26 May 2015

Mizoram’s Pain Yet To Heal 29 Years After Peace Accord

By David Lalmalsawma
zorami1
Author Malsawmi Jacob was in high school when the independence movement in the future state of Mizoram began in 1966. Her father, an army subedar stationed in the hill town of Shillong, now in the state of Meghalaya, predicted at the time that ordinary people would bear the brunt of an armed conflict. He was right.

The two-decade-long revolt by the Mizo National Front (MNF) would lead the Indian government to use war planes against its own citizens for the first time. A “grouping” policy was introduced where villages were burned and civilians herded to guarded centres so that people would be unable to shelter insurgents.

The rebels signed a peace accord with the government in 1986, and Mizoram came to be known as an “island of peace”, unlike neighbouring northeastern states like Manipur, Nagaland and Assam where militant violence continues. But Bangalore-based Jacob, whose new novel “Zorami” tells the story of a girl in the backdrop of the “disturbance”, said for many people who suffered during the insurgency, the pain remains.

zorami2Sixty-two-year-old Jacob, perhaps the only Mizo author to have published a novel in English, spoke about why she decided to write about the “ram buai” (disturbance in the land), and why she thinks the decision of the Mizo rebels to take up arms was a mistake.

Q: Why did you decide to write a novel with the insurgency as a backdrop?
A: We were staying in Guwahati in 2002, where I used to contribute to regional news publications. Mizoram was often described as an “island of peace”. I thought about the hardships we (Mizos) went through, and I started wondering how the people from that period are coping emotionally. I wanted to find out.
So in 2004, I travelled to places like Aizawl and Lunglei (towns in Mizoram) and interviewed people who were somehow involved with the insurgency. I asked them to describe their experiences during that period. And it was worse than what I thought. The Mizo people’s hearts have still not healed… I wanted to take a literary approach in describing what I discovered. So I started attempting to turn it into a novel.

Q: Who did you talk to during your research?
A: Those who experienced the disturbance. Some people are well known like Pu James Dokhuma and Rev. LN Ralte. They were part of those who started the peace process so they were well known. I also talked to my own relatives, some of whom have spent time in jail. And some others I met at random in places of gathering, like at a mourner’s house (in Mizo society, whenever someone dies, relatives and people in the society gather for days to mourn) where I asked people to share their experiences. I also read a few books where people documented their experience.

Q: How much truth is there in the events that you described in the book?
A: The backbone is based on real incidents. I just embellished it with my imagination.

Q: You said people are still hurting?
A: Our suffering was so much. Atrocities committed were so much that we still can’t forget it, and our heart still aches. There are a few, the more hardcore ones, who are still talking about whether we should renew the fight for independence.

Q: Did you personally experience the insurgency period?
A: I didn’t because we were outside the state. I was in high school when the disturbance started. My father used to lament about it and often said the people will suffer because of the uprising.

Q: Apart from some short story books and poems, I haven’t seen any novel written by a Mizo author in English. What do you think is the state of Mizo literature?
A: I think there still isn’t enough depth when it comes to Mizo literature. We still have some way to go. It’s beginning to look good – book releases have increased, and writers are also increasing, but we need to improve the quality of work.

Q: Do you think the armed uprising was necessary?
A: My personal opinion is violence should not have been used at all. We were unhappy with the Indian government, the Assam government (present-day Mizoram was then a district of Assam), and it was necessary to show it. But taking up arms was a big mistake because we suffered so much. And for the people who lost their fathers and mothers, who lost their children, no outcome really mattered. We should have fought with peaceful means, according to me.

Q: Was the protagonist Zorami used as a metaphor for the Mizos – their suffering and the influence of the church and spirituality in their culture?
A: Yes, I used the name Zorami deliberately to describe the Mizo people. I also used her as a symbol. (“Zoram” is a term of endearment used to describe Mizoram; “i” denotes the name is that of a female)

Like her, we suffered because of the disturbance, but we can be healed through God – not symbolic worshipping at church etc but achieving peace through an individual discovery of God. That’s what I wanted to show, and what I believe in.

SC Rejects Mizoram Govt Plea on Misappropriation of Funds

New Delhi, May 26 : The Supreme Court has rejected the Mizoram government’s special leave petition against a lower court’s order that the Anti-Corruption Bureau investigate alleged misappropriation of funds in the construction of two mini hydel projects in south Mizoram.

The SC’s dismissal of the government’s plea paves the way for the anti-graft agency to finally begin a probe into an alleged scam the government first allowed and later retracted, a move the Gauhati High Court has termed “enigmatic”.

The People’s Right to Information and Development Implementing Society of Mizoram, or PRISM, had in October 2008 filed an FIR against the state’s Power and Electricity Department (P&E) which constructed the two mini hydel projects.

The complaint pointed out that the estimate for the Tuipanglui mini hydel project rose from Rs 980 lambs in 1992 to Rs 3721 lakhs by 2001 (an almost four-fold escalation over less than a decade), while that for the Kau-Tlabung mini hydel project rose from Rs 482 lakhs in 1994 to Rs 3253 lakhs in 2001 (an almost seven-fold escalation over seven years).

The ACB conducted a preliminary enquiry and found that 13 government engineers led by the then Engineer-in charge of the Mizoram Public Works Department caused a loss of Rs 1.75 crores to the state exchequer while building the two hydel projects.

The ACB conducted two more enquiries following calls for clarification by the Vigilance Department, but each time the agency made out prima-facie cases of corruption.

Finally the Vigilance Department in May 2010 gave the ACB the green light to register criminal cases against 16 government engineers from both the state PWD and P&E departments.
Less than two months later, however, the Vigilance Department withdrew the permission.
PRISM took the government to court over the withdrawing of the permission, but the government argued neither the CAG, the Public Accounts Committee under the state legislature nor a departmental enquiry found cases of misappropriation.

The Gauhati HC however questioned the Vigilance Department action of cancelling the permission for an ACB investigation and doubted the exact extent the other bodies cited by the government during the case arguments might have gone to during their own enquiries. It passed an order that the ACB proceed with the investigation and wind up the case by September this year.

Interestingly, the Mizoram government to hired seven lawyers and approached the SC against the High Court order. The three-judge bench headed by CJI H L Dattu however dismissed the petition saying it is not inclined to interfere with the High Court order.

Mizoram’s 8th Governor Arrives in Aizawl Ahead Of Swearing-in Ceremony

Mizoram has seen eight governors of the state in last ten months.

Mizoram governor, Mizoram Govener Sharma, Former governor Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram Governor change, Nirbhay Sharma Mizo governor, new mizo governor, mizoram news, north east news, india news
Lt.Gen (retd) Nirbhay Sharma arrives at Lengpui airport, where he was received by officials led by Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla. (Source: DIPR)

By Adam Halliday

Aizawl, May 26 : Former Arunachal Pradesh Governor Lt.Gen (retd) Nirbhay Sharma arrived in Aizawl on Monday, a day before he is scheduled to be sworn in as the state’s eighth Governor in ten months. Sharma was greeted at the airport by officials led by Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla. He arrived with his wife, daughter and mother-in-law.
The frequent changes in the incumbents of the Raj Bhjavan at Aizawl has caused many controversy in Mizoram, with political and student leaders condemning the state being used as a “dumping ground” of UPA-appointed Governors the BJP-led government wants to sideline or force out of office.

When President Mukherjee visited the state in April, he was greeted by students sporting posters protesting the frequent changes and were seen draped in traditional shawls of mourning.

Modi To Take Up Northeast Connectivity Issue

By R Dutta Choudhury


Guwahati, May 25 : Improving connectivity of the North East region will be the key agenda of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his ensuing visit to Bangladesh as the Government of India has come to the conclusion that connectivity through the neighbouring country is a must for the development of the region.

Highly placed sources in the Government of India said that the Prime Minister is very clear in his mind on the issue of improving connectivity of the North East. “The Prime Minister is of the view that geographic remoteness is the root cause of underdevelopment of North East and there is urgent need for improving connectivity for the all round development of the region,” sources said.

Sources pointed out that improving relations with Bangladesh and transit through that country is vital for the development of North East and that is why, this would be the key issue for discussion during Modi's scheduled visit to Dhaka early next month. The Government of Bangladesh has already allowed on principle to allow India the use of Chittagong port. But the modalities would have to be finalized before India gets access to the port.

Sources pointed out that the use of Chittagong Port would open up a host of opportunity for the North East. Lack of sea connectivity was one of the major problems faced by the region since Independence and this issue would be taken up by Modi during his visit. The Government of India has already started working on road connectivity of North East with the South East Asian countries. But land connectivity depends on several key factors like the rough terrain, particularly in Myanmar.

“Moreover, we do not know how the political and security situation in Myanmar will develop in the days to come. If something goes wrong in Myanmar, the road connectivity between the North East and the South East Asian countries will be badly affected. In such a scenario, the use of Chittagong Port will come very handy,” sources added.

Moreover, sources said that at this moment, the North East is connected with the rest of the country only by a chicken neck corridor in North Bengal, it in turn has affected movement of goods to the region and resulted in escalation of prices. Use of the Chittagong Port and water ways through Bangladesh will ease out this problem to a great extent. Moreover, the road transit facilities through Bangladesh will also be immensely beneficial for the North East and the Prime Minister will take up these issues with his Bangladesh counterpart in his visit.

Sources further pointed out that maintaining good relation with Bangladesh does not have much economic relevance to the rest of the country. But it is vital in the perspective of the North East region if the region has to see economic growth.
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.

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