A Naga village woman carrying water, firewood and her baby along a dusty road – Photographer: Imti Longchar
Oil prices are falling (more than 40% since June 2014 from $115 to less than $70 a barrel) and the Russian economy is currently floundering. Closer home, our humble old villagers are probably oblivious to the crashing Russian currency and concentrating more on pressuring their marriageable age grandchildren to get married while making preparations for the Christmas service. Oil prices probably aren’t really a concern for a grandmother who leads a simple life in the village. Sadly, that kind of life is on the decline due to the rapid urbanisation in today’s world.
Food for thought as we celebrate the festive season.
We wish our readers a Merry Christmas.
The Road to Wealth
The national highway that connects Kohima with Tseminyu and Wokha is so bumpy that it feels like it could wake a dead man if he was taken through it. This was my thought as I travelled through this highway to my village in November. After such a tiring journey, the saddest thing was to be greeted by an empty village, almost akin to a ghost town. The deserted look was only punctured by a few people carrying water and tending animals. There didn’t seem to be many people, except either the very old or the very young. The people from the village who were of school and college going age had all migrated to the towns and cities to study, the young and married were all searching for employment and working in the towns or cities. Basically, it was only the very old or the very young living in the village. I must have looked dejected because one of the elders pulled me aside and told me with a smile that the kids return during the holidays and the village starts bustling again.
I think our Naga society is reaching a stage where people are slowly moving away from the prospect of village life and are eager to shift to the towns or from the towns to the big city. Everyone wants a life where they can live comfortably. The road to wealth and comfort is slowly and surely shifting base to the towns now.
Our towns do offer comparatively better infrastructure, electricity, water, education, health facilities and a better quality of life compared to many villages. However, our towns are struggling to cope with this huge migration from the villages. A visit to local social networking groups will reveal a torrent of complaints regarding the pitiful condition of these towns. Issues ranging from corruption, the Naga political problem to petty traffic violations are aired, discussed, debated and sometimes mocked. The politicians, church and the Naga Political Groups seem to be the punching bags in the online world. The irony is that while these three institutions are abused and insulted in the relative anonymity of the online world; in the real world, our people fall over themselves to hail and revere them so as to be in their good books by inviting them to inaugurate functions, buildings and more. Our behaviour towards the three institutions – church, government and NPG’s is creating a strange paradox as we move from the virtual to the online world. At the heart of all these rants rings frustration, an open airing of opinions where our people seem to be expressing the disconnect they have from their political representatives, church and the NPG’s.
As we transition to a modern society these problems are only to be expected. We do have problems, we do have a lot of issues. But what is aggravating the situation and holding us back is not that we have problems, but the fact that we seem to be taking too long to solve these problems or conveniently trying to close our eyes and pretend they don’t exist. This calls for the institutions and powerful to make tough decisions and push them through. Otherwise, for all our talk of being one people the economic divide that is growing will only speed up the process of splitting our Naga family apart as everyone pulls each other down to grab the fruits of development and progress. Instead of pulling each other down, our Naga family and institutions that are in it need to work together. A great example of this is how Japan managed to forgive the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which is estimated to have killed 300,000 people and actually became a very valuable ally and trading partner of the USA. Even though China and Japan are rivals and its communist form of government make it a natural enemy of the USA, all three countries have open trade and investment with each other for mutually beneficial reasons.
In the above example, it shows how economic integration won over political rivalry even among enemy countries. However, the fact is that money invariably also draws crime. If the government or some other institution controls money then the government or the institution naturally draws in criminals or people who wish to extract it for their personal needs. Economists, Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson in their book “Why Nations Fail” write that it is institutions that are key to directing the fate of a nation. According to the authors, Nations fail when institutions are “extractive,” protecting the political and economic power of only a small elite that takes income from everyone else.
The road to wealth doesn’t seem to be in the villages anymore, nor will it even be in the state of Nagaland unless our political and economic institutions are “inclusive” and pluralistic, creating incentives for everyone to invest in the future.