Nagaland MP Tokheho Yepthomi touches upon state’s pressing issues
Nagaland’s lone Lok Sabha MP, Tokheho Yepthomi, on Friday underscored the need for a time-bound conclusion to the Naga political issue.
Addressing a press conference in Dimapur, the MP said while the Naga political issue is dear to all Nagas, a “time-bound” solution to the protracted issue is the need of the hour as negotiations have dragged on for more than 25 years.
“Negotiations for the Naga political issue started with one group, and today, after more than twenty five years, there are more than 10 groups who have signed ceasefire agreement with the Government of India,” Yepthomi said.
He said the formation of multiple groups has greatly impacted the economy of the state, wherein multiple taxation system has become a part of the state’s economy.
The MP said the impact of multiple taxations on a single business may not be immediately felt by an individual but that, over time, it hampers the macroeconomics of the state.
“It is time for both sides (negotiating parties) to face reality of time constraint because a generation of Nagas has been born and brought up under the temporary ceasefire,” he said.
The MP also dwelled on the untapped resources of Nagaland, including oil exploration and extraction, developmental issues, unemployment problem and power generation.
Oil exploration and extraction
Recalling the genesis of oil exploration in the state, Yepthomi said the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) was given permission in 1973 for survey and exploration, and in between 1981 and 1994, the state government received INR 33.3 crore as royalty.
Drilling sites at Changpang, Hozukhe, Khopanala and Toshezu were done and ready for extraction, he added.
“Sadly, the infrastructure and seamless pipes, which were created by ONGC, were destroyed and stolen on the ground that oil and its resources would be utilised after getting sovereignty and to enforce Article 371 (A),” he said.
While Nagaland state stopped extraction of oil, ONGC continued drilling in Assam and completed 39 oilfields, out of which 27 are operational, the MP said, adding that out of these 39 oilfields, 36 are located in Assam and Nagaland border.
In the last 10 years, Assam government collected INR 17,995.83 core as royalty from these oilfields, he said.
Yepthomi also disclosed that the royalty collected by Assam in eight oilfields located in the disputed area belt (DAB) along Assam-Nagaland border in the last five years was INR 9899 crore.
He opined that the royalty should have been shared by the two states. Sadly, due to internal controversies including opposition from Naga political groups to extraction of oil and landowners (Article 371 (A), the state had to forgo the royalty, he lamented.
The MP said it was up to the government of Nagaland to take up the matter with both the Centre and Assam government on the issue of royalty.
“Nagaland is losing approximately INR 5 crore daily or INR 1825 crore annually. The exploration of oil and natural gas has to be of utmost importance for the people of Nagaland. Once initiated, the royalty from oil revenue will form the backbone of the state’s economy,” he added.
On medical colleges
Pointing out that Nagaland is the only state without a medical college, Yepthomi said the government of India has provided funds for setting up two medical colleges, one each in Kohima and Mon.
On this, he said the Centre has already released its share of INR 170.10 crore out of the approved INR 189 crore for the medical college in Kohima. With regard to the medical college in Mon, for which INR 325 crore has been approved, he informed that the Centre has already released INR 242. 50 crore out of its total share of INR 292 crore. But both the projects have not been completed till date, he said.
When asked on the delay in the projects, the MP ascribed it mainly to acquisition of land, landownership issue and naming of the sites.
He said that “Article 371 (A) is a curse for the Naga people” as it has been the main stumbling block to development in the state.
On employment problem
According to Yepthomi, Nagaland’s biggest challenge is unemployment problem amongst the youth.
Pointing out that Nagaland’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the country, he said the government had recently advertised for recruitment to fill a few hundred vacant posts, attracting more than 50,000 applicants.
On deficient power generation
The Lok Sabha MP said the power is another sector which is “guzzling” Nagaland’s economy as the state has to purchase power from various sources due to the inability to generate its own power.
He said the government is not only purchasing power; one of the biggest problems is the inability of the department to collect revenue from consumers to breakeven the purchasing cost. He added that the revenue deficit of the Power department is also responsible for the state’s deficit budget.