Post Mortem

Symptoms of corruptions: unemployment

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 12/7/2019 12:02:17 PM IST

 On the front page of the Nagaland Post on 3rd December 2019, a headline read: “No job for new underground recruits: CFMG chairman.” What fascinated me about this report was that it was a glaring symptomatic illustration of corruption in our state. The rush to join rebel groups in the hopes of securing government jobs post-solution is symptomatic of corruption at all levels of the state resulting in high unemployment, lack of decent jobs (where people can make a living wage), and misappropriation of state and central funds meant for the development of essential infrastructures to facilitate socio-economic development, among many others.

Jobs that afford a living wage are difficult to find in Nagaland. This scarcity compels people to seek government jobs because the alternative is not bright, private jobs that does not pay a living wage (ask the innumerable youths employed in the private service sectors as office assistants, sales associates, receptionists in hotels, clothing and vehicle showrooms, shopping chains, restaurant, colleges, universities, and nurses in private hospitals). Being employed in such sectors brings no job satisfaction, no sense of dignity (forget the dignity of labor), a sense of exploitation that leads to a sense of hopelessness, frustration, and resentment.

Given the lack of appropriate employment opportunities in Nagaland, who wouldn’t want to rush and join the rebel groups in the hopes of securing government jobs, if the opportunity arises. One would indeed be a fool not to do so. Heck, I would do it, too. Who could blame those who rushed to join the rebel groups? Who could even blame parents for wanting their children to secure a job that at least pays a living wage? Some may protest that youths can go outside Nagaland in search of better jobs. But given the quality and standards of higher education in Nagaland, the probability that the majority of our students can compete outside is slim. If the chances are slim with college and university degrees, then what about those from the rural areas having no formal education or are educated from schools in the rural areas? It is no wonder that most of our youths go to mainland India to be security guards, waiters, receptionists, and work in massage parlour (known for its flesh trade). I do not think this is something to be proud of.

Such hopeless conditions induce most people in Nagaland to seek government jobs. The reason why corruption plays a crucial role in enabling such conditions to persist is that the funds allocated for state’s development projects and maintenance of basic infrastructure and utilities (uninterrupted water and electrical supplies, descent roads, good educational and health care institutions, proper sewer system, functioning postal system, urban planning, etc) are misappropriated by government bureaucrats, engineers, contractors, and politicians.

Certainly, I am not stating they are solely to be blamed. Rather, the fact that we pay ‘tea-money’ to move a legitimate file indicates that we are all implicit in this. Our silence permits ‘tea-money’ culture to become embedded and become part and parcel of our society. We’ve normalized corruption. We pay to secure police recruitment drives (an open secret); and we appeal to our tribe, family, and clan sentiments to secure government jobs, contracts, and schemes.

Just to give you an idea of what I mean, let me cite few examples to illustrate what I mean. In Nagaland state government’s “Demand for Grant: 2017-2018” report submitted to the Union government, the state asked its budget estimation of Rs. 16, 375 Crores from the centre. In the estimation prepared by the state government, one will find that for most departments (such as Rural Development, Agriculture, Road and Bridges, Land Resources Development, Water supply) close to half the budget is allocated for “OTHER CHARGES.” What do these “Other Charges” mean? May be “other charges” means ‘funds go to the pockets of the politicians, bureaucrats, engineers.”

Take, for example, the budget for School Education, where out of its Rs. 1,479 Crores budget, Rs. 1, 099 Crores (close to 70% of its budget) go for employees’ salaries and Rs. 310 Crores go for “Other Charges.”No wonder our school education is in shambles. Or the budget for Rural development, out of its Rs. 742 Crores budget, Rs. 45 Crores go to employees’ salaries and Rs. 610 Crores (more than half the budget) go for “Other Charges.” The question is, where do we see development in the rural areas, where hundreds of youths and daily wage labourers flock to the urban areas to earn a living? Take also the budget for Land Resources Development. Out of its estimated budget of Rs. 130 Crores, Rs. 6.2 Crores go to service employees’ salaries and Rs. 120 Crores (more than half of the budget) go for “Other Charges.” Even a recent report, by PRS Legislative Research, shows that Nagaland has witnessed the highest increased spending (with almost 10% of the state’s budget) in rural development in the country. With all these spendings, where is the development in the rural areas?

Or the budget for Roads and Bridges, out of its Rs. 399 Crores, Rs. 213 Crores (that’s more than half the budget) go for employees’ salaries. Is the Road and Bridges meant to employee people or to construct and maintain quality roads and bridges in Nagaland. By the looks of how the money is spent, it is hardly surprising why descent roads are hard to come by. Or the budget for Water Supply, the report indicates that out of Rs. 315 Crores, Rs. 68 Crores go for employees’ salaries and Rs. 14 Crores go for “maintenance.” Maintenance of what? Look at Kohima, how people struggle to procure water for basic daily use. And in almost every district, water in most houses is procured from the private lines (just as in Kohima). And conditions in rural areas are much worse.

There are many questions to be asked, but why are we not asking questions and holding our state government accountable and responsible for their actions? Is it because we are all in one way or the other a recipient of the misappropriated funds?

Can we truly trust and believe the same politicians (along with government bureaucrats, engineers, contractors) misappropriating funds by means of “other charges,” and “maintenance”? Can we truly say there is sincerity when they say “be a job creator, not a job seeker”? It is easy to talk big and say “be a job creator” when one has already amassed huge ill-gotten wealth to built and run hotels, resorts, fitness centres, businesses, schools, vehicle showrooms, etc. It is very easy to say “don’t be a job seeker,” when one has already secured government jobs for your tribesmen, family, clans, and village. Try looking into the eyes of the youths from underprivileged backgrounds and from the rural areas and tell them, “be a job creator, not a job seeker,” and “dignity of labour.” After misappropriating funds, it certainly seems virtuous to preach “be an entrepreneur,” “start your own business.”

Moreover, can we truly trust them with additional thousands of Crores of central funds meant for the Naga solution? Aren’t we letting the thieves guard the bank? Isn’t it better the solution should dissolve the Nagaland Legislative Assembly and have a new general election to have a new start?

It should not surprise us that most, if not all, present politicians want the solution to come early because there is money to be misappropriated. The thousands of Crores for the rehabilitation of the rebel groups, re-integrating them, providing jobs, etc. will be given to the state government, which will serve as the nodal agent. Because the funds will have to be directed by the state government for the purposes they were meant for, the politicians, bureaucrats, engineers, and contractors will have a field day embezzling the funds. Maybe a few handful of rebel leaders from various groups will get some share, as for the rest of the foot soldiers, they will most probably be given token lump-sum cash (maybe few-thousands) and thanked them for their service, what an insult. That is what Naga solution will, in all probability, look like. This scenario looks highly probable.

As long as corruption goes unchecked, we will continue to hear such stories, even though the Ceasefire Monitoring Group (CFMG) chairman Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Shokin Chauhan categorically stated that “the new recruits will not get jobs.” Indeed, what we are seeing is a (future) rebel group in the making (post-solution). So, should we close our eyes, shut our mouths, close our ears, and let this charade continue? I will leave the answer to the good judgement of the citizens of the “Land of Festivals.”

Dr. Salikyu, North East Christian University


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