Unclean Nagaland: Is the absence of elected ULBs taking a toll?
Urban Affairs minister to convene a meeting of all tribe hohos
Dimapur, July 2 (EMN): Nagaland was recently listed as the second ‘dirtiest’ state in the Northeast region and the third dirtiest in the country by the Centre’s ranking exercise, the Swachh Survekshan for 2018 of the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. In the survey was also Mokokchung ranking the 57th cleanest for the Northeast zone, but out of 201 Urban Local Bodies (ULB).
The news of the survey and the state’s poor ranking came as a shock besides offering a sad reminder of the fact that Nagaland and its people are still quite behind when it comes to sanitation attitudes, hygiene, and cleanliness.
The question of what went wrong in the Naga context, after a rough study, perhaps points to the lack of an elected municipal or town councils in the state. Nagaland still has no elected ULB and the municipal bodies are managed currently by an administrator appointed by the state government.
Speaking with the Eastern Mirror was minister for Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Metsubo Jamir on July 1, during a telephonic conversation. He remarked, ‘It’s a good thing that such survey has been conducted to make the people aware of the reality. Although we have no idea on what criteria were the survey been conducted. We will have to ensure the measures taken for survey.”
The Swachh Survekshan 2018 ranked states and cities on the basis of performance measured by six indicators and feedback posturing such as collection and transportation of municipal solid waste; processing; disposal of the waste; sanitation-related progress; innovation; citizens’ feedback, direct observation, and urban best practices.
The absence of elected ULBs may be hindering functional processes and functioning and development of the towns and cities in Nagaland. Minister Metsubo Jamir said that the termination of the ULB election in 2017 in the state had stopped the flow of central financial allocation.
The state’s municipal election, which was supposed to be held in 2017, was opposed tooth-and-nail by a section of the Naga community leading to mass agitations. The agitation was against implementation of the 33 % women reservation and issues of taxation contained in the provisions of the Nagaland Municipal Act of 2006.
Jamir said that the department was working on addressing loopholes with regard to the 33% reservation for women and was ‘trying to bring in some amendments.’ However, he said, as the matter was in court the department was stuck at trying to amend the act.
The minister pointed out that the municipal bodies had been functioning on tax from traders, business, and private firms. The small source of income coming in from schemes has been keeping the town clean, he said. The minister informed that the department has been trying to set up a separate committee to oversee municipal affairs at the earliest.
Jamir informed that the department shall be convening a meeting with tribal ‘hohos’ (organisations) in Nagaland. He said that the government was pursuing an “inclusive discussion” of stakeholders comprising the government, and Civil Society organisations.
“We will include everyone in the talk so as to bring out the equal result for all,” he assured.
Also, speaking to Eastern Mirror on Monday over the phone, Kohima Municipal Council’s administrator Elizabeth Ngullie disagreed with the Swachh Survekshan report. She termed it “very overrated.” She asserted that just because ‘some part of Dimapur or Kohima is dirty,’ it does not mean that the entire state was the same. ‘They (survey) cannot take the liberty and declare the state as dirtiest.’
“I am not happy with result and I don’t agree with it,” Ngullie said.
“Even in the absence of the elected bodies we are trying our best to take care of the duties of the municipalities,” the officer said. A joint effort of the district municipalities will be to focus more on achieving the chief minister’s declaration of the state as a “plastic-free zone” by November, the administrator informed.
Cleanest town at no. 57
Mokokchung district was ranked 57th from among states of the Northeast. Nation-wise, it would have ranked much lower.
Entrepreneur and general secretary of the Mokokchung Chamber of Commerce and Industries Limalenden Longkumer interacted with this newspaper on Sunday highlighting the problems being faced by municipal bodies.
‘It is obvious that the present administrators of the municipal corporations are carrying double responsibility,’ Longkumer said.
Nonetheless, Longkumer affirmed that there was a ‘tough-like competition among citizens as they want their ward to look the best.’ He credited citizens’ participation, the collective involvement of the community, in trying to make Mokokchung the ‘cleanest town or district’ in the state.
The MCCI member observed that maintaining a clean environment was everyone’s responsibility. He added though that the authority in concern should be able to undertake sanitation-related activities, development, and planning effectively.
However, with the Swachh Survekshan ranking Nagaland among the dirtiest of states in India, and also with the absence of ULB, the ultimate question now is that the Naga people need to do something about it.