily endorsed by former Nagaland Chief Minister K.L. Chishi, who said, “I have said this earlier also that Nagas deserve equitable distribution of funds meant for growth and development irrespective of tribal bias or colour.”

Chishi is a Sema Naga and he contested the 2018 Assembly polls on a BJP ticket, but moved to Congress in 2019 to unsuccessfully contest the Lok Sabha elections.

If the CNTC versions are to be believed, discrimination has taken place in some districts like Zunheboto, which is dominated by Semas.

That way the allegations are that funds have been essentially given to Kohima district (CM Rio hails from this district) and adjoining Dimapur areas, Chumukedima and Phek.

This episode would leave the central BJP aggrieved in Delhi as well as Nagaland Deputy CM Y. Patton and other BJP legislators in the Rio cabinet.

Patton hails from Wokha district and belongs to the Lotha tribe, while state BJP President Temjen Along, also
a minister in the state cabinet, is from Ao tribe hailing from Mokokchung district. So, both key BJP leaders are from the central region and now the allegation is that Central Nagaland and communities in this sub-region have been neglected and ignored.

It may be mentioned that the new and development-starved districts of Kiphire and Longleng got no funds from the state Minority Affairs Ministry under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram (PMJVK).

The fact that Chief Minister’s own brother Zhaleo Rio is the Minister for Minority Affairs has put the Rio on a tight spot and of course has embarrassed the BJP which is part of the Rio-led ‘opposition-less government’.

Another regional party, NPF, is also extending support to the Rio-led coalition regime and as many as 59 legislators (in the 60-member Assembly) recently voted for the NDA’s Presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu.

The CNTC now wants the Chief Minister Rio to ‘review’ the fund allocation as per projects and ensure “equal distribution”.

“People are angry today… I am worried. People were shell-shocked to find that in some departments, a few districts walked away with Rs 191.7 crore while the rest of Nagaland got Rs 106 crore,” Chishi told IANS.

The CNTC also stated in a release that Central Nagaland (comprising Mokokchung, Wokha and Zunheboto districts)
has been deprived for the last 20 years.

Incidentally, Rio first became the CM around 20 years back in 2003 and he has been in power for the most period since then, except for his brief spell as a Lok Sabha MP between 2014 and 2018.

The CNTC also urged the 25 legislators of the region to speak up on this matter.

“If they cannot fight for the people, they should resign on moral grounds,” the CNTC release stated.

Chishi now apprehends that the state government may land into ‘overdraft’ crisis as the state finance department will be divested of civil deposits.

“The state government under Rio is in trouble because the Union Finance Ministry has already directed that funds for all centrally sponsored schemes should be deposited with the concerned departments.

“The Nagaland government is, therefore, set to face a huge and unprecedented revenue deficit,” Chishi, who once
held the finance portfolio, told IANS.

The former Chief Minister said that as the new Chief Minister in 2018, Rio had coined the slogan “Change is Coming”.

“If this is the change Rio spoke about, we do not need such changes,” Chishi said.

The only achievement of the Rio-led dispensation has been a combination of gross corruption, nepotism, promoting tribalism and an autocratic style of functioning, he said.

“You do not run a welfare state like this. We find these approaches in fables where stepmothers make their stepchildren suffer. People find these things insulting and provocative. It is time to draw lessons from what’s
going around in countries like Sri Lanka,” Chishi cautioned.

To another question, he said, “I would not like to be harsh, but there is already an investigation going on into the high court complex by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The law should take its course.”

Chishi also said that the only achievement of the Rio regime has been a combination of gross corruption, nepotism, promoting tribalism and an autocratic style of functioning.

Even otherwise, Chief Minister Rio and his government are faced with major challenges.

The newly-floated Rising People’s Party has launched an unprecedented online campaign for the dismissal of the Rio government and imposition of President’s Rule in the state.

On ground zero, political differences have surfaced between Rio’s NDPP and BJP workers. Earlier this week, about 40 NDPP leaders and workers joined the BJP and pledged support to Konngam Konyak, an aspirant for BJP ticket.

If this becomes a trend, the BJP leaders in Delhi would be encouraged to dump the NDPP and contest all the 60 seats on its own in the ensuing Assembly elections due in February-March 2023.

Both Rio and Deputy CM Patton are presently in Delhi where they are likely to call on Home Minister Amit Shah, either separately or together.

(Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of the book ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’. The views expressed are personal)

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