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Lok Sabha MP from Nagaland, Tokheho Yepthomi, has reignited a fiery debate by questioning the relevance of Article 371(A) in the state’s development trajectory. The Article, granting special provisions to Nagaland, has long been seen as a shield against external intrusions but also, to some, a hindrance to economic progress. Navigating this complex equation necessitates a nuanced understanding of both arguments.

Yepthomi argues that misapplication of Article 371(A) has stifled growth, leaving Nagaland languishing as one of the country’s poorest states. He draws a stark comparison with neighboring states, highlighting their advancements in fields like power and oil, resources Nagaland can only dream of “after sovereignty.” This raises a critical question: is Article 371(A) truly an impediment to economic prosperity, or are deeper issues at play?

Concerns over resource exploitation are well-founded. Unbridled oil drilling could enrich corrupt officials and corporations while devastating the Naga homeland. However, instead of advocating for scrapping Article 371(A) altogether, a more cautious approach seems prudent.

One solution lies in judicious and responsible resource management. The Nagaland Legislative Assembly, empowered by Article 371(A), can frame stringent regulations to ensure transparency and environmental protection in resource extraction projects. Striking a balance between development and ecological well-being is crucial.

Furthermore, addressing the issue of taxation within the current constitutional framework deserves consideration. While burdening low-income earners with hefty taxes is unjust, a progressive tax system targeting the “wealthy elite class” within Nagaland could significantly boost state revenue.

The NLA has the power to enact such legislation, even within the confines of Article 371(A), ensuring resources contribute to societal progress rather than enrich the few.

However, even increased wealth cannot thrive in a climate of corruption. It must be emphasized here that the need for rule of law as the bedrock of any society’s progress. Strengthening institutions, fostering transparency, and holding officials accountable are vital steps towards ensuring equitable distribution of resources and development benefits.

The debate surrounding Article 371(A) is not one of simply choosing between development and identity. It is about finding a path that allows Nagaland to flourish economically while preserving its unique cultural heritage and protecting its ecological balance. Achieving this equilibrium requires a multifaceted approach that addresses resource management, taxation, and governance reforms, all within the existing constitutional framework. Ultimately, Nagaland’s future lies not in scrapping its constitutional safeguards but in utilizing them to craft a development trajectory that prioritizes both prosperity and its unique identity.

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