~Toshi Sanglir, Impur

I seldom have the urge to write rejoinders to articles I read in the media but this one tickled my funny bone and hence the response. His line “Who benefits” caught my attention and so I’m hitching a ride on it. Need we even ask “who benefits” from such projects in the cities in light of what we have seen so far? I wonder if the actual beneficiaries have read his article. If they have, did it get their attention? But I jumped to a quick conclusion and have reasons for jumping the gun because the majority of Nagaland’s populace would not be included in the list of beneficiaries.

The state government’s proposal to set up the Naga Patient House in Tamil Nadu looks like a misplaced dream if they think it will benefit “everyone.” Just who is this everyone? Does the government think that Naga patients in Tamil Nadu have reached an alarming rate as compared to those in Nagaland that they need to set up the patient houses? I know not “everyone” goes to Tamil Nadu for treatment. Have they forgotten the number of patients languishing in Nagaland hospitals due to lack of facilities and services? There is no denial that we have a dedicated medical team of experts, yet, ill-equipped to provide appropriate services. While it may look grand to have our presence in all the major cities, shouldn’t we start by looking at where it is most needed, right here for that matter? Wouldn’t it be a smarter move to consider the pros and cons of investing at home before we invest in a city that can do well without the government’s investment?

Tamil Nadu does not need us! Compare their annual budget to that of ours! I won’t mention their budget here since the difference is alarming, if not heretical. The recently presented budget by the Mr. Rio, christened as a “people friendly” budget, showed a deficit of ₹ 365.33 crore for 2021-2022. And, because of a negative opening balance of ₹ 2,314.13 crore, 2021-22 is estimated to close with a negative balance of ₹2679.46 crore (https://morungexpress.com/nagaland-state-budget-2021-22-deficit-surges-to-rs-267946-crore). How “people friendly” this is, I don’t know. As a layman I understand the word deficit well and to me that does not sound good. In 2020 when the government had an opposition, the NPF criticised the budget and called it shallow, lacking substance when the government presented a negative balance of ₹2.3 crore.  Mr. TR Zeliang, the then leader of the opposition party expressed his shock and questioned how a total of ₹ 573.17 crore deficit could increase within a year (https://www.eastmojo.com/news/2020/02/15/nagaland-oppn-displeased-over-shallow-presentation-of-budget/). Now all that is gone and so is the opposition party! Without the opposition we now have a “people friendly” budget. The recent video of our leaders gallantly singing “Amazing Grace” seemed more like a cry to Delhi to save our wretched budget and admit that we were once lost and still are without them!

The government must be applauded for initiating the construction of Mon Medical College at the cost of ₹ 325 crore, of which ₹242.50 crore is said to have been released, even before the completion of the first Kohima Medical College. (https://morungexpress.com/state-govt-urged-to-expedite-construction-of-medical-colleges-in-nagaland-mohfw). The fruits of the Nagaland Medical College in Kohima is yet to be tasted by the Naga people. The latest direction from the Kohima Bench of Guwahati High Court directing the Department of Health and Family Welfare to submit the latest status report of the project does not speak too well of our government machinery. For too long the government has demonstrated its inability to complete projects in time and to sustain them. Will the two medical colleges now join the cemetery of incomplete projects in Nagaland? I wonder if the recent statement made by NitiAayog as the worst performing state in terms of infrastructure and health is to be taken for what it is or is it pure hog wash. Is this about the government’s total incompetence, gross negligence or mismanagement of systems?

Therefore, the answer to Dr.WatiLongchar’s “who benefits,” can best be responded by saying, only a few in the system but not the Naga public. Can the government address some of the more pressing needs at home before embarking on an adventurous mega project in the distant lands? If the government is so concerned about the plight of Naga patients in Tamilnadu, can they first demonstrate their sincerity by putting things in order at home? For starters, they can begin by equipping the hospitals in Nagaland with cutting edge technology, infrastructure and services. They can enhance the capabilities of the health care facilities in the rural areas and villages. They can complete the two medical colleges and have people benefiting from them. They can put systems and mechanism in place, systems that deliver for the Naga public, not just a few chosen few in the inner circle. This will then be a people centered benefit, not just a few. Can Tamilnadu wait please?

Abraham Lincoln’s speech sums up my thoughts as I end my rambling, “you can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Kuknalim.