Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Teaching Nagaland to Fish - Deto Neikha, Assistant Professor Economics

Elections are around the corner and rumors are rife regarding the use of money, liquor and lofty promises to entice voters. At the heart of this probably lies the ingrained human desire for easy money. The easy money culture seems to percolate through a lot of our institutions, governments and even churches. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”  Has our attitude towards money taken a turn for the worse because of the huge handouts from the central government? 


In an article ‘Why Foreign Aid is Hurting Africa?’ published in The Wall Street Journal (March 21, 2009), Dambisa Moyo had put forward her views that foreign aid is only embroiling the African nations into a ‘cycle of corruption, slower economic growth and poverty’. She elaborated this issue in her book ‘Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa’ and even strongly advocated that these foreign aids should be gradually stopped. Her contentions were based on the fact that ‘the insidious aid culture has left African countries more debt-laden, more inflation-prone, more vulnerable to the vagaries of the currency markets and more unattractive to higher-quality investment…. increased the risk of civil conflict and unrest. Aid is an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster’.

This flabbergasting argument can be applied to the context of our own state – Nagaland. But the point of discussion here is not that of foreign aid. It is about the humongous central assistance being given to our state and how has the state responded or grown with these funds. Are the implications deleterious or desirous? What are the imperative steps needed to be taken to ensure a well-balanced growth path? 

Since 1969, Nagaland has been a special category state which enables the state to get preferential treatment in the allocation of central assistance. Under this category, a state gets 90% of the central assistance as grant and 10% as loan. These states also get excise duty concessions which would interest the businessmen and entrepreneurs to set up their business. Due to such provisions given to those states under this special category, Nagaland too has benefitted a lot financially. Added to this, the introduction of different centrally-funded programmes and schemes, Nagaland has been receiving funds perpetually. The data for the inflow of funds and its management cannot be covered here. But the motif is to see if the developmental works are really carried out with all the funds received. Just a glance would show something amiss.

With this financial assistance and special provisions, has our state become dependent, corrupted, and impecunious? The state’s economy is surely heavily dependent on central funding. The Finance Commissioner to the Government of Nagaland, Toshi Aier, stated that ‘Nagaland is heavily dependent on central grants due to poor resources of its own revenue which is only 8% while the remaining 92 % comes from the centre’. A major setback is that the state’s economy has become inordinately prone to fiscal deficits. This is because the state is unable to generate revenue even to a minuscule proportion of its expenditure. Undoubtedly, the very nature of central assistance is to help the state come out from its backwardness and become somewhat independent. But for how long should a state be dependent with little or no revenue on its own and continue receiving special assistance. This leads to examine how are the funds being utilized. Developmental activities are certainly being taken up but not on a scale as much as the funds earmarked for such. The funds meant for development are shelled out only in pockets of the state while the rest of the money is siphoned off into the pockets. The level of corruption as such is deep-rooted and looks insuperable. The flow of money from the centre has aggravated this malfeasance. Akin to what foreign aids have made of Africa, the central assistance in terms of financial ones has made our state eddying into an ocean of debts, deficits, dependencies, depravity and dereliction of duties.

The above vista does not mean that the economy has spiraled into a vicious cycle of ills and bitter pills alone. What is needed here is to cure those ills with bitter pills. Development of a state should not be done for personal gains. Sacrifices have to be made by ensuring that development or growth activities are not sowed for few but reaped by all. Nagaland still being only a subsistent and not yet a self-sustaining economy will need developmental resources from the centre. But this should be gradually phased out so as to enable the state to stand on its own. For such a day to arrive we need to have an effective, equitable and efficient governance. The bureaucrats should be apolitical and dedicated. Regular checks need to be carried out to ensure that no embezzlement or misappropriation of public funds is sinisterly and selfishly achieved. Scrutinizing of the activities of various beneficiaries under different schemes need to be taken up. Microfinance can be introduced and encouraged. The state would also need to set up its own industries and manufacturing units. For without having any such, the money would surely seep out of the state as is the case now. Local entrepreneurship should be supported and promoted. Political stability, peace and security have to be ensured. Infrastructural development should be taken on a big scale. Proper research and studies need to be conducted to envisage the right developmental plans.   Only then will the trust deficits and fiscal deficits be swept away.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:”

Friday, 25 January 2013

Getting It Right:Challenges for a Teacher in the 21st Century - Daniel M. Khan, Assistant Professor, Political Science Department

To change the world, we have politicians, govt. employees, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers – a host of professions to pick and choose from. We also have ‘teachers’. Teachers to guide, train, educate and help choose a profession we love. But how much importance do we give to the profession of teaching? Do teachers know their roles effectively enough? 

Challenges for a Teacher in the 21st Century

“I am a teacher! What I do and say are being absorbed by young minds who will echo these images across the ages. My lessons will be immortal, affecting people yet unborn, people I will never see or know. The future of the world is in my classroom today, a future with the potential for good or bad. The pliable minds of tomorrow's leaders will be molded either artistically or grotesquely by what I do…
Only a teacher? Thank God I have a calling to the greatest profession of all! I must be vigilant every day lest I lose one fragile opportunity to improve tomorrow.”
 - Ivan Welton Fitzwater

It is said that teaching as a profession makes other professions. Teachers play a unique role of preparing students to become worthy members of all professions in the world. They therefore shoulder a responsibility and opportunity to mould future generations. Teaching requires a lot of dedication and sacrifice and there are not many who have the calling to be teachers though there are people who join the profession for various reasons. Studies show that many people start teaching for idealistic reasons: to work with youth, to have a positive influence on others and to pass on what they know and care about. Teaching is not simply a profession; it is a vocation. Those who regard teaching as a vocation derive their identity from an inner motivation that allows them to shape their roles rather than merely occupy them. Research also shows that successful teachers conceive their work in broader terms than in the simple accomplishment of a function.

With globalization we see an emerging ‘global society’ driven by technology and communication developments. This ‘global society’ is shaping the students as ‘global citizens’ and intelligent persons with multi-skills and knowledge to apply to the competitive and information-based society. Teachers today find themselves in an education system in which they are no longer the sole ‘fountain of information’ but the facilitators and pointers towards information. The 21st century tech-savvy, multi-media, multi-tasking digital students come to school with very different sets of experiences and expectations.  Connecting with them, relating to them, and motivating them now require teachers who are open to new ways of teaching and supporting students.

What does all this tell us? If the world in which the students live has changed so dramatically, then the role of the teacher must change as well to prepare our students for the world of today and tomorrow to meet the needs of current culture. We need teachers who can not only survive but also excel in the present times.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.” Teaching is not simply a profession. As most teachers soon discover, there has been a long struggle in the professional world to gain respect for teaching. Professions are recognized by outside criteria. But there is an important difference between profession and vocation. People can conduct themselves professionally but may not consider their work a calling. Today, the effective teacher embraces interaction with parents, welcomes dialogue and building authentic relationships with all key members involved to develop classroom support for the students and her.  The effective teacher will have high expectations for student behavior and academic achievement, but since she has created authentic relationships, the students will work hard to meet and exceed those expectations. Ultimately teachers should reflect the same behavior that they expect from their students. The effective teacher should keep these thoughts in mind… Am I presenting the materials in a manner that is helping the students? Am I treating them the way I would want someone to treat my child? At the end of the day remember that they are still children, facing real problems in a tough world, so they need all the support they can get.

The challenging role of the teacher also includes reaching beyond the walls of the school. Presently, the school remains an isolated building that is disconnected from the world in which we are preparing students to live. Education is about making learning alive and relevant. Therefore, the teacher should not confine education to the classroom alone but connect it to the real world effectively utilizing the available technologies.

Leadership is about responsibility and action, not just title or position, and the teacher is the leader of her classroom, every teacher has the ability and the duty to be a leader in the school community. When the teacher has both the operational and interpersonal skills to complement her content expertise, she can step outside of the proverbial box and her comfort zone to be a leader in the educational community, influencing the culture of the school and school community.

Apart from all that, a teacher should be a person who is steadfast and not easily influenced by the pressures of society. She should have an unimpeachable character, integrity and fear of God, one who takes her calling seriously. In conclusion, I would like to highlight this quality of a teacher using a small illustration:

If you have one cotton ball and a plastic ball, and you drop these two balls into two different buckets containing dirty water, what do you observe? You will see that the cotton ball absorbs the dirty water and sinks to the bottom of the bucket, becoming indistinguishable from the dirt after some time. Whereas, the plastic ball floats on the surface of the water, retaining its shape and appearance, never absorbing the dirt from the bucket.

 Teachers need to be like the plastic ball: retaining our integrity in spite of living in a society with degrading values and morals. It is true that we cannot totally change or alienate ourselves from the society we live in but we can retain our goodness and pass on our legacy to our students so that the world will be a better place.
 Titus 2:7,8a. “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned…”
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:” 

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Contemporary Indian Women: The Ground Reality -Shitio Shitiri, HOD Political Science

                 Indian protesters hold candles during a rally in New Delhi.
(AFP/Getty Images)
As we celebrated the coming of 2013, our country was being shaken by another shocking reality. 
The Delhi gang rape of a 23 year old woman, which led to nation wide protest brought to light deeper questions on the plight of women in our country - violence, discrimination, subjugation and more. 
 We still continue to ponder about the real position of women from the past to the present day. 

Contemporary Indian Women: The Ground Reality

Women are the noblest creation of God Almighty on this earth.  Men and women are like two wheels of a carriage.  One is not superior or inferior to the other. The life of one without the other is incomplete. Men and women both contribute to the development of each other’s personality.

In Ancient India, women were accorded equal status and considered better halves of men. No ceremony, prayer or Yajna was complete without women’s participation. They enjoyed full liberty to prepare themselves in their own manner to face the arduous battle of life.

Unfortunately in the later period the status and honour women enjoyed in the past declined. During the medieval period, women were deprived fairly wide measures of freedom and were considered ‘unpaid slaves’. Purdah, child marriage, female infanticide, sati and other social evils were practiced on a wide scale. The condition of women remained quite miserable through out the middle ages.

In the 19th century, social reformers fought for the emancipation of women. The efforts of social reformers, impact of western thought, liberal education, socio-economic consciousness and all-round reawakening in the country paved way to liberate women from the shackles of age-old slavery. Women actively took part in the freedom movement of the country along with men. The world witnessed a host of Indian women making a mark at the international arena in various fields during that particular phase of time. As a result of their contribution, the status of women in India kept on evolving.  Soon after independence, Indian women got back their honour and dignity. The constitution granted them equality of status and opportunity with men. The government made efforts to remove disparities providing conditions for women welfare by enacting laws which include-Widow remarriage Act (1856), Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956, Dowry Prohibition Act (1961 Amended in 1984), Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971), Child Marriage Restraint Act (1978), Commission of sati (Prevention) Act 1987, Domestic Violence Act (2005) etc. Further, programmes and plans were made providing access to women in education, skill development, employment, gender sensitization, reservation (33% in Panchayati Raj & Municipalities).

Today, quite a large number of women have made remarkable progress contributing immensely to the development of the country. Women have not only woken up from the slumber of the millennia, but are actually attaining commanding heights in every field. We have women doctors, engineers, lawyers, architect, pilots, cops, politicians, scientist, professor and sportsperson. Result also shows that women capture most of the merit in university and other exams. Gradually the condition and status of women in India is slowly changing and rising. Women whether high or low, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, working women or housewives have become bold and ready to face all challenges. They have begun to take due place in free India.

 However, a closer look at the condition of women in general will show that the so-called women power is more a myth than a reality. The challenges faced by women in dealing with issues relating to their deprivation are manifold in our society. Although the process of women’s empowerment has been successful to a certain extent, gender-related socio-economic biases still exist. Prenatal medical test are being increasingly resorted to abort female foetuses. Female infanticide is still being widely practiced. Majority of women still remain poor, deprived and illiterate. Young brides are kept like hostages in the house of their husband and held to ransom, extorting more and more dowry. Crime against women is on the rise – child rape, child prostitution, incest, abduction, dowry deaths, physical domestic violence and other forms of atrocities. Even as we were welcoming 2013, the Delhi rape case was a stark reminder of how the women of our country continue to be appallingly treated.  In politics, even merit and personal talent of a women aspirant have become a liability. Women, who constitute about 49 percent of the vote bank in India, are yet to assert themselves on the Indian political Scene. Only few have gained eminence because of the sweat of their brow and personal talent.

According to the global poll conducted by Thomas Reuters “India is the fourth most dangerous country in the world for women, and the worst among the G20 countries”. Surprisingly, India ranks as the country with the maximum number of social legislation for women. What a Shame? Inspite of so many laws, women in India continue to face many social challenges “making their lives a living hell”. In a male dominated macho, it is difficult to make an objective evaluation of women’s place in the society. Sadly, inspite of tall claims about the advent of women power, women still remain vulnerable to men’s exploitation. Nevertheless, women should also know their duties and responsibilities towards their family, society and nation. We, the people, are the ambassadors of the country, it’s time we understand and redeem the system from serious sluggishness of evils. Let’s live well as citizens of heaven in a fallen world?

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Nagaland and the “Gangnam Style” Cycle - Kvulo Lorin, Director of Administration

Psy Performing his Gangnam Style from his hit Music Video 

In case you missed the news, the world didn’t end on 21st December 2012, as some people thought the Mayan calendar predicted. However, for some people, the world did end on that day. The world as they knew it changed when they lost their loved ones and friends to accidents, sickness or began new lives as they retired from office, got married or even became proud parents. Life-changing events, both positive and negative, come and go. Life is like a cycle.  

Nagaland and the “Gangnam Style” Cycle

Looking at my calendar on 1st January 2013 I thought about the limitless possibilities that 12 whole months gave me. I would change and start over with a clean slate, lose my bad habits, make my parents and family proud, work hard to be successful and exercise till I got those six pack abs I’ve wanted since I was in class 6… then I started feeling drowsy again and went back to sleep... zzz...

Broken New Year resolutions seem to go hand in hand with the beginning of the year - just like the failed promises for a solution to the Naga issue before Christmas, as was once widely proclaimed, or the mythical smooth roads and regular electricity guaranteed before every election. As bleak as things sometimes appear, it is not just Nagaland with problems. When we look beyond Nagaland, we see violence in Imphal, the coronation of Delhi as the rape capital and worse things happening in the Syrian civil war and elsewhere.
Holding on to a resolution is not easy. Achieving success in life also not easy. If we want, we can always find a reason to fail, someone to blame and a situation that is not conducive for success. Many times, those reasons are valid. But who would imagine a globally obscure Korean pop star’s music video making fun of the rich kids of Gangnam District in Seoul, Korea would have the most popular youtube video racking over a billion views (1,140,421,375 as of writing this article)? By now, many are probably sick of the song, (or listening to it and pretending to be cool), but his weird combination of dance moves and beats actually made him a world-wide sensation. How does something like that happen? Interestingly, our Gangnam singer himself never expected the video to become so popular and heard by billions of people who don’t even know Korean… but it happened thanks to the internet and technology. Makes me wonder if one day a Naga might make a hip-hop video with Naga dance moves and have it hit a billion youtube views. The beauty of the internet is it makes the billion youtube views within the realm of possibility, even for a Naga. My opinion is that if Psy brought out this song before the youtube era, it would probably have faded to oblivion because he was initially rejected by the big record companies (They are now probably kicking themselves for not recognizing his talent earlier). The thing is Psy never gave up and in some ways, his success sort of shows that hard work pays. 

I have met a lot of people who blame the world, their parents or society for their failures. Statements like, “If I was born in the city or in the USA, I would be a rockstar,” or “successful” are quite common. In reality, success is much harder than being simply born in the right place and time. Sadly, there are millions of kids born in the USA who don't become Bill Gates or the next Billboard hip-hop star. That being said, it’s great to see many of our talented Nagas like Alobo Naga, Divine Connection, Alo Wanth and many more becoming household names in the very difficult music scene. 

However, no matter how popular Psy becomes, he is not irreplaceable. Someone somewhere will come up with a catchier beat, with a weirder video and make the world go wild again. Big shot one day, zero shot the next. Life is a cycle. We could be the most important person in the church, the most powerful political party, tribe, village or clan but time eventually levels all. History is replete with examples of time being a leveller. Look at the Mayan Civilization who dominated their world with highly complex customs and science, but then suddenly disappeared without any known reason. Genghis Khan, the mighty Mongol Emperor’s empire eventually collapsed and his tomb has never been found. When we look in the mirror we should recognize ourselves for what we all are - human beings, here for a temporary period of time with status that will come and go, whether our egos like it or not.

The world eventually moves on, we will see other Gangnam Style videos, Steve Jobs, and maybe even a Gandhi somewhere around the world. Each impact has an instrumental effect, depending on how we choose to orchestrate it. We might even face a lot of uncertainty and violence with people stepping on each other to get ahead, either for prestige or greed. Many a times minor  changes to cultural and traditional practices bring outrage and vociferous opposition like the closing down of check gates, removal of prohibition, reservation of seats for women in municipal societies for example. A society is only as advanced as its thinking, and a society which does not grow together will eventually fight each other.

According to former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice on the Syrian civil war, “When a civil war goes on for a long time, it empowers the worst elements, and so what was once an opposition that was dominated by more tolerant and, more liberal forces now has an element of Al Qaeda, a very radical Sunni force.”  She means as violence continues, the more violent and intolerant people force the sensible thinkers out and proceed to use more and more violent tactics to achieve their ends, thereby eventually hurting civilians and creating a society where the common man suffers.  Will our 60 year national movement head down a road similar to the Syrians?

With regards to our society’s fears on prohibition and women’s reservation etc, the doomsayers and the purists are probably both wrong. Society will not collapse if women are allowed reservation or a Naga solution is found, nor will heaven come to Nagaland if prohibition is lifted or vice versa. But of course that does not mean we ever stop trying for anything at all. The truth probably lies somewhere around the middle. There will always be positives along with negatives, which we must continuously circumvent. It is good to worry about the fearful consequences of decisions. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that there is worry that is fact-based and there is worry that is ignorance based. Those with the facts must make the ignorant aware and those who worry because of the facts sometimes need to have faith.

Things need to be viewed from their proper perspective. We can’t assume to know everything and be correct all of the time, nor is a person wrong all the time. What we should do is listen to our moral compass and cut out the blatant hypocrisy in our lives. Call a spade, a spade. Only when we are truthful to ourselves and can think beyond the individual, then can we progress as a society and then maybe we can call 2013 as a year of solutions to the many problems that affect our society.   

The Missing Principles in Naga Society - Zuchano Khuvung, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Moral and ethical values as social categories are crucial for generating a sound culture in any given society. However, people tend t...