Speech of Shri Chotisuh Sazo,
Parliamentary Secretary, Social Welfare and Women Development, Nagaland, at the
17th General Session of Chakhesang Gazetted Officers’ Forum on March
12, 2011 at Zonal council Hall, Kohima
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is with pleasure and a sense of great responsibility that I address this august gathering on this auspicious occasion.
Phek district is an eastern-most part of Nagaland with its people speaking five languages, namely, Chokri, Khezha, Pochury, Poumai and Sümi (in alphabetical order) and constituted by two tribes, namely, Chakhesang and Pochury. There was a time when we were known as the Eastern Angamis during the British regime. It was in 1947 when the term Chakhesang was coined by our pioneer leaders, using the first syllables of sub-tribes Chokri, Khezha and Sangtam (now Pochury). The decision to use this name was submitted to the administrative authority in Phek by our leaders and it was readily accepted. This was an act of foresight and broad vision which has thus far worked to our advantage.
Today, Pochury is a separate tribe. However, the Chokris, the Khezhas and Poumais continue to be one. We, the Chakhesangs, are blessed in a special way because we are a multi-linguistic tribe. This enriches our identity, and we should be proud of this fact. Our differences in language should never be a barrier to our unity. Instead we should take advantage of this reality and strengthen our unity. We should respect each other’s language however much or less it is spoken; neither should we feel inferior nor superior in this regard. We should never discriminate each other on grounds of linguistic differences. In fact, we should take advantage of this blessing and feel a special bond that no other tribe can ever possess, and thereby strengthen our unity.
The Chakhesangs are a unique people characterised also by honesty, simplicity, trustworthiness and hard-working nature. They are sportive, outgoing, fun-loving and highly sociable too.
Educationally, the Chakhesang tribe comes under ‘Backward Tribe’ category among the Indigenous Inhabitants of the state of Nagaland. This is because the people of this tribe had late access to modern education and the number of educated people is still quite low. Two significant causes of the slow growth of education among the people could be attributed to non-acceptance of western way of life earlier and the Indo-Naga conflict in which the Chakhesangs were deeply involved while giving less importance to modern education.
The Chakhesang region has been one of the epicentres of conflict in the Naga Nationalist movement as a result of which most of the villages were burnt down. Hundreds of men and women were hunted down or slaughtered despite innocence. Granaries were not spared. Villagers had to escape to deep jungles and be exiles in their own land. They suffered untold miseries in the 1950s to early 1960s. Thus, most of the children of that period grew up with fear and hate psychoses which are quite noticeable to date through their attitudes, hatred and fear towards non-Nagas, especially of the armed personnel. Perhaps, the character of our patriotism is one reason why many graduates entered into political fray instead of opting for government employment during the 1980s and early 1990s. This led us to backwardness and less representation in the government services.
The Chakhesang community still has a long way to go in the field of education. However, people belonging to both Advanced Tribe and other Backward Tribe categories argue that the Chakhesangs should no longer be under Backward Tribe category. Their rationale is that we have made some significant progress in the last few years. Even some people of our community are of such mind. Whether we continue to be in the Backward Tribe category is another issue altogether and must be seriously considered by one and all present here. However, this is at least an indication that we have been making noticeable progress in the field of education.
Most government schools that our community has access to were started as private enterprises by a particular village or jointly with neighboring villages sharing the expenses. The first school was established at Chesezu in 1885. But after 1888 it was closed down for some years. The second government primary school was started at Chizami in 1925, which again was closed down and was re-established in 1931. Late Goyiepra Kenye, the first matriculate, the first graduate and the first Gazetted Officer from the Chakhesang community, hails from this village. The third school was established at Phek Village in 1927.
The first government high school was established at Pfütsero as one of the six in the State during 1962-63. In 1967 Phek Government High School was added. Thus, we had access to two high schools out of the 16 that existed in the State then. Today, the number of educational institutions in our district where our people have access to has increased a lot more.
Educational Institutions in the Chakhesang region in 2008-09
(Source: Directorate of School Education)
Schools in the government sector are well spread out especially in the elementary sector. On the other hand, the private sector concentrates heavily in a few towns and semi-towns.
Regardless of the type of sector, the number of trained teachers is still very low. A good number of teachers in the primary and elementary sections are still manned by untrained under-matriculate and matriculate teachers. The DIET and training schemes under SSA must be fully utilised to correct this negative trend. This trend should change because in the modern world one needs to specialise in one’s profession.
The main source of economy and employment for our people is the agricultural sector. However, the income generated through agriculture is negligible as there is no mechanised farming. Besides, there is still hardly any big venture in cash cropping, though attempts at it have been made in the recent years. Lack of marketing infrastructure and linkages have been the major impediments in producing surplus in agricultural sector. There is no facility for cold storage, proper warehousing, grading, etc. Lack of transport infrastructure is also another bottleneck. Access to credit is an indispensable input for agricultural development. Investment in new technology, land development, crop production, acquisition of inputs, marketing, etc. requires credit support. The paucity of institutional credit can also be viewed as one of the factors responsible for low level of commercialisation.
We are blessed with very rich natural resources. Our land is the place of origin of many species of flora and fauna. However, due to the fast degradation of forests and their natural resources, there is a threat of extinction of many species in our bio-diversity system. Besides, we have also experienced a dramatic change of climate. We have to respond to this threat appropriately and preserve our bio-diversity in order to sustain ourselves.
Meanwhile, people from our community are also employed in government service among whom you are the cream. There are others who are employed in the little existing private sector. Some people have ventured out on their own to establish themselves as entrepreneurs. Though our people have started to improve their economy through various means, we still lag behind the people of other districts and thus continue to be under economically backward category.
Today, with the advancement of science & technology many new machines and technologies have been brought to our land. Some of them have been adapted to our local conditions but we are yet to update ourselves with many other technologies. We have to improvise our traditional technologies and upgrade them to our benefit because it must be remembered that the main focus of every nation in today’s world is the economic well-being.
We need to change the attitude of our people, motivate them, encourage them, guide them and support them financially, technical know-how and modern technologies. Chakhesang government servants constitute about 20% of our total population, out of which you are the cream. The society listens to you and seeks direction from you.
Now I would like to touch upon Women Empowerment. Today, empowering women has become integral to the new approach in promoting sustainable human development. The Global Human Development Report 2003 advocates that “Gender equality is at the core of whether the Millennium Development Goals will be achieved from improving health and fighting diseases, to reducing poverty and mitigating hunger, to expanding education and lowering child mortality, to increasing access to safe drinking water, to ensuring environmental sustainability.”
The Nagas do not conform to the general perception of women’s status in India. Apart from traditional practices that have generally cared for women and the girl child, the State has made successful achievements in the fields of education, increasing sex ratio, health and entrepreneurial development, economy and social status. Yet the impact of prolonged and protracted Naga political struggle has left an indelible mark on Naga women. And the womenfolk among the Chakhesangs were not spared of such consequences. They have been not only victims of violence but also charged with the responsibility of having to support their families and communities to cope with the adverse impact of violence. Naga women have played a pivotal role, individually and collectively, in helping their communities survive and in enabling human development across the Naga society. It is with pride that we acknowledge that our Chakhesang Women have also been playing their role no less than others.
Our State has adopted a Policy for Women empowerment to ensure women in their rightful place in society as equal partners with men and to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women in the state. As such more emphasis has to be laid on women for their upliftment and also to facilitate active involvement of women in decision making and developmental activities.
In spite of rapid increase in the number of educational institutions in our region, together with increasing number of children being enrolled, it is seen that there is still a veiled bias towards boys. This needs to be looked into in order to avoid lopsided progress in education.
There was a time when education among the Chakhesangs meant little compared to agriculture. There was a time when advanced sources of earning income were little respected apart from agriculture. That was a time when among the Nagas our Chakhesang people were arguably the most advanced in agriculture through both jhum and terrace cultivation. The food crops cultivated were in great variety. However, that should now be a thing of the past because the mentality of such farming was just subsistence with no care for surplus. Such philosophy was good in its own time but it is no more compatible with the knowledge and skill specialisation of the world today.
From the approach of getting merely general education we must move on to specialised education. Studies and trainings in various professional skills must be encouraged and supported beyond a certain level of general education if we are to race with the rest of the world. A great task lies before you to take our community to a much higher level of economy through your motivational activities and expert guidance. The need to focus on economic independence is of utmost importance now.
Another issue of crucial importance is culture-related. Today, our society is living in a potpourri of cultures which are of native, Indian and western origins. Some of such cultures are negative and even destructive. Sadly, our youth have taken to many of such cultures that are destructive in nature because of the easy access to entertainment media and the Internet. On the other hand, there are a lot of positive trends in the non indigenous forms of culture prevailing in our society and our youth must be encouraged to embrace them. Meanwhile, there are certain aspects of our traditional culture which may not be in tune with the modern world because of which they must be given up. However, there are a lot that we can give to the world through the good side of our traditional culture, such as respect for the elderly, honesty, dignity of labour, sincerity, chivalry, etc. Yet, these qualities are fast withering in our society. We must revive these virtues in our hearts and encourage the young to learn to appreciate them.
With the emergence of urbanisation and the flow of rural population to urban areas even in the Naga society, we have also seen the evolution of new ways of life. The tradition of a close-knit society that we used to know is hardly seen anymore. The feeling of belonging, social responsibility and cooperative living has been replaced with the culture of selfish, individualistic motives among many people in our society.
It pains one’s heart to notice such trends that are detrimental to the good of our society and such trends must be reversed. It is the responsibility of our Gazetted officers the elite group of our society to lead our people by example in choosing what is right from wrong, and in preserving, promoting and transmitting the aspects of our culture which are worthy of cherishing.
Meanwhile, the youth force should be channeled into positive force. Many of them in our present society are idle and involved in self-destructive activities. This is because they have not been motivated towards involving in positive activities. It must be noted here that people in their youth are at the most energetic period of life. Besides, they are in the most productive stage of life. Our society would lose so much if this truth is not realised.
The spirit of competition and perseverance urgently needs to be inculcated in the minds of our youth so that they may excel in the pursuit of both educational and professional success. If we should desire to surge ahead with development in the future, we must train our young minds to cultivate the spirit of competition. On the other hand, they should also be inspired to cherish the value of cooperation so that they can excel even in team works.
The Chakhesangs have always been lauded by fellow-Nagas as being honest and simple. As such, our officers must treat everyone with equality and justice, and must possess strong moral fibre. It is in our tradition to be chivalrous and to desire to help others. Therefore, I hope that you shall show a good example be it in your profession or in the society as a whole by trying to help others. It is also my sincere hope that you carry out your work without any bias.
I have a few suggestions to make to this house as I come towards the end of my speech.
1. To discuss on ways and means as to how we can bring our community to a level where we would not be labeled as a ‘Backward Tribe’ anymore. The provision that comes along with the label has apparently made our youth struggle less, leading them to succeed under grace and not out of excellence. There was a time when this categorisation helped us and some of our people still need to be aided through this status. Ironically, some people parade themselves as being backward and take pride in it. However, today this label should be a matter of great shame instead and thus it should not take us long before we move out of this ‘Backward’ category.
2. Considering the factors I have earlier shared with you, I want to make a sincere impression upon you that as the cream of our society, you should as an organisation as well as individuals lead our people in educational and economic progress. For to whom much is given much is to be expected.
3. That the Chakhesang Gazetted Officers take responsibility in locating employment opportunities and guide our youth to get employment in both public and private sector. Some day when you retire, you will look back and smile knowing that you have done some concrete, worthwhile service to your people. And that shall be a reward no one else can give you!
May God grant us grace, strength and perseverance in our pursuit to do well.
Thank you and God bless you!