Monday, February 15, 2010

Chief Minister Lalthanhawla’s dream of Modern Mizoram - some ideas how to fulfil it

By Paritosh Chakma

Mizoram Chief Minister Lalthanhawla in a recent interview to the North East Sun (15 January 2010 issue) stated - “Mizoram of my dream is a vibrant, prosperous State where peace prevails and the people, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, live side by side in harmony and prosperity. I dream of a corruption free society and a people fully developed to take their rightful place in the bigger Indian society and propelling our beautiful State and country forward. I would like to see the government of the day being governed by people who, in turn, are governed by God. As Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” My government has that courage.”

I felt very refreshing to know the kind of Mizoram our present Chief Minister dreams of. But I have built, over the years, a bad habit to see things in critical ways. So I can’t stop myself from writing this critique on the CM’s views of a “modern, prosperous Mizoram”.

But I am aware that this analysis of mine runs the risks of being dubbed as “personal prejudice of the author”. This, however, cannot discourage me.

1. Equality, non-discrimination, and dignity

Mr Lalthanhawla said Mizoram of his dream is a vibrant peaceful state where “people, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, live side by side in harmony and prosperity”. What he missed is a society whose foundation must be based on “equality” and “non-discrimination”. We all know, all are born free and equal in rights and hence, by virtue of being human beings there cannot be any discrimination on the basis of any difference including caste, creed, ethnicity and religion. Only when people are treated with equality and non-discrimination they can live with “dignity”. When every citizen feels a sense of dignity in every inch of their lives they can live in peace, harmony and prosperity. When they feel discriminated, neglected and humiliated they tend to rise in revolt. And, wherever there is revolt, there is no peace. Also, no state can develop when its minorities are suppressed, neglected and discriminated against. The civilization of a society is best judged by the way it treats its minorities.

Will the state government led by Mr Lalthanhawla have the courage to lay down the foundation of the Mizoram society based on equality and non-discrimination? He has not answered that but hopefully one day he will. He must.

2. Corruption free society

It is easy for any government to say it will root out corruption. However, it is important to understand that the society will be free of corruption only when there is total transparency in the governance, and when every public official and public leader will be accountable and responsible to the people.

When political leaders fight elections to become MLAs they bribe the voters, and richer candidates spent lavishly in the whole election process. As a result, the MLAs feel the electors have not elected the MLAs but the MLAs have “bought” their votes and so why should they (after they become MLAs or Ministers) at all work generously for the people. The MLAs or Ministers also need to pay back to the leaders at the gross root levels who have helped them win the elections. This is where corruption and nepotism begins in politics and our society rots.

This explains why no welfare scheme has become successful anywhere. Take for example, the Congress party’s flagship programme of poverty alleviation in Mizoram – New Land Use Policy or simply NLUP. This is the second avatar of NLUP, the first one having miserably failed in 1990s. Although rhetorics by Congress leaders tell you that they are damn serious to make NLUP successful this time, just look at what they are doing. They are choosing only the Congress supporters i.e. those who have voted for the Congress party in the 2008 MLA election, as beneficiaries. Because he had voted for the Congress party, he does not need to be a BPL family to get the funds although BPL family is a criteria under the NLUP guidelines.

Now the question arises wherether NLUP scheme is meant only for the Congress supporters. Or, only the Congress men and women are poor in Mizoram. Or, is the present government led by Mr Lalthanhawla only for those people who support the Congress party and the Gandhi family?

This takes me to the next question – is really the “government of the day being governed by people?”

3. Whose government is it?

Whose government is it anyway? Is it the government for the Congress men and women only? Or it is the government of the people of Mizoram?

Can Mr Lalthanhawla provide a government that works for the welfare of all its people without discrimination on the basis of party affiliations? Certainly MLAs seek votes for the party during election but when they win they are suppose to serve all the people of the state. For example, a Minister in the Cabinet is no longer a Minister for the Congress party or of his constituency alone, he is the Minister for the people of whole Mizoram.

But sadly during election campaigns the Congress candidates promised NLUP money to those who voted for the party and after they won they are trying hard to keep the promise: NLUP only to the Congress workers. In the process, the people of Mizoram are robbed of their rights. Their free, prior, and informed consent is not at all taken. How can it be “by the people, of the people, for the people” as a true democracy has been defined? Not surprisingly, the politicians become more powerful, fearful and inaccessible after winning elections. Today, it is the people who are responsible to their elected leaders rather than the way round.

Does Chief Minister Lalthanhawla have courage to see himself as the leader of the people of Mizoram, not merely the leader of the Congress party? If yes, his policies must benefit all the people of Mizoram, not only to the Congress men and women.

As long as Lalthanhalwa-led Congress government does not have the courage to rise above petty politics/political compulsions, the state of Mizoram cannot prosper.

“My government has that courage”, says the Chief Minister. Does it really have that courage? We all will be there to see.

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