Govt’s refusal to address unanswered questions leaves room for ugly turn
DIMAPUR, NOVEMBER 24 : Despite staunch opposition from all the tribe hohos, and an ominous warning from the Naga Hoho, the opposition-less state government on Thursday bulldozed its way into revoking the Assembly resolution of September 2012, and decided that Part IXA of the Indian Constitution which deals with 33% reservation for women in urban local bodies does not infringe on our tribal practice as protected under Article 371 (A).
With this controversial step, the state government has paved way for the conduct of elections to municipal/urban bodies in Nagaland with 33% seat reservation for women, even as the chief minister has gone on record saying that the elections would be held only where there would be no opposition against it.
With all the tribe hohos opposing to it, it would appear that the only place where the state government could conduct said elections is at Dimapur. Previously, the chief minister – when he was the minister for Planning and Coordination – had told the Assembly that the introduction of said reservation for women would infringe the provisions of Article 371 (A).
On Thursday, inside the Assembly, chief minister TR Zeliang was asked by the BJP legislator Mmhonlumo Kikon about his position on Article 371 (A) vis-à-vis 33% women reservation. Kikon cornered the chief minister with a series of questions to which Zeliang had no valid answers.
Zeliang was asked what prompted him to change position on the matter since he had so persistently argued against reservation for women in the Assembly debate of 2012. What interpretation of Article 371 (A) made him reverse his stance and support reservation, he was asked.
According to Kikon, the chief minister “avoided my question” and did not respond to the queries.
It was the parliamentary secretary for Housing, Er Levi Rengma who started the debate on oil exploration by asking clarification from the parliamentary secretary for Geology and Mining, Dr Imtiwapang Aier, as to why oil exploration was not started in other districts other than Wokha in the aftermath of the PIL filed by the Lotha Hoho.
In response, Aier read out a 4-page prepared speech most of which has already been published in the local newspapers when he granted interview to some reporters recently. According to Kikon, the parliamentary secretary for Geology and Mining told the Assembly that the letter from the Union petroleum ministry was like an order!
The Chief Minister then gave a ‘clarification’. It was when Kikon again sought clarification from Aier asking: when were the permits awarded to the company (for exploration of oil in Wokha district)?
According to Kikon, the letter from the MHA and the petroleum ministry came later and the PIL came in October, but according to the counsel of MOGPL they have already spent Rs 20 crore in the interim period on the ground. “Where have they spent the money?”
He reiterated the point that Article 371 (A) could only be changed or “diluted” through an amendment by the Parliament. So the question of the Lotha Hoho PIL on oil exploration diluting or disturbing Article 371 (A) does not arise, he told the Assembly.
It might be noted that Kikon’s refusal to toe this line of the state government was one of the main reasons behind his sacking from the parliamentary secretary post by the chief minister recently. According to him, it was clear that the query from Er Levi on Thursday in the Assembly was a match-fixer. But they ended up getting a googly in the end, he said.