Dy CM TR Zeliang advocates legitimate right of Nagas

29 February: During the 4th Session of the 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly held at NLA Secretariat, Kohima on 29 February, 2024, Deputy Chief Minister TR Zeliang, while participating in the discussion on matters pertaining to the ‘Fencing of Indo-Myanmar Border,’ expressed that, considering the seriousness of the issue, it was befitting for the house to take up the Suspension of Free Movement Regime (FMR) for discussion during this 4th Session of the 14th NLA.

TR Zeliang
TR Zeliang

Zeliang explained that Naga ancestors lived as free people without any artificial borders until the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826, which established the current India-Myanmar boundary. Eventually, today the Naga family is divided and lives in two different countries—India and Myanmar. The Treaty of Yandabo ended the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826) but separated communities with shared ethnicity and culture, including the Nagas, as well as the Kuki-Chin-Mizo communities, without their consent and agreement. He further highlighted that the area of Burma-Naga consists of about 90,000 sq. Km, where half of the Naga family resides in Myanmar and the other half in India. Hence, he insisted that both countries’ top political leaders needed to work out strategies to transform those landlocked areas along the border by improving connectivity between the two countries, strengthening security posts and administration systems in sensitive pockets, instead of constructing border fencing.

Zeliang said that the State of Nagaland shares 215 kms of international border with Myanmar, and the agenda behind the division of this border land of the Nagas is precarious and unjustified. He further contended that the issue of the influx of illegal immigrants, like that of the Chins, Rohingyas, etc., into India has no similarity with the Naga issue. He said that the Chin-Kuki-Meitei problem cannot be equated with the Naga situation because the Naga people have been living together peacefully as a family, unlike the case of Chin-Kuki-Meitei in Manipur or in other parts of India.

Supporting his argument against the ‘Fencing of Indo-Myanmar Border,’ Zeliang said that border-fencing in Naga areas would not only affect the free movement of Naga people but also destroy the traditional land-holding system prevailing in the State, especially in the case of Noklak District, where the district stands to lose 3500 acres of land that the local populace has been cultivating for generations. He said that the local communities living on both sides of the border in this area have very close cultural and social affinity, and there are instances where they hold land on both sides of the border. In spite of the open and unguarded border, there is practically no migration of the native Nagas across the international border.

Zeliang said that the FMR, which aims to facilitate local border trade, improve access to education and healthcare for border residents, and strengthen diplomatic ties, must neither be scrapped nor modified without taking the grassroots populace into confidence. He also lamented that the idea of fencing the Indo-Myanmar Border and scrapping the FMR will antagonize the Naga people because, for the Naga people, the desire to bond and connect, to prosper and to live together as one people is a legitimate right.

Zeliang concluded by saying that the Government of India needs to develop a comprehensive and balanced approach for border management because any unilateral decision to impose its arbitrary decision to divide the Naga people by constructing border fences may have a deep negative impact in the days to come. He urged the House to pass a strong resolution of opposition and convey to the Government of India the feeling of Naga people who are vehemently opposing the construction of border-fencing along the Indo-Myanmar boundary in Nagaland.

Dy CM Y Patton addresses FMR in NLA
Deputy Chief Minister Y Patton explained the historical ties shared by tribal communities residing along the border areas of India and Myanmar. He emphasized that since 1950, both nations have facilitated the free movement of tribal people across their borders.

Highlighting the history of land border crossings, he said Nagaland, sharing 215 km of its international border with Myanmar, holds communities with shared language, culture, customs, and landholding systems on both sides. Patton expressed concern over the recent announcement by the Indian government to suspend the FMR along the Myanmar border and construct a fence, which threatens the social, tribal, and economic ties of indigenous people.

Y Patton

He stated that in response, the Nagaland State Cabinet, in its meeting on 8 February 2024, decided to request the Central Government to reconsider the suspension of the FMR. The Cabinet also proposed the inclusion of village council authorities in the regulatory process.

Also, the State Government has conveyed its concerns to the Government of India, urging them to continue the FMR and involve local stakeholders in formulating regulations for cross-border movement.

Patton concluded by affirming the commitment of Nagaland to pursue an early and favorable response from the Government of India regarding the FMR.

Legislators express opinions on FMR
MLA Kuzholuzo Nienu, who initiated the discussion on matters of urgent public importance under Rule-50 pertaining to “Fencing of Indo- Myanmar Border,” said that the issue of FMR has put the people in a state of hue and cry particularly in the border areas owing to its divisive nature.

Nagas have been living in their own God-given land, never having been conquered nor ruled by outsiders since time immemorial, he said. He strongly opined that FMR has to be abolished by any means as it divides the communities living harmoniously in the border areas for centuries. “This FMR is illogical and unreasonable which is not acceptable by the Naga community for whatsoever reasons,” he asserted.

He also blamed the Government of India for its hasty decision taken without knowing the topography of the region and its decision for revocation on the pretext of insurgency and smuggling of drugs in the border areas.

Meanwhile, he mentioned that Nagas are well protected by 371(A) and also suggested that there should be a stringent law to tackle insurgency related problems in the border areas.

Minister, Power and Parliament Affairs, KG Kenye appraised the house on the history of Mac Mohan Line and how it was demarcated without the approval of the two contesting parties of India and Myanmar. He supported the passing of a resolution to this effect and urged the government of the day to appeal to the Government of India for review of its decision.

MLA, P Longon recalled the history which took place in 1970, wherein the boundary pillars erected in the border areas were erected without the consent of the landowners nor the people living in the border areas. He said FMR is an issue of concern today as it deeply hurts the sentiments of the people domiciled in the border areas for centuries. He called upon all the elected members of Nagaland Legislative Assembly to be united at this juncture and pursue vigorously on the matter with the Government of India for revocation. FMR and border fencing is not required when law and order problems in the border areas are normal, he added.

He maintained that people, especially belonging to the border areas, are eagerly waiting for the outcome of the August House in respect of FMR and border fencing and urged the members of 14th NLA to come to the rescue of the people living across the borders. He also mentioned particularly about the Khiamniungan Nagas who have 154 villages on the Myanmar side and 45 on the Indian side.

He maintained that Naga people, particularly those living on the border areas, are looking forward to Act East Policy as a means for infrastructure development and economic uplift and that there are no law and order problems in the border villages to justify the abrogation of FMR and border fencing.

MLA, Jwenga Seb stated that the FMR will create barriers which will lead to disparities and the decision to fence is parting with a huge amount of land in India. Nagas should not ignore the objectives of the FMR which will hamper the promotion of cultural exchange. The FMR has been created without transparent discourse. In this connection, he suggested the Government of India reconsider bilateral relations, advocating a collaborative approach and seeking an alternative solution.

Advisor, Art and Culture, Treasuries & Accounts, Konngam Konyak said that there are tribes with the same tradition and languages that live both in India and Myanmar borders. He stressed that unlike other States that have border issues, there have been no problems between the Nagaland-Myanmar border and fencing cannot stop drug and insurgency problems and he appealed to the Centre to undo the Fencing.

MLA, Naiba Konyak stated that many people in the bordering areas own large areas of land on the Myanmar side and they farm in these areas. He added that fencing of the border would lead to loss of land owned by the Nagas on the Indian side. He called upon the members to pass a resolution against fencing of the Indo-Myanmar border and abolition of FMR.

Minister Forest, Environment & Climate Change and Village Guards, CL John, as an elected member from the affected area, also urged the August House to pass a resolution.

Referring to the Nagaland Legislative Assembly as the “Guardian of the Naga People”, Achumbemo Kikon called on the legislators to not only oppose the withdrawal of “Free Movement Regime (FMR)” but pass a resolution against the withdrawal of FMR by the Government of India and also a resolution for integration of the Naga inhabited areas.

The MLA cited the case of Longwa village to showcase how the boundary lines were demarcated arbitrarily and without the consent and knowledge of the Naga people.

He pointed out that India has ratified the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). He referenced Article 36 of the declaration to assert Nagas right to maintain and develop contacts, relations and cooperation across borders and the responsibility of the Government of India to facilitate the implementation of this right.

Achumbemo further added that it was a fight for Nagas’ survival and identity and that the right must not be surrendered.

Speaking on the issue, Dr Neisatuo Mero said that the abolition of the Free Movement Regime will not only separate families, deprive the people of their livelihood but may also create a law and order situation, which may further alienate the people from the government. Also, India being a democratic state, the views of the people on the matter should be given due consideration.

Legislators present Assembly Committee Reports

The Chairman of the Committee on Public Undertakings (2023–2024), Imkong L Imchen, presented the 137th Report on the Action Taken by the Government regarding the observations and recommendations made in the 96th Report of the Committee on Public Undertakings. This report focused on the examination of the Audit Paragraphs contained in the Comptroller & Auditor General of India for the years 2011-2016, specifically concerning the Nagaland Industrial Raw Materials Supply Corporation Limited (NIRMSC) under the Department of Industries & Commerce.

Imkong L Imchen
Imkong L Imchen

During the fourth session of the 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly on 29th February 2024, the 138th Report on Action Taken by the Government was also presented. This report addressed the observations and recommendations contained in the 104th Report of the Committee on Public Undertakings. The focus was on the examination of the Report of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India for the year 2016-2017, pertaining to the Nagaland State Mineral Development (NSMDC) under the Department of Geology and Mining, Government of Nagaland. Additionally, the 139th Report on Action Taken by the Government was presented, addressing observations and recommendations from the 109th Report of the Committee on Public Undertakings. This report focused on the examination of the Report of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India for the year 2017-2018, pertaining to the Nagaland State Mineral Development (NSMDC) under the Department of Geology and Mining, Government of Nagaland.

The Chairman of the Committee on Government Assurances (2023 – 2024), Kuzholuzo Nienu, presented the 104th Report of the Committee on Government Assurances (8th Session of the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly), the 105th Report of the Committee on Government Assurances (12th Session of the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly), and the 106th Report on Action Taken on the Observations/Recommendations contained in the 99th Report of the Committee on Government Assurances.

Additionally, the Chief Minister and Minister-in-Charge of Finance presented copies of the (1) Appropriation Accounts 2022-23, (2) Finance Accounts (Volume-I) 2022-23, and (3) Finance Accounts (Volume-II) 2022-23.

Legislators discuss starred questions in NLA

Kohima, 29 February: On the third day of the 4th session of the 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly on 29th February 2024, in response to the query raised by MLA Nuklutoshi regarding the status of the Dikhu Hydro Project, K. G. Kenye, the Minister of Power and Parliamentary Affairs, stated that the land survey measurement for the Dikhu Hydro Project in Mon and Mokokchung districts has been successfully completed. However, the process in Longleng district has faced delays due to objections from the two villages. The initiation of the project has stalled due to objections from Nyang and Kangching villages under Longleng District, unwilling to part with their lands measuring 189.68 (9.42%) and 197.11 (9.79%) hectares, respectively. Out of the 15 project areas encompassing villages from the three districts—Mon, Longleng, and Mokokchung—13 villages have consented to the development of the project. The minister mentioned that negotiations with the landowners of the two villages in Longleng are ongoing. Kenye also emphasized the significance of this project, highlighting its potential to create educational and medical facilities, stimulate commercial activities for individuals and groups, and generate about 186 MW of electricity, sufficient for the entire state.

During the starred question session on Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS), MLA Kuzholuzo Nienu inquired about the procedure for the release and monitoring of funds under CSS. Chief Minister and Minister in-Charge of Finance Neiphiu Rio replied that the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, has provided instructions for the release of funds and monitoring their utilization. He outlined key points of the procedure, including the designation of a Single Nodal Agency (SNA) by each state government, the release of the Central Share for each CSS to the SNA account, and the release of funds based on the actual requirements on the ground. Rio explained that delays may occur due to factors such as the late receipt of sanction details in the Public Financial Management System (PFMS), process delays in various offices or departments, and errors in debiting the wrong head of account or depositing into the wrong SNA Bank account. Responding to a question about the operational status of PFMS in all districts, Rio confirmed its full functionality.

Addressing MLA Nyamnyei Konyak’s starred question, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio informed that there are 29 constituencies covered under the District Urban Development Agency (DUDA). He further disclosed that the proposed budget for DUDA under the State Plan is set to be enhanced by Rs. 1 crore, bringing the total proposed budget to Rs. 24 crore. When asked about plans to establish an Executive Engineer division in Mon, Minister-in-Charge Kaito Aye stated that the case is currently under examination.

NLA holds discussion on Budget 2024-25

Kohima, 29 February: During the 4th Session of the 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly held at the NLA Secretariat in Kohima on 29th February 2024, discussions on the budget for 2024-25 took place. Advisor of Water Resources, Tongpang Ozukum, expressed that the Naga political issue remains a top priority, and the government is committed to finding an honorable and acceptable solution. He appreciated the inclusion of six villages under the Department of Under Developed Areas and commended the Chief Minister for allocating Rs. 14,850 lakhs for the Foothill road under the special assistance to states scheme. Recognizing the initiatives of IDAN, Ozukum mentioned that the State is reaping the benefits of the CSR conclave held in 2022. He concluded by stating that the 2024-25 budget demonstrates clarity and transparency, outlining the government’s priorities and initiatives.

Advisor of Law & Justice and Land Revenue, T.N Mannen, participating in the discussion on the budget speech, highlighted the Nagaland Political issue. Mannen commented that the unresolved nature of this issue shows a repetitive failure by the State government. He noted the lack of unity among the people, churches, and nationalist workers, urging leaders to engage in deep introspection to find a solution. Mannen asserted that the ‘Fencing of Indo-Myanmar Border’ constitutes a violation of human rights against the indigenous people living in the borders. He called upon the House to request the Centre to find a common solution that avoids negative reactions along the boundary. Regarding the funds sanctioned under PM DevINE for the people of Eastern Nagaland, Mannen emphasized that money alone should not determine development. He suggested observing the capacity to utilize the funds properly, with realism being the driving force of change.

Achumbemo Kikon, emphasizing the importance of electricity for the growth of entrepreneurship and the economy, suggested amending the “Communitization of Electricity Management.” He remarked that while communitization of electricity has served its purpose, changing times necessitate amendments to increase revenue collection in the power sector. Achumbemo also requested the State government to allocate more funds for the all-round development of border areas.

Jwenga Seb commended the Chief Minister’s Universal Life Insurance Scheme, describing Budget 2024-25 as a testament to the government’s unwavering commitment to the welfare of the people. He termed the government’s commitment to promoting entrepreneurship as key to a prosperous and self-sufficient state. On the issue of power, he stated that the installation of prepaid meters in urban areas would enhance revenue collection. He also proposed adopting a cyber-security safeguard system to protect the power grid of the state from online threats.

Assembly passes government bills, adopts government resolution

Kohima, 29 February: Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio moved “The Nagaland Goods and Services Tax (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2023” for consideration, and the Bill was passed during the fourth session of the 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly on 29th February 2024.

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, K. G. Kenye, moved “The Nagaland Salaries, Allowances & other Facilities of the Chief Minister, Speaker, Deputy Chief Ministers/Ministers, Leader of Opposition, Deputy Speaker, and other Members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly and Pension for Ex-Members (Sixth Amendment) Bill, 2024,” and the Bill was passed.

Minister for Higher Education, Temjen Imna Along, moved the Motion for the withdrawal of “The Establishment of Private University Bill, 2024,” and the Bill was withdrawn.

The Chief Minister also moved for the Consideration and Adoption on the Repeal Of “The Public Debt Act, 1944,” And Amendment Of “Government Securities Act, 2006.” Neiphiu Rio, Chief Minister, and Minister in-charge of Finance introduced and moved the Nagaland Appropriation (No. 1) Bill, 2024 (2), and the Bill was passed.

The House discussed and voted on the Supplementary Demand for Grants for the year 2023–2024.

Chief Minister Rio and other Legislators lay Annual Administrative Reports

Kohima, 29 February: Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, during the fourth session of the 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly on 29th February 2024, presented the Annual Administrative Reports for 2023-2024 from the Departments of Evaluation, Economics and Statistics, Agriculture, Food & Civil Supplies, Personnel and Administrative Reforms, Legal Metrology & Consumer Protection, Chief Electoral Officer, Land Revenue, Industries and Commerce, and Youth Resources & Sports.

Deputy Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang presented the Annual Administrative Reports for 2023-2024 of the “Nagaland State Mineral Development Corporation Limited.”

Minister of Health & Family Welfare P. Paiwang Konyak laid the Annual Administrative Reports for 2023-2024 from the Department of Health and Family Welfare and Transport, while Minister of Rural Development and SIRD Metsubo Jamir laid the Annual Administrative Report for 2023-2024 of the Department of Rural Development, State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD), and School Education.

Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio also presented the Report of the Third Nagaland State Finance Commission (2023-2024 to 2025-2026) and The Nagaland Taxation Service (First Amendment) Rules, 2023. Deputy Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang presented a copy of “The Nagaland Groundwater (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Rules 2020.”

Mokokchung Times 

(With inputs from DIPR)

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