Ticket to ride

Barely concealing its disapproval, the Naga Students Federation (NSF) has asked the Nagaland Government’s “Delegation” presently doing world cup duty in Germany to “come home fully equipped with sports techniques to elevate the spirits” of young Naga sportspersons of Nagaland. The NSF expressing serious view at the presence of politicians and bureaucrats at the World Cup has rightly pointed out that the very exercise of sending such a delegation should now show results. The concern raised by the NSF over the misuse of power and privilege by the government (if proved correct) is a valid one and needs to be fully supported. Today, the NSF remains as the only watchdog in the public domain which is serious enough to bring about transparency and a corrupt free system. It is therefore all the more encouraging to know the stand it has taken to fight corruption. Over the last few years, it has single handedly undertaken the anti-corruption drive whether it is NPSC scam or bogus appointment of teachers.

Coming to the NSF query on the World Cup jaunts of politicians and bureaucrats, the NPF led DAN government should either clarify to the public or be prepared to answer some tough questions about the taxpayer-funded trips to the Soccer World Cup in Germany. The public should have been at least informed about the official delegation and the purpose of sending such a number; the criteria of choosing the lucky five or six and more importantly whether it was a party or government or individual decision of the Chief Minister to send them. While no one is disproving the prerogative of the government, any decision taken has to remain above board and clearly spelt out. As such, the what, why, who and how questions need to be clarified. It will also be a good time for those NGOs working for the Right to Information campaign to seek information and other details on how much has been budgeted for the trip, the source of the expenditure etc and any written justification of sending such a delegation. 

While foreign trips by fact-finding and technical delegations are justified, eyebrows have however been raised by those who have questioned the relevance of the trip, which according to sources is merely a paid holiday package and nothing more. The Nagaland government will hopefully dispel this confusion and come out with a public clarification at the earliest so that the common man does not see such foreign jaunts as merely benefiting sycophants at the cost of the public exchequer. Clearly, the government has to also answer whether such splurge on foreign jaunts contradicts with its own commitment towards a sound expenditure management policy as contained in the Fiscal Responsibility Act which it had piloted through the Assembly recently. As a State that is economically weak in terms of generating its own source of income and with a major part of its resources being drained out owing to the salary payment of government employees, the wisdom of cutting down on wasteful expenditure merits serious attention.