My Years in Service
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Circle Officer’s residence at Sitimi HQs was perched on top of a mild hillock without water supply or electricity connections. It was a desolate station considered to be a township without even seen a single shop in sight. At that time the Power Department had 100% household electrification scheme which had not taken off as yet. The absence of basic amenity prompted a serious discussion with Sitimi Village Council not only for electrifying the village but to have a 100% household connection in their village on condition that all labour input required by the Department would be provided free of cost, the public were overwhelmingly ecstatic. They assured me that they would do their part. When the full support of the Administration and the public of Sitimi Village was offered, Mr. Hokhezhe Sema, the Chief Engineer Power decided to officially launched the project. The electrical lines and posts estimated to reach Sitimi Village from Longmatra were now dumped at Longmatra. With the supervision of Power Departmental officers and staffs the Sitimi villagers carried the poles and placed it at regular intervals as indicated to them all the way to their village and even dug the post holes. Drawing the line took up about a couple of months time. Then came the individual household electrification works which entailed a more complex endeavour of ‘khel’ lines being drawn and the internal points of individual houses being fixed. It took less than six months for the Department to accomplish the task. I had advised the Sitimi Village Council that the field staffs would be totally dependent on them during their project implementation and all effort to ensure that their personal needs for food items like rice, veg, salt, chilli etc. were facilitated and to ensure their safety. I had meant that whatever were the needs of field staffs should be provided at a reasonable cost. To my amazement I later found out that the field staffs were being treated as VIP, free food and lodging for all the time it took them to finish the job. Since that was the way it had already happened, I let the matter rest. My Circle Officer also benefitted with electrical connection to his residence and office in the process…at last, half a step closer to civilization. Power Department made history with Sitimi being their first ever 100% household electrified village in the State. The Department of Power was ill prepared to provide consumer meter to all the households and so we hit upon a novel idea of setting up one meter at the central distribution point for the village as a whole and the householders pay the bill according to the points being installed in their respective houses. The Village Council were placed responsible for the bill collection and clearance. At that time there was absolutely no inkling that this little problem solution at the local level would one day spark off a State policy of single point metering in all the rural villages of Nagaland. A big satisfactory result all round.
The extensive tour of Ceyochung and Sitimi area brought out to the fore their dire need for a proper educational institution in their neighbourhood. The little children here were being condemned to indifferent Govt. LP schools and an ME school. The majority of the parents in this area were unable to even send their children to a better private school at Kiphire. These children were far removed from competitive capability elsewhere. Since Sitimi was located more centrally from Ceyochung and Longmatra I sat with Sitimi Village Council again on the issue of Education this time and the possibility of a Catholic School being established in their village land. They were prepared to do as I bid. A convenient area between Sitimi town and the village was surveyed and selected. Thereafter I assured the village that I would speak to the Bishop. Since this subject was not the first instance that I had broached with the Bishop’s establishment, they decided to check out the location after patiently listening to my reasoning. The Bishop himself came to Kiphire. I took him up to Sitimi and showed him the area being proposed for his establishment. After a warm reception from the Sitimi Village, the Bishop agreed to open a Parish and a school in the inspected location. He however said that the land being offered would not be taken free of cost and the villagers were expected to make their land cost statement. A very nominal price was quoted and the Bishop gratefully acknowledged. The villagers also assured the Bishop that they would do the best they can to physically help out with the creation of the new establishment and they faithfully kept their promise. The new school began promptly from the next academic session with an absolutely rudimentary infrastructure. However, the deployment of qualified teachers made the difference. A couple of decades later I had been invited to participate in the area Student’s Union Conference hosted at Nitoi Village. The report read out during this function stated that this Catholic school had already produced over 22 graduates. The seed planted several decades ago was now bearing healthy fruits. It made my trip back to this neglected area so very rewarding.
On my tour to Keor village which consisted of approximately 27 households, we came across a fairly large abandoned pig sty. This village seemed to have had an inherent interest towards pig rearing. They had been making an effort to rear community pigs but ran into management and feeding problems. They therefore divided the pigs to individual households who would be responsible to feed the pigs free of cost for the community. When the community pigs littered, they evolved a unique system of sharing the piglets between the rarer and the community at a ratio of 3:1 with the larger share going to the rarer. They confidently certified that this system worked perfectly well for them with the incentive package for the rarer. We decided to try out their system on a larger scale. So, through the SDPB fund we procured a dozen ready to litter matured sows and two boars from the Government farm and had them distributed as VDB community pigs to the better off households. Like anywhere else, the boar was a stimulant of production but was otherwise itself naturally unproductive in terms of littering, even in Kiphire. The rarer would therefore receive a piglet from every sow it successfully crossed. Within the year there were a sizable number of community VDB piglets. This village was adopted as a project village with a clearance to supply piglets to other VDB project selected villages with piggery intent. On the second year the Department of V&HA Kiphire was sent to the village to vaccinate the community pigs at Keor, as a precautionary health coverage for the animals. The consequence of their effort was devastating…they successfully wiped out the community pigs in this village. Only the naughty pigs which had escaped the vaccination drive survived. An exhaustive report was immediately dispatched to Dr. Sato Sekhose, the Director, V& AH with a request that the Department make good the losses in kind. Thanks to the Director, this was done and promptly too. The request for the department to study the VDB community management approach at Keor Village for replication as a Departmental programme was however, not responded to. Perhaps they should consider this approach now.
I was in Kohima on an official trip when the issue of Government notification, making all Doctors a Class I gazetted Officers, came up. At that time Mr. Viswedel John had become the President of Nagaland Civil Service Association. We were discussing our reaction plan to this in his office chamber when Mr. K. Thong and Mr. M. Zasa dropped in as well. Though the President was more inclined towards a gentlemanly approach I instead proposed a more aggressive reaction to the extent that I would be prepared to face a jail sentence if required. Mr. Kegwalo Thong promptly chipped in saying “I too am prepared to join you”. Mr. M. Zasa then offered to host a dinner so that a more elaborate leisurely discussion could be had to finalise our intent. Over a very elaborate dinner which included a tasty dish of bee larvae we concluded that a general strike of NCS be called at Kohima after our petition was submitted to the Govt. to raise the Circle Officers (CO) to the same Class I rank as the Doctors. Within the next few days the demand of the NCSA was officially submitted to the Chief Minister who surprisingly and promptly assigned Mr. Alluwaliah, Finance Commissioner, to deal with the issue. A strong delegate of NCS senior officers like Mr. K.Thong, Imtikumzuk, R.S. Bedi, Metong, M.Zasa etc. lead by our President, Mr. Viswedel, met the Finance Commissioner on the appointed date for a rough-out discussion. A great deal of technical argument kept going back and forth which was getting us nowhere. Mr. Alluwaliah was still not impressed. It then occurred to me that the Sitimi situation would be a classic example to prove a practical point of argument. I finally joined the discussion with an example concluding it with a question. Sitimi was a Circle HQ with a sanctioned post of a Doctor for the PHC. If the CO, as the head of administration, ordered the Doctor to attend to an epidemic in the circle, the Doctor, who would be senior in rank, would be within his rights to refuse to comply to the order. Does the Govt. intend to let the Doctor become the head of administration in such a given situation then? Mr. Alluwaliah was surprised and asked, “ Is that a fact”? With an affirmative response he saw the light. We clinched the issue. The meeting was over. Circle Officer’s post as a Class II was abolished and EAC as Class I became the entry point for the NCS officers into service. I had spent two solid weeks in Kohima stuck with this problem without leave. On return to HQs I submitted a personal note to Mr. S.S. Rai, who had by then taken over as the Deputy Commissioner, Tuensang, explaining my absence. He was unbothered and let me off the hook without a word.
Mr. S.S Rai, DC, Tuensang was a rather peculiar sort of a guy. For those he liked he could be magnanimous to a fault but conversely minor defaults could be fatal for those he did not fancy. He also displayed a very fond partiality towards skirt wearing species. Though I never wore skirts he had me in his good book fortunately. He proposed a tour to Pungro area once. I and my HQ Officers joined him. After the public meeting was over and dispersed we got held up for a while in the middle of the town for whatever the reason that I now forget. We had both been presented with an antler horn. He was whiling away his time making fun at the horn presented to me by the villagers during the function observing that the right side of the horn was shorter than the left. Traditionally that made me a henpecked husband he said. I had no intention of letting him get away with that. When we checked the horn presented to him, the right side of his presented horn was conspicuously shorter than the left as compared to mine so I only showed him his horn and all of us had a laugh at his expense. He sportingly joined the laughter. At that time there were few Pungro people hanging around wanting to go to Kiphire and requesting for a hitch. Mr. Rai caught hold of a man with a sparse Naga moustache, produced a razor blade from nowhere and insisted on shaving him. That man thought Mr. Rai was joking but when the DC placed the razor to his moustache with a firm grip at the back of his head, he realised too late that this was not a joke. The man did not dare struggle with the razor to his upper lips so instead clamped his lips, positioned his head conveniently to allow Mr. Rai to shave him right then and there on the road side. It was a sight to behold… but we had no camera to capture this drama. The poor man looked frustratingly irritated but the DC then asked one of my officers to give him a lift. It eased the pain of losing his dozen hair moustache. Then came a young skirt also wanting a lift to Kiphire. He promptly asked her to go sit in his vehicle. I had been doing the honours of driving the DC’s vehicle on our drive up to Pungro and was being expected to drive him back to Kiphire. I didn’t have the presence of mind to gracefully withdraw from this awkward assignment with even a vague plausible excuse. This unfortunate girl was stuck in between me and Mr. Rai in the front seat. Mr. Rai had his excavating arms around the shoulders of the skirt right from the start to finish steadying her from all the bumps and winding turns. I lifted my right arm above the hood like I was holding on to the jeep hood where Mr. Rai couldn’t see and pantomimed a running commentary to what was transpiring within our vehicle. I was still capable of such antics then. At every appropriate curve of the road I could see the broad grin from ear to ear of all my officers clandestinely waving at me in mirth. That was one hell of a damned trip. The escapade of the DC didn’t end here but I’d rather leave the unwashed linen at this stage. Let another ‘dhobi’ clean up the rest and leave you to your imagination. Bye for now…see you next week.
The writer is a retired IAS Officer Forest Colony, Kohima