Reality Check

Inspite of new official and commercial structures rising up, development projects being initiated and entrepreneurs sent for training and employment opportunities, the economic blockade along parts of the Assam-Nagaland border has exposed the economic fragility on which the state of Nagaland exists. As disheartening and tragic the economic blockade is; resulting in human suffering and hardship, it has with profound clarity revealed how dependent and insecure the economy of Nagaland has been reduced to over the years. 

Nagas have often taken pride in the idea of how self-sufficient its villages were, and while this may have been true in the evolving history of its existence; with changing times and growing needs to meet the demands of modern life, the equation has changed over the years. And yet, the present crisis has shown that it is the most basic of commodities which are in dire straits as a result of the blockade. What is further more astonishing is the fact that even though rice is the staple diet of the Nagas, and with most villages owning many acres of land dedicated solely for rice cultivation, the blockade revealed that rice was in plentiful shortage in the affected areas. What does this really indicate?

This experience clearly shows that the path which the policy makers have embarked upon is unsustainable and does not address the needs of the people. In other words, the emphasis of the new policies are only meeting the interests of those who are already quite economically secure, while it fails to meet the basic needs of the majority of the people. It is also quite essential that the government through this experience must have food reserves. Any country or society needs to have food reserves, stored in the eventuality of natural or human made disasters. The government must now rethink its priorities and start to evolve a new economy policy.

For too long, Nagas have looked at the outside world as the market. A paradigm shift is required which educates us that our biggest market is within our own context – the Naga society. The practice of importing even those basic commodities which are available locally and exporting goods that don’t have potential outside must be reevaluated. Mass scale import and export between villages, towns and districts must be encouraged and this practice will reveal clearly that our biggest market indeed lies within. This also means that better roads must be made within the state of Nagaland itself, if trade is to be encouraged. 

However the most poignant lesson is the question how can a rice-eating, agricultural society run out of rice reserves because of an economic blockage that spreads over 4 days. Indeed, its time to put people before economics. Under these circumstances, development indeed is overrated in Nagaland and it is time for a reality check. At the end of the day, for people who are just surviving, its access to food that will keep them alive, not buildings and projects.