Antics of a Naga Civil Servant
[dropcap]N[/dropcap]EVER have I seen such intense desire of the people of Wokha to want the fishery redeveloped to its original glory. Having sensed this, I made a very serious bid to do just that. In a joint sitting with the Ministers and MLAs, an estimated amount of Rs. 25,00,000/- was sought from the DPBF, along with another Rs.30,00,000/- for the construction of the Rest House. While refusing to provide fund for the Rest House, they agreed to provide Rs.5,00,000/- each for the development of the fishery. Having settled this matter, a very extensive survey was made at site. I was faced with an immense task of clearing the entire area, which had been encroached and sold by the Los to the adjoining landholders. We had a very glaring case of one Dr. C.R. Lotha, who had already started an RCC construction work by the time I had taken over. The damning part was that our predecessors had not only issued a patta but was not aware that the Doctor had re-enforced his position by purchasing the plot from the Los. From the outset, I had targeted Dr. C.R. Lotha to back off from the Government holdings. Initially he showed me a very stubborn front to go to Court if his hand was forced. He was slowly talked out of it, making him realise that he would have to contend with public curse for the rest of his life. Though the poor man eventually expired, before his death, he agreed to withdraw from this site provided his expenses were reimbursed. We assessed his materials at the construction site and finally paid his family an amount of Rs.1,50,000/-. But were not paid any land compensation. This was the most difficult exercise that had successfully been concluded. Once the bulldozer arrived, the concrete foundry of Late Dr.C.R. Lotha, within the fishery, was the first touched. When the Los saw that the Administration was taking out even concrete building, they knew, without being told that they had no chance of an argument with me. The initial mild protest petered out to complete silence and we were rid of all interferences. We began our work only on the 15th of March ‘99 due to the late arrival of the bulldozer and also for the land settlement problems. Since then, we have made a very steady progress. When I called upon the people for free service, we had a very wonderful response. The following villages came forward to do social work: Nroyo, Longsa, Longsachung, Wokha Village, Humtso, Elemyu, amd Pongitong. This was followed by another social work from the residents of the town, both locals and the non-locals. We had a fantastic “never before” turnout of 3500 registered heads all told. Request for social work within the fishery continued. The Englan Range Students took over, which was followed by Students from one of the colony in town. The Lotha Graduate Association wanted the charge for tree plantation within the fishery and have been given the honours to do so. When Yikhum village was approached to contribute the Naga totem posts for the main entry gate they readily accepted the assignment, while the Lonsachung village offered to construct the morung. This task has now been accomplished. The entire picture has now changed for the better. The public is extremely elated and their respect for the Administration has been magnified double fold. This was a lake, which was lost to them but has now been found once more. Some therefore even suggested that the lake be christened as the Prodigal Lake. After a very careful assessment I have however christened it as TSUMANG LAKE. The Yikhum villagers were called upon to do the honours of carrying the totem posts from the DC’s residential compound to the lake, wearing their warrior costumes and observing traditional custom. These posts were erected and formally inaugurated on the 12th May 1999, along with the main entry morung gate in the presence of a huge crowd.
While a set pattern has emerged, it goes without saying that the land issue can still raise its ugly head. Besides Dr.C.R. Lotha, a few of the land owners, who had put up some structures within the demarcated boundary, have been made to to dismantle their hutment and vacate the premises. We compensated a gentleman Mungya, an amount of Rs.80,000/- for his site at the lake entry point. The case of a very awkward widow by the name ofMhalo caused us some troublesome time. When I called her up to let her know that she was occupying a very strategic location which destroys 50% of the aesthetic value of the whole project and that there was absolutely no alternative but for her to move out from there, she adamantly said that I have to take care of her nine children, kill her and then, only then will she allow me to take over her site. At one stage when the progress being made in Mhalo’s case was being inquired into by those who were deeply interested, I had jokingly told my colleagues that I was seriously contemplating on just how we could kill her. We have however sorted out this problem with a big helping hand from a few well wishers. The Senior Accountant in the Social Welfare Directorate gave up a small strip of land on the other bank of the road, free of cost, but requested that a retention wall be raised to ward off encroachers. This has been done. The Pastor of NAP Church offered his site adjacent to the fishery, for a small compensation. An amount of Rs.50,000/- has been contemplated for offer, when we next receive our funds for this project. A site measuring 50’-40’ was carved out and allotted to her in exchange for her existing plot. In her case we have even taken the responsibility to have her house reconstructed with salvaged materials, in her new site. The Housing Department was assigned this job and it has been done with some additional cost. Having thus worked out a solution, Madam Mhalo was shifted from her place to the other bank of the drain. An additional amount of Rs.50,000/- will have to be paid to her when fund is received, to pay her for the investment that she has made towards the development of her earlier site. It may kindly be noted that this woman is still not happy with the settlement. She claims that she had spent over Rs.2.9 Lakhs for her site and fishery. She even has some documents to substantiate her claims. However these cannot be accepted. Her fishery was within the existing boundary of the Govt. Fishery and therefore, will have to be treated like any other cases. No compensation to be paid. As for her site, we have already compensated her with a replacement on the other bank. It is best that we strictly stick to this arrangement, no matter what the pressure.
The key of withdrawal by the Los is that, along with those who have been deprived of their illegitimate holdings within the lake area, would be given a reasonable opportunity for employment or works that come out if this project. Some have already been given work. Others can be accommodated when the lake is commissioned and is ready for operation. The conceptual plan is to create the following assets within this complex: 1/ A shopping arcade consisting of about 10-12 cubicles measuring approximately 10’-10’ in the parking area; 2/ A jetty for boating; 3/ A main catering centre; 4/ Malies for upkeep of the lawns and the flowers; 5/ Chawkidars; These essential services which will eventually have to be created and all those displaced can be given some reasonable opportunities to rent the shopping rooms, rent the boats, to man the catering centres etc. It however cannot be in the form of absolute right on their part, but be subjected to being qualified for the quality services required. Only two sectors needs to be given some appreciative recognition in the matter of work opportunities: (a) Shri. P. Ezung. He has a large area in the upper flank of the lake bounded by two huge drains. He has not raised any claims or objection against the present development. (b) Shri. Nghao, a LO from Wokha village, to whom I have given a certificate of appreciation. He had sold his adjoining land within the lake, but the moment that the Administration reclaimed its own, he took it upon himself to return the money to the people he had sold the land to. His honest attitude coupled with a willing co-operation with the Govt. Plans is a rare characteristic not liberally seen in a place like Wokha. (a) & (b) above deserves to be given a preference when the time comes for employment or rental opportunities.
The other important aspect concerning TSUMANG LAKE is that, the management should no longer be left to the Fishery Department. Instead, there should be a Managing Board, consisting of NGOs, but headed by the DC as its Chairman. All those employed should be paid from the revenue generated through rents and entry fees.
(to be continued)
The writer is a retired IAS Officer.
Forest Colony, Kohima