22 May 2015

Mizoram: Tribal district’s chief executive, 5 others suspects in anti-graft investigation for siphoning off teachers’ salaries

The LADC is an autonomous tribal district under the sixth schedule of the Indian Constitution, and is located in Mizoram's southern periphery bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar.

By Adam Halliday

A local court has given permission for Mizoram’s Anti-Corruption Bureau to proceed with criminal investigation against the Chief Executive Member of the Lai Autonomous District Council (LADC) and five others for allegedly siphoning off several crores of rupees meant for teachers’ salaries, including those of ghost teachers.

The LADC is an autonomous tribal district under the sixth schedule of the Indian Constitution, and is located in Mizoram’s southern periphery bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The Aizawl District court gave its assent to the ACB on Thursday after the anti-graft agency submitted it’s premilinary enquiry showing at least Rs 3.19 crores in teachers’ salaries were siphoned off by the District Education Officer, a teacher working as a cashier in his office and two leaders of the district’s teachers’ association, who purportedly also gave Rs 21 lakhs of their loot to CEM V Zirsanga.

According to the preliminary enquiry report submitted to the court, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, DEO Lalduna Chinzah withdrew salaries for more than a hundred teachers worth Rs 1.33 crores in spite of the same already being withdrawn earlier.

Chinzah had also issued Last Pay Ceritifcates for 41 teaching and non-teaching staff who had never been employed by the LADC.

The DEO also withdrew salaries for two ghost teachers which amounts to at least Rs 13 lakhs.
Meanwhile, salaries of three real teachers worth a total of more than Rs 16 lakhs was also withdrawn but the money never reached the trio.

The ACB’s inquiry says at least four others benefitted from the siphoning of funds besides the DEO, who allegedly pocketed more than Rs 73 lakhs.

It says N C Muankima and C Lalchawiliana, respectively the president and secretary of the district’s Middle School Teachers’ Association, took at least Rs 53 lakhs between themselves and of this handed over Rs 21 lakhs to CEM V Zirsanga.

The teacher cum cashier in the DEO’s office Ramengzauva meanwhile is alleged to have gotten Rs 30 lakhs for himself.

Besides these five persons, the ACB has also received sanction to investigate a former assistant education officer named B Vanlalngheta, who is currently poisted in the Art and Culture Department.
The ACB said it examined a total of 48 witnesses including Minister of State C Ngunlianchunga, who was formerly CEM of the LADC before becoming an MLA in the 2013 statewide elections.

Khaplang, In The Eyes Of An Indian Naga

The NSCN-K’s first ceasefire meeting with the Myanmar authorities, to which Baruah refers in order to glorify S.S. Khaplang and criticise the Indian government, was at Hkamti on April 9, 2012.


NSCN, NSCN-K militants, Naga politics, Myanmar, India Look East policy, Look East policy, Northeast India,
Nothing can be farther from the truth than equating the NSCN-K with Myanmar in the context of India’s engagement.
Sanjib Baruah’s ‘The Nagas of India and Myanmar’ (IE, May 14) speaks volumes about his scholarship. But there are many Nagas like me who have firsthand experience of the issue, particularly the recent developments highlighted by the article.

The NSCN-K’s first ceasefire meeting with the Myanmar authorities, to which Baruah refers in order to glorify S.S. Khaplang and criticise the Indian government, was at Hkamti on April 9, 2012. The meeting was undoubtedly a red letter day for the NSCN-K. The Myanmar government organised a fantastic cultural evening, followed by a gala dinner. The ceasefire agreement was drafted and signed by none other than Kilonser Wangtin Naga and Kilonser P. Tikhak, leaders of Baruah’s “yet-to-be-named group of former NSCN-K members”. Our group has aptly been named NSCN-Reformation.

Notwithstanding Myanmar’s hospitality, the initial political concessions did not reflect the mature political acumen touted by Baruah. The Myanmar authorities wanted to restrict Naga areas to only four towns. But we managed to get the main ceasefire office at Hkamti and asked for sub-offices in all towns. The Hkamti office was demanded to ensure that at least this town remained within Naga areas. We also asked Myanmar to immediately demarcate Naga areas, so that Naga areas that had gone to the Kachins and Shans could be brought back. Unfortunately, Khaplang had done little to prevent Naga areas from going to other communities. So much for his “ideological worldview” and “ideological commitments”.

The two Naga leaders from the Indian side, Wangtin Naga and P. Tikhak, expelled by none other than Khaplang himself, fought with the Myanmar authorities for these rights. These two were the architects of Khaplang’s authority in parts of Sagaing Region. Was it not a reflection of their commitment to a pan-Naga political and social identity? For us, the concerns of our brothers and sisters in Myanmar were as dear as those of our brothers and sisters in India. Both Khole Konyak and Kitovi Zhimoni parted ways with Khaplang, though these two leaders had stood by him and did not consider him a “Burmese Naga”.

Who, then, broke this bond? Who divided the Nagas into Myanmarese and Indian? Who gave the identity of “Indian Nagas” to us? Who betrayed the Naga cause? The answer is Khaplang. Khaplang exploited both leaders, who knew English, to ink the historic agreement with Myanmar only to enjoy its fruits with his Myanmarese brothers. When it came to a similar ceasefire with the Indian government, he opposed it tooth and nail. When it came to political dialogue with India, Khaplang wanted to wait for talks with the NSCN-IM (the Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah faction) to fail. Khaplang did not have any stake in a political settlement with the Indian government. This was political opportunism at its worst. Khaplang is answerable to the Nagas of the world as to why he has created Nagas within Nagas.

Khaplang is a fatherly figure (baba) in Naga society, and Nagas respect their elders. But one should deserve and inspire that respect through actions, not fear. Regarding Wangtin’s statement “to my great baba as no son has any bad intention towards his father”, he was not talking about the post-split period, but the one prior to it, when he tried to convince Khaplang to take into consideration several problems faced on the Indian side. But Khaplang turned a deaf ear to his pleas, thinking Wangtin was doing so only for his own benefit. That’s why he clarified that a son can never have any bad intentions towards his father. His pleas were meant to save the organisation from sinking because of the backbiters. Ultimately, it culminated in the current state of affairs. Therefore, it was not at all an apologetic statement as made out by Baruah.

As regards Khaplang’s influence on the Indian side, a few incidents of violence by fugitive followers don’t prove his influence. Indeed, the rising public resentment against violence and the call for non-cooperation speak against it. Sooner rather than later, the truth will prevail. There is a pantheon of Naga leaders who have sacrificed themselves at the altar of the Naga cause. Khaplang does not even merit a mention.

His protection to other Indian insurgent groups in Myanmar is not because of his influence. It is a marriage of convenience. Other groups take advantage of his ceasefire with Myanmar to seek refuge, while Khaplang takes “protection money”. As regards whether India should learn from Myanmar on how to deal with Khaplang, whether Indian security forces have the capacity to contain the NSCN-K, whether Myanmar will extend a helping hand by not allowing Khaplang to use its soil, and whether India can solve the Naga issue only by talking to the NSCN-IM, it is for the Indian government to ponder. In any case, nothing can be farther from the truth than equating the NSCN-K with Myanmar in the context of India’s engagement.

This article has been written by MIP, Secretary, NSCN-Reformation, Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland.
its worst. Khaplang is answerable to the Nagas of the world as to why he has created Nagas within Nagas.
Khaplang is a fatherly figure (baba) in Naga society, and Nagas respect their elders. But one should deserve and inspire that respect through actions, not fear. Regarding Wangtin’s statement “to my great baba as no son has any bad intention towards his father”, he was not talking about the post-split period, but the one prior to it, when he tried to convince Khaplang to take into consideration several problems faced on the Indian side. But Khaplang turned a deaf ear to his pleas, thinking Wangtin was doing so only for his own benefit. That’s why he clarified that a son can never have any bad intentions towards his father. His pleas were meant to save the organisation from sinking because of the backbiters. Ultimately, it culminated in the current state of affairs. Therefore, it was not at all an apologetic statement as made out by Baruah.
As regards Khaplang’s influence on the Indian side, a few incidents of violence by fugitive followers don’t prove his influence. Indeed, the rising public resentment against violence and the call for non-cooperation speak against it. Sooner rather than later, the truth will prevail. There is a pantheon of Naga leaders who have sacrificed themselves at the altar of the Naga cause. Khaplang does not even merit a mention.
His protection to other Indian insurgent groups in Myanmar is not because of his influence. It is a marriage of convenience. Other groups take advantage of his ceasefire with Myanmar to seek refuge, while Khaplang takes “protection money”. As regards whether India should learn from Myanmar on how to deal with Khaplang, whether Indian security forces have the capacity to contain the NSCN-K, whether Myanmar will extend a helping hand by not allowing Khaplang to use its soil, and whether India can solve the Naga issue only by talking to the NSCN-IM, it is for the Indian government to ponder. In any case, nothing can be farther from the truth than equating the NSCN-K with Myanmar in the context of India’s engagement.
This article has been written by MIP, Secretary, NSCN-Reformation, Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland.
- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/khaplang-in-the-eyes-of-an-indian-naga/2/#sthash.oKMPgOam.dpuf
its worst. Khaplang is answerable to the Nagas of the world as to why he has created Nagas within Nagas.
Khaplang is a fatherly figure (baba) in Naga society, and Nagas respect their elders. But one should deserve and inspire that respect through actions, not fear. Regarding Wangtin’s statement “to my great baba as no son has any bad intention towards his father”, he was not talking about the post-split period, but the one prior to it, when he tried to convince Khaplang to take into consideration several problems faced on the Indian side. But Khaplang turned a deaf ear to his pleas, thinking Wangtin was doing so only for his own benefit. That’s why he clarified that a son can never have any bad intentions towards his father. His pleas were meant to save the organisation from sinking because of the backbiters. Ultimately, it culminated in the current state of affairs. Therefore, it was not at all an apologetic statement as made out by Baruah.
As regards Khaplang’s influence on the Indian side, a few incidents of violence by fugitive followers don’t prove his influence. Indeed, the rising public resentment against violence and the call for non-cooperation speak against it. Sooner rather than later, the truth will prevail. There is a pantheon of Naga leaders who have sacrificed themselves at the altar of the Naga cause. Khaplang does not even merit a mention.
His protection to other Indian insurgent groups in Myanmar is not because of his influence. It is a marriage of convenience. Other groups take advantage of his ceasefire with Myanmar to seek refuge, while Khaplang takes “protection money”. As regards whether India should learn from Myanmar on how to deal with Khaplang, whether Indian security forces have the capacity to contain the NSCN-K, whether Myanmar will extend a helping hand by not allowing Khaplang to use its soil, and whether India can solve the Naga issue only by talking to the NSCN-IM, it is for the Indian government to ponder. In any case, nothing can be farther from the truth than equating the NSCN-K with Myanmar in the context of India’s engagement.
This article has been written by MIP, Secretary, NSCN-Reformation, Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland.
- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/khaplang-in-the-eyes-of-an-indian-naga/2/#sthash.oKMPgOam.dpuf
21 May 2015

As centre changes fund-sharing formula, Northeast Faces an Unprecedented Financial Crisis

A look at Mizoram's finances shows why states in the North East might have to sack employees and shut down development programmes.
In early April, PC Zosangzuala lost his job. About three years ago, the 28-year-old had been hired by an Indian government programme which supports India's middle schools – Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan. The job contract signed by “Peecee”, as his friends call him, suggested the programme would run till 2017. However, on April 4 or April 5 – he doesn't remember the exact day – he got a letter from the department saying the part of the programme that employed him had been closed.

Peecee, with an earnest mien which makes him look much younger than 28, was not the only one axed. In all, 366 staffers, mostly lab technicians and clerks, lost their jobs.

The job cuts have followed a budgetary squeeze in New Delhi. This year's national budget has slashed central allocations to the middle school programme from Rs 1,500 crore to Rs 1,010 crore, said a senior official in Mizoram's education department.

Faced with less funds, the central government officials overseeing the programme retained teachers but axed clerks, lab technicians and counsellors. The Mizoram government could have retained the 366 employees fired by the centre, but their salaries add up to Rs 6.8 crore a year – money the cash-strapped state doesn't have.

Since jobs are hard to find in Mizoram, the sacked employees – mostly between 25 and 35 years old – panicked. Some of them had married recently. Others had become parents. Some others had taken bank loans they were still repaying. Peecee had taken a loan to pay for the treatment of his grandmother who eventually succumbed to cancer. 

In late April, 70-80 of them went on a hunger strike. They went without food for 12 days, calling the fast off only after the state education minister assured them that whenever the state finds funds, they will be the first to be hired.

PeeCee lost his job in April.

New formula

In the weeks and months ahead, Mizoram is likely to see many more such protests. This is partly due to the 14th Finance Commission, which has altered the way revenues are distributed between the centre and the states. Until now, state departments have run on money from three sources – their own revenues, the state's share of taxes collected by the centre, and development programmes funded by the centre and implemented by the states. States with high non-plan expenditure like salaries but low revenues – like those in the North East – also receive deficit grant funding from the centre.

One critique of this system was that a large chunk of the funds received by state governments were “tied” funds – funds which could be used only for the purpose defined by the centre. This, it was said, took away financial autonomy from the state governments.

With the centre accepting the commission's recommendations on how to overhaul funding to state governments, all this has changed. In the new system, states' share of central taxes has risen from 32 per cent to 42 per cent. At the same time, the centre has cut back on the development programmes it funds in states. The rationale that has been offered is that states would now get more funds they can deploy any way they like.

In theory, this means states can undertake more locally relevant developmental work. But in practice, while some states gain from the new system, others lose. Mizoram is one of the losers. In 2014-'15, the state got about Rs 5,300 crore from the centre. This year, after increases in both its share of central taxes and deficit grant funding, it will get Rs 4,200 crore from these two sources. However, the centre's decision to cut back on development funding – the third source – might nullify these gains.

Changed ratios

In a previous report, Scroll outlined how the state was struggling to fund its anti-AIDS programme. Its sequel tried to identify, using the State Health Mission as an instance, the reasons for this funding crisis. The answer, we found, lay in the construct of Mizoram's economy.

The state depends on the centre for as much as 90% of its annual budget. In recent years, as Mizoram's expenditure has climbed, it periodically runs out of money. At these times, it redirects central allocations – for health, education and other schemes – towards more expedient monthly requirements like salaries or interest payments. As Scroll's reports showed, every time the government redirects funds, the people of Mizoram are deprived of vital services.

At the same time, given the low revenue generated by the state, some programmes – like the State Health Mission – are entirely dependent on central allocations.

But now, the centre is cutting back on those payments. It has divided its development programmes into three categories – those it will no longer fund, those it will fund as before, and those where the ratio between central and state funding will change.

Typically, the centre used to put in 90% of the money needed to run a programme. But now, said an official in the Mizoram finance department, the centre wants to bring down its share to 50-75% which means the state would need to put in as much as 25-50% of the funds needed for these schemes. At the same time, the state has to support the programmes the centre will no longer support.

What does this mean for Mizoram?

A letter from the state finance department dated 7 May lists 22 programmes where the funding pattern will change and 8 projects that the centre will no longer fund. Take the Rashtriya Kisan Vikas Yojana, one of the biggest agriculture programmes running in Mizoram. The centre-state ratio for scheme until last year was 90:10. Under that formula, in 2014, after the state government raised its spending to Rs 14 crore, the centre released another Rs 128.9 crore for this programme.

But this year onwards, the state government will have to pay more to keep the programme size intact. While the agriculture ministry is yet to communicate what the new ratio will be, back of the envelope calculations show that if Mizoram wants the programme to operate at the same size – Rs 140 crore – it will have to cough up Rs 35 crore (25 per cent contribution) or Rs 70 crore (50 per cent contribution).

It is the same story with a set of other critical state programmes – like the National Health Mission, the state AIDS programme, education programmes, you name it. If we assume that, between the state and the centre, Rs 100 crore was being spent on each of the 22 projects. Then, Mizoram paid Rs 220 crore while the centre paid Rs 1,980 crore. If the funding ratio for all of them changes to 75:25, then Mizoram now has to pay Rs 550 crore.

In some programmes, like the Integrated Child Development Scheme, which runs a network of child care and feeding centres, the ratio is 50:50. This means the state's contribution would have to rise steeply to keep the programme intact. At the same time, the state has to support – or axe – the eight programmes the centre will no longer fund.

The big question is whether Rs 4,200 crore is enough for the state to meet its existing expenditure plus these new commitments. The official in the state finance department doesn't think so. “The centre is saying that we have to match the centre's allocation. It will be very hard for the NE states to manage anything more than 90:10, like 60:40 or even 70:30. We cannot do this. In the name of more fiscal space to the states, why are they taking away these programmes?”

As it is, the state government may not even get Rs 4,200 crore each year. As the official said, “Share in central taxes comes with conditionalities. Which means that the increase (100%) will never be fully delivered. The 100% is what we can get at the most. A lot also depends on how much the centre is able to raise in taxes.”

Lack of consultation

But what is most surprising is this: The centre has accepted and rolled out the Commission's recommendations without taking the states on board, or letting them grasp how they would be affected. As the states have come to understand the full implications of the changes, there have been belated protests from state chief ministers like Assam's Tarun Gogoi and Mizoram's Lal Thanhawla. In Mizoram's case, its finance department officials estimated their new allocations only when the state received its first monthly instalments of "share of central taxes" and "deficit grant funding" in April.

At this time, a month after the new financial year started at Mizoram, information is still trickling from central departments about the new ratios. The state has to learn about the new funding ratios, decide which programmes it can afford and which ones it will have to axe, and then put in its share.

“They will have to shut down some programmes," said James Thanga, a professor of economics at Mizoram University. He pointed out that while the National Rural Livelihoods Mission and National Urban Livelihoods Mission had just started, other programmes like AIDS control, farmer development, child nutrition and health have been running for decades and would have to be continued.

The departments which survive will see delayed fund allocation this year. A senior official in the middle education department at Mizoram told Scroll: “It is mid-May and we still do not know what we will get. We were about to start construction of new schools – the tendering was over. But now we are not sure about how much money will come.”

Economic realignment

In the state, at this time, the funding crisis is still sinking in. Some feel this might even be a blessing. Successive governments in Mizoram, as in other parts of the north-east, have been very profligate. The crisis might force them, some people speculated, to be wiser and stop relying on Delhi for money.

For this, the state needs to create more economic activity. But given its location, poor connectivity and ecological conditions, only some activities are viable here. " We could invite companies to come and do organic farming or oil palm cultivation," said the official. "But for that, we would have to give them large swathes of forestland.” Apart from the questions about forest loss and oil palm's environmental impact, these activities will also take time to establish themselves and generate revenues.

And time is what Mizoram doesn't have. The funding crisis is already here.

Can Mizoram emerge unscathed from the looming crisis by merely curbing wasteful expenditure or will deeper cuts need to be made? At the same time, will the government want to cut back on the programmes it uses to dole out patronage? If they make deeper cuts in social programmes, then what happens to the people? Like the health reports showed, things are already grim.

These are the questions that state officials are struggling with. “How do we do this? There are no state assets to sell," said the official in the finance department. "We will have to borrow against future remittances of the state.” I ask what that means. The official says: "future payments like salaries".

In essence, the government will take a loan and repay it from the next year's central allocation. That will worsen the financial shortage that year. If the state does follow that plan, a vicious cycle will begin.

The other course of action, suggested Thanga, the economics professor, could be raising revenues by charging for land transactions and increasing the professional tax. With the lifting of prohibition, he said, loss making public sector units – the state industrial corporation, the agriculture marketing corporation, even the state handloom and handicraft development corporation – have applied for liquor distribution licenses. “This should help them become viable," he said.

But the question that is the most difficult to answer: why did the centre force such an abrupt transition on the states? It is going to impose penalties on the people of Mizoram and elsewhere.

source: scroll.in

Mizoram Outreach Programme Shunted

Aizawl, May 21 : The Mizoram government's much-hyped programme to reach out to the people of Barak Valley districts of Assam for better ties has been all of a sudden put on hold for "an indefinite time".

The Outreach Programme, the second edition of which is scheduled to be held tomorrow, is the brainchild of the BJP-led NDA government.

The Centre aims to strengthen the bond between Kolosib district of Mizoram and Cachar and Hailakandi districts of Assam.

The deputy commissioner of Kolosib district of Mizoram, Jitender Yadav, however, did not spell out the reasons of this decision.

A senior official of the Hailakandi district administration, however, said they are at present busy in the onerous job of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

He added that in view of the deteriorating law and order situation in the district at present, it would be wise to postpone the celebrations.

The last Outreach Programme held at a higher secondary school in Dholai township of Cachar district in April evoked tremendous enthusiasm among people of the two countries.

Mizo women, in their traditional hand-woven tribal attire, added to the celebration mood.

Some dance items like bamboo dances of the Mizos and the dhamail dance by the rural women of Cachar districts, interspersed by the songs, stole the show in this inter-state exhibition of mutual affinity between people of these states.

Apart from these, some common sports events like volleyball, football and kabadi were the other stellar features of this inter-state festival in Dholai.

In the recent past, the two state administrations had to mutually tackle the spurts of the acrimony between the Mizos and the local inhabitants.

Mizoram: Verification for final phase to begin on June 2

Mizoram officials will undertake the first verification process in Kaskau relief camp.

By Adam Halliday
Aizawl, May 21 : Officials in Mizoram’s western districts will start verifying displaced Bru tribals lodged in the relief camps in Tripura on June 2. This will be the final phase of repatriation for the displaced tribals.

Mamit Deputy Commissioner Vanlalngaihsaka said Wednesday that he had held meetings with various village council leaders and community organisations in this regard. “All the groups have pledged their cooperation and said that they will watch out for any untoward incident before and during the repatriation process,” Vanlalngaihsaka told The Indian Express.

Mizoram officials will undertake the first verification process in Kaskau relief camp, during which they will ascertain whether the Bru tribals lodged there are originally from Mizoram. Once that is complete, the officials will provide transportation for the tribals to return to Mizoram. The verification process will then proceed to the other five relief camps, Vanlalngaihsaka added.

Officials in Mizoram’s Home Department have said the repatriation process is likely to be completed by September. While Mamit district is set to welcome home almost 2,600 Bru families, several hundred families might return to the neighbouring Kolasib and Lunglei districts.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court approved an agreement reached between Mizoram, Tripura and the Union Home Ministry that any displaced Bru tribal who continues to refuse to return to Mizoram under the repatriation process will be deleted from Mizoram’s electoral rolls (The tribals continue to vote for Mizoram elections despite staying in Tripura ). The agreement also said that the relief camps would be closed.

Tens of thousands of Bru tribals fled Mizoram in 1997 following ethnic violence with the Mizos. The conflict had been triggered after Bru militants murdered a Mizo official. The tribals fled to Tripura where they were put in relief camps and they have stayed there ever since. Over the years, Tripura has asked Mizoram to take back the tribals.
20 May 2015

Gamlin Being Used As a 'Punching Bag': Northeast Community


New Delhi, May 20 : People from Northeast community today came out in support of Shakuntala Gamlin, whose appointment as the acting chief secretary escalated into a row, and said that she is being used as a "punching bag" and made the "scapegoat" in the fight.

They staged a protest outside Delhi Secretariat and later handed over a memorandum to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

"We are hurt by the allegations being made by the government in public. Government should treat everyone equally," one of the protesters, J T Tagam, said.

Protesters blamed Kejriwal of being "partial" to the woman IAS officer from North-East.

"First government recommended her name and later objected to her appointment and then accused her of favouring power companies in a public rally before the media. The Chief Minister should publically apologize to her," another protestor said.

People from the community said "attacking" statement by the Delhi government and Kejriwal towards a lady officer was unexpected and uncalled for. Bringing a lady officer from North-East in between the political fight was unacceptable and should have been avoided.

"She is discriminated against in many ways and this is her character assassination. She is being used as a punching bag in a tussle between the Lt. Governor and the Chief Minister. Kejriwal has been making allegations without any proof.

"We stand by Shakuntala Gamlin. By targeting her, he has targeted the entire community. The Chief Minister should conduct an enquiry and if she is found guilty, we are ready to accept the government's decision. She is being made a scapegoat in a political battle," said Taba Doni, president of Arunachal Student Union, Delhi.

Protesters said the government's decision of not appointing her as the chief secretary was illogical and it should have conducted a check on service background of an officer before recommending his/her name for such a senior bureaucratic post.

They said they will also write to President and Prime minister in this regard.

The confrontation over appointment of Gamlin as the acting chief secretary of Delhi had turned into a full-blown war between the ruling AAP and Jung with Kejriwal alleging that the LG was trying to take over the administration.

Despite Kejriwal's strong opposition, Jung had appointed her to the post on Friday.

Seoul-stirring soaps in Aizawl: How South Korea’s soft power is changing Mizoram

From language to clothes to culture, South Korean soaps on Mizo television are leaving a lasting imprint on the North Eastern state.
Stay for a while in Mizoram’s capital Aizawl and you start catching glimpses of South Korea. Travel around the state and the images emerge repeatedly  in the clothes, the hair styles, even the furniture.

In Champhai, the district that conducts most of the trade between Mizoram and Myanmar, business in fairness creams and hair colour is roaring. At her cosmetics shop which stocks both Indian and imported cosmetics, J Lalremruati says most customers favour foreign products. People here think they are not fair enough, she explains. “If the idea is to be more like the Koreans, then why would they buy Indian creams?”

While teenagers in Delhi and Mumbai mimic Jennifer Aniston’s hairdo in Friends, Mizoram's young people are looking east. “A girl in one of a Korean serial wore her hair as a bun to one side of her head,” said Marina, who works at an Aizawl restaurant. “My friends and I copied her for some time.” Periodically, she and her friends look for clothes like those worn by the actors in the serials.

Even the furniture in people’s homes is changing, says Lalnghinglova Hmar, joint editor of the largest-selling Mizo daily Vanglaini. People are buying furniture that resembles the sets they see in the Korean soaps. The state even has a store called Gangnam Style.

The immediate trigger for these changes is well known. In the last eight years or so, Mizoram, like the rest of the North East, has seen a large South Korean wave. Korean movies and television serials, dubbed in Mizo and broadcast every day by around 10 local TV channels, are the most watched programmes in the state these days.

What is less clear, however, is how this interest in Korean culture started.

The genesis of a boom

Some trace it back to an evening – about five or six years ago – when a local cable company played a DVD of a Korean serial. When the channel cut that telecast to switch to news, it found its switchboard lighting up. Viewers were calling to ask when the serial would resume. Others trace it back to a Korean film called The Classic, which entered India through Manipur and then spread across the North East, spawning interest in South Korean films. Yet others trace it back to 2001 when a Korean channel called Arirag become freely available across the North East.

But mere supply (or access) is not enough to explain the boom. Indian television has been around in the North East for a long time but it has not been as successful as the Korean programming.

One school of thought says Korean serials are popular because they touch – at least those dubbed into Mizo – upon themes like family drama, comedy and romance. They are very constructive, said Malsawma Sailo, founder of a television channel in Aizawl called Nauban.

He cites one of the most popular Korean serials in recent times – Yellow Boots.
“A woman is hit by a car and she dies. The leading lady, let us call her our heroine, is implicated and sent to prison. While she is in jail, her fiancé ditches her and marries someone else. However, our heroine is pregnant at the time – she is carrying the child of her fiancé – and so, she becomes a mother while in prison. However, the truth is that she has been falsely implicated in the accident. And the woman actually responsible for the accident is the one who has married her fiancé. And so, once she leaves prison, our heroine plots revenge.”



Why is it so popular? “There are a lot of scenes to shed tears over,” said Sailo, adding that the story shows how a family should behave.

But that plot seems as contrived and emotionally manipulative as any sitcom from any country on the planet. Besides, this does not explain why Mizoram went through a similar fascination with American and Hindi films earlier.

The real answer, clearly, lies elsewhere.

The Hindi and English boom

Perhaps the answer lies in office of Zonet, one of the two big cable companies in Mizoram. (The other is LPS.) The channel began showing dubbed Korean serials in 2009, two years after CDs of the serials had hit the local market.

Vanneitluanga, the programming head, looks much younger than his 48 years. He used to work at All India Radio till 2004, when he decided to start Zonet along with RK Lianzuala, a journalist who had worked with the BBC.

In a three-hour long conversation, Vanneitluanga traced the Korean boom back to an early decision to dub programmes into Mizo. In its initial days, Zonet had one channel gender-insensitively called Zawlbuk – the Mizo name for the traditional meeting hall for men. “It is not easy to produce a full-fledged film in Mizo,” he said. “It is expensive. At the same time, people are used to the production quality of channels like the BBC. Their sense of aesthetics is very high. We couldn’t have satisfied our own people.”

The easiest way to strike a balance, he says, was to translate: “Dubbing is easy. All we have to do is lip-sync.” In November 2004, Zonet began airing a dubbed version of Kasautii Zindagii Kay, an Indian soap which, at first glance, rivals Yellow Boots in the plot twists.

It became quite a craze, remembers Sailo. Soon, he said, “both LPS and Zonet were dubbing Kasautii. They would air it some days after Hindi channels aired it. But they would air the same episode on the same day. Magazines were featuring special columns transcribing the serial.”

The serial, Vanneitluanga explains, met a latent demand. “People wanted to read or watch something in Mizo.” It was a demand that Doordarshan, the national broadcaster, was unable to meet. Its Mizo programming lasted just 20-30 minutes a day.

Before long, dubbing of Hindi and English films was a booming business. LPS, Zonet and a third cable company, called Skylinks, were running their own translation services, dubbing Kasautii, then other serials like Karam Apnaa Apnaa, and English films like The Ten Commandments.

In 2008, Sailo, a father of two and a graduate in BA (Arts) from Lunglei, entered the dubbing trade. Till then, he had switched careers repeatedly – after his BA in the late 1980s, he opened a grocery store. In 1991, he became the principal of an English school. He shifted next to Aizawl, where he ran a cement shop. What that did not do well, he moved to Mamit district and ran an English school. Finally, in 2008, he handed the school over to others and moved back to Aizawl.

Malsawma Sailo in the room in his house where he dubs Korean serials. He has just two voice artists in his team. Whenever needed, he and his wife pitch in as well.

At this time, the cable industry in Mizoram had a lot of small players who ran cable networks in villages and towns. LPS, Zonet and Skylinks were present in the bigger towns.

Sailo began buying Hindi and English films from local DVD and CD shops, which he would then translate and dub. “In a month, we did three films.” He started by selling these to local operators in Aizawl for Rs 150 a DVD. Soon however he was getting calls from cable operators elsewhere in the state. By 2010, the number of his customers stood at 100 and his business – employing two voice artists, one editor and one translator – was notching monthly revenues of Rs 45,000.

Within a year, however, Sailo’s business was floundering. The reason: competition. “A lot of people were indulging in translation,” says Sailo. DVDs began going for Rs 100, then Rs 80.

By then, the Korean wave had already set in. By 2009, said Vanneitluanga, “DVDs of Korean serials had entered Aizawl. Some of these had English subtitles and people began seeing those. There were eight or nine local cable companies and five-six of them would show these serials. That is how this started.”

Sailo thinks the wave started earlier. “In 2007, the demand for the Korean serials was moderate. But by 2012, it was very high. Wherever we went, people were talking about these serials.”

This raises a new question. Why were undubbed Korean programmes doing better than dubbed English or Hindi ones?

A question of identity

To answer that question, Vanneitluanga referred to 1966. The Mizo National Front had rebelled against India and liberated Aizawl. “I was nine years old. I remember standing in a forest near Aizawl while the Indian Air Force was bombing Aizawl. We were told by Laldenga then – and we believed him – that a thlawhnavar [a white aeroplane] would come and drive these IAF planes away. None came.”

This, he says, was a turning point for the Mizos. “Before that, we thought we were westerners. We were born and raised in the lap of missionaries. And we used to think we were Britishers. In Zodin cinema hall, all the movies we saw were John Wayne, cowboys, western films. We felt they were very near to us. But gradually, we came to learn that the west is very far away – we were very remote, very ignorant. The missionaries were gone. We had to depend on India.”

The menu at JayJay, a Korean-style eatery.

This, he says, explains some of the fondness for the Koreans. “Our face is different from that of most Indians. There are ethnic differences – we are Christians.” For a while, he says, when Indian media came in, they had to dub what was available. “At the same time, we hate the Bollywood style of singing and dancing.”

By contrast, he said, “The Koreans look like us. There are cultural similarities like respecting the elders. At the same time, they are clean. Their facial structures are clean. The plots are conservative, ones that Protestants and Catholics can relate to. Even the way they talk, a slightly musical tone, is similar to ours.”

Listening to him, it sounded like the Mizos wished for affinity with a larger group. When asked about this, Vanneitluanga mentioned people from the North East who had moved to Israel believing themselves to be the lost tribes of Israel. Perhaps, he said, “This is because of where we are," he said. "On the western side of Mizoram, we see you. On the east, we see the Burmese Buddhists. Neither of you is us. We are an island in the Himalayan range.”

A question of affinity

In Mizoram, the Korean wave has had predictable and unpredictable outcomes. Between the Peiteis, Brus, Lais, Chakmas, Maras, Hmars and the Mizos, the state speaks many dialects. In the expanded Chin tribal area, which covers parts of Myanmar too, there are even more dialects. For all their speakers, there is no programming in their native language. This is partly due to economics – the populations are too small to support local programming.

For this reason, says Vanneitluanga, the dispersed Chin population, in Myanmar and outside, not to Mizoram, watches the dubbed Korean programmes. “I found people asking me for these when I went to Kuala Lumpur. And when I went to Singapore.”

Some worry that Mizo, riding on the Korean programmes, will swamp the smaller dialects. But the programming is changing Mizo too. “The normal Mizo way of speaking is soft and sing-song,” said Vanneitluanga. “In Korean, people speak faster. In dubbing, we have to lip-sync. So, we end up speaking faster too.” In this drive, he lamented, “Our beautiful descriptive phrases are going unused. They are decreasing as we do not have the time to describe as we would like to.”

Lallian Chhunga, an assistant professor in Mizoram University’s Department of Political Science, added: “The catch is also that the people who translate are not very good in literature. They use very colloquial street language and so the way we speak is changing.”

The endgame

The big question is what next.

When his dubbing business slowed down, Sailo moved to Zonet as a“partner. Both LPS and Zonet follow a strategy where they run three or so channels on their own – general entertainment, sports and religion. Apart from these, they have partners – individuals like Sailo – who run individual channels on their own. Sailo supplies 24-hour feeds to Zonet.

Take another local channel – Ainawn. It focuses on documentaries. It starts the morning with a dubbed episode of Discovery Health Science. At 7am, it has cartoons for children. Then, music and a documentary till 1 pm. An English film after that. And then, dubbed documentaries till 10pm, followed by another blockbuster movie till midnight. And then, another movie.

The channel was started because its founder, who did not wish to be identified, does not like Korean serials. “The reason for starting Ainawn is there is good programming – National Geographic, History Channel, etc – but people do not watch this as they cannot understand what is being said,” the founder told me.

What Sailo does is similar – a 24-hour feed, with a greater emphasis on entertainment. He scans sites like ipop, dovamax264 and hancinema to discover new soaps. How does he decide what will work? “We read the story online. And based on our experience, it is usually romance and family drama that works well.”

For all that, the business is starting to struggle now. As happened with the dubbing business, competition is rising fast.

Zonet and LPS do not pay the partner channels for content, so they make money by selling ad time. The advertisers are typically local shops. Telecom companies and banks do not advertise on these channels, perhaps because of the difficulty in ascertaining viewership.

Ad rates are ridiculously low. “A company can be channel sponsor or serial sponsor,” Sailo said. “We charge Rs 10,000 per month. The channel ad is shown six-seven times in a day. The serial ad is shown around the serial.”

Consider the economics. Ten sponsors equal monthly revenues of Rs 1 lakh. However, as the number of channels increase, ad rates have fallen to as little as Rs 5,000. “If the number of sponsors comes down to five, it will be hard to survive,” said Sailo. “We might have to start some other business.”

The boom of South Korean soaps illustrates two of the larger truths about jobs in Mizoram. In the state, jobs are hard to come by. This causes a pell-mell rush into new opportunities, followed by price warfare, making business cycles really short.

The low ad rates indicate how little money there actually is in the state economy, the result of the state government’s financial crisis. As it delays salaries, establishments across the state are reporting less business this year than earlier.

It’s unclear how long the Korean wave itself will last. It is mainly seen, says Vanneitluanga, by the educated rural people, some of the youth, and housewives. Those with better education prefer English.

“This is a wave," Vanneitluanga  said. "It is not permanent. I wonder how long it will last. Korean culture really has nothing to do with us – just like that white aeroplane. Our population is so small. And economic activity is so low. We have no money and so we cannot go to Korea. Our education is not fit enough to take us there. I don’t know where this goes.”

Maybe it will be English. Take Marina, who used to go looking for clothes similar to what actors wore in these soaps. She is bored now. “These serials are too long. These days, I watch music videos on VH1,” she said. Other youngsters are into anime.

Or maybe, as a recent trend suggests, these films will get more and more customised. In some cases, channels have changed the entire plot while dubbing, says Vanneitluanga, to make a film more locally relevant. He cited one scene where a contingent of marching soldiers are chanting – not 1, 2, 3, 4 – but the Mizo words for potato, squash, pumpkin and dal.

Like the old journalistic cliche goes, wait and watch.

source: scroll.in
19 May 2015

After 18 Years, Mizoram To Take Back Its Tribal Citizens From Tripura

mizoram

Following pressure from the union home ministry and the Tripura government, Mizoram has finally agreed to take back all the tribal refugees sheltering in Tripura for the past 18 years.

“The repatriation of refugees expected to start from June 8. A tripartite meeting between the officials of Tripura and Mizoram governments and refugee leaders took this decision,” Panisagar Sub-divisional magistrate Biplab Das told IANS.

He said: “It was decided in the meeting that from June 2 to June 4, a study would be done about how many of the refugees’ names have been enrolled in the electoral list of Mizoram. Then sub-divisional level officials of the two states in presence of the refugee leaders would be held before starting of the repatriation on June 8.”

According to Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Badal Choudhury, there are 5,286 tribal families comprising 31,223 men, women and children sheltered in seven camps in Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions under North Tripura district adjoining Mizoram.

The Reang tribals, who locally call themselves “Bru”, have lived in makeshift camps camps in Tripura since October 1997 when they fled western Mizoram after the killing of a Mizo forest officer triggered ethnic trouble.

The Mizoram government earlier refused to take back all the refugees citing that all the migrants are not the resident of Mizoram.

“In the Friday’s district magistrate-level meeting, the Mizoram government officials more or less agreed to take back all the refugees sheltered in Tripura,” said Das, who was also present in the meeting.

The Tripura government team was led by additional district magistrate of North Tripura district Ranjit Das while Mizoram’s team was led by Mamit district Deputy Commissioner Vanlalngaihsaka.

Meanwhile, Mizoram’s additional secretary of home department Lalbiakzama said in Aizawl that following the Supreme Court’s directives and the decision made in the meeting of the union home ministry in presence of Mizoram and Tripura governments’ officials on January 30, it was proposed to repatriate all the remaining tribal families from the relief camps in north Tripura district.

“The union home ministry has recently released Rs.4.7 crore for the repatriation purposes, but the amount would not be sufficient for repatriation of all the remaining Reang tribal families,” Lalbiakzama said.

The Mizoram government earlier sought around Rs.70 crore financial assistance from the union home ministry to rehabilitate the repatriated tribal refugees.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and his deputy Kiren Rijiju had visited the refugee camps and held talks with the refugee leaders on February 14 and persuaded the tribal to go back to their villages in western Mizoram.

Refugee leaders told the central ministers that they were willing to return to their homes in Mizoram if their 10 points demands, including security and rehabilitation, were met.

The Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), an organisation of the refugees, submitted a six-page memorandum to the central ministers accusing the Mizoram government of discriminating against them.

The Mizoram government remains ambiguous on the refugees’ demands, which also included free supply of food grain for two years, and allotting land to them.

Mizo organisations, however, have opposed the MBDPF’s demands.

Tripura Revenue and Relief Minister Choudhury told IANS: “We urge upon the central government to ask the Mizoram government to take back the refugees.”

“The union home minister tried to hold a meeting with the chief ministers of Tripura and Mizoram to finalise a road map to repatriate the refugees to Mizoram. However, the Mizoram chief minister did not attend the meeting nor did he send his representative.”

“It is very unfortunate that the tribals despite being Indians nationals and permanent inhabitant of a state, are unable to live in their homeland. This is dangerous for the ethnic amity, stability and peace,” the minister said.

“A serious socio-economic problem has cropped up due to the long stay of the refugees in Tripura. The refugees have damaged vast areas in forests in Kanchanpur causing serious environmental problems,” he added.

“Some refugees are involved in terrorist activities. The refugees also work for cheap wages, creating an awkward situation for local labourers,” the minister said.

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