Beyond the Horizon
By Pradeep Kumar
The political evolution of North East Frontier Tracts (NEFT) in 1946 (to be administrated by the Governor of Assam by virtue of Indian Independence Act 1947 during 15.08.1947 to 2.01.1950) to be designated as North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and becoming Union Territory on 20.01.72 rechristened as Arunachal Pradesh is unique but change of colours of politicians during last two decades is equally unique.
Political evolution: The GoI due to problem of communication and defiance had decided to administer NEFTs as “Excluded Area” through Assam Governor as an agent to President of India. Though there was geographical transfer in 1950 and reconstitution in 1951 that led to birth of NEFA under North East Frontier (Administration) Regulation, 1954 before becoming UT on 20.01.72.
With the enactment of 37th Constitutional Amendment Act 1975, the Pradesh Council was constituted as a separate Legislative Assembly and Lt. Governor was appointed as its head of the UT. The Pradesh Council became provisional Legislative Assembly with 23 members (1975 to 1978) while first elected Legislative Assembly consisting of 33 members (30 elected & 3 nominated) was formed on 04.01.1978.
Democratic spirit: Arunachal Pradesh is not a linguistic but an ethnic state inhabited by colourful tribal people of diverse culture and lifestyle with own unique culture and traditions but governed by village council, namely Kebang or Buliang or Mel or Abela, with time tested customary laws to resolve disputes. The tribal people have inherited democratic spirit from their traditional laws, which further strengthen by five fundamental principles for administration of tribal areas.
The village councils in NEFA were functioning on the lines of the system evolved for parliamentary democracy, though vogue now a days, as illustrated by village councils, empowered by the will and power of the people. Thus, the concept of parliamentary democracy is not new to the tribal society.
Turn coat politics: In fact, the concept of turn coat politics begun after the first election on 25.02.78 and installation of Janata Party-led Govt headed by chief minister P K Thungon on 14.03.1978. With the breakdown of Morarji Desai-led JP Govt. at the Centre, Thungon ministry collapsed on 06.09.79. Opposition People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) raised its strength to 12 with defection of 4 JP MLAs and formed the Govt rechristened as United People’s Party of Arunachal (UPPA) with Tomo Riba as CM on 18.09.79. But it lasted only for 44 days due to re-defection. Riba resigned on 31.10.79 after recommending dissolution of the assembly and President’s Rule was imposed in November 1979 which continued till January 1980.
However, the inborn democratic spirit produced honest and matured politicians, like Tomo Riba (PPA founder & elected to Lok Sabha), Lok Sabha member Bakin Pertin (known for his famous quote Arunachal in a ‘Land of khushi khusi and Assam ‘Land of lahey lahey’), Chera Talo, Ratan Tama (nominated to Rajya Sabha, one of the pioneers of the state as a man with a mission, 27.05.78 to 26.05.84), Daying Ering (nominated to Lok Sabha from NEFA to serve as union deputy minister and his Ering Commission report influenced adoption of Panchayati Raj system and Arunachal’s gift to India), to name a few.
Timber business was the major source of economy for the state Govt and the people then. Chongkham or Chowkham under Namsai district was once upon a time Asia’s richest village due to timber business. Thus, timber merchants used to call the short to influence the elected leaders, says social activist Likha Tongum. However, Supreme Court banned felling of trees on 12.12.96 not only leaving a cascading effect on state’s revenue earning but also pushing away timber merchants out of political arena. This was of course a blessing in disguise in protecting rich environment of Arunachal, considered one of the 12 bio-diversity hotspots of the world.
The turnaround: But corruption crept in due to greed and the public distribution system (PDS) became a Bermuda Triangle for many to get trapped while the PDS contractors had a say in the Govt after financing leaders during elections. But, the PDS period is over now, Tongum said, adding qualified engineers have taken over a bigger rule in state building since 2014.
Quoting records, Tongum said that engineers Tenzing Norbu Thongdok, Tumke Bagra, Tage Taki, Markio Tado, Tatung Jamoh and Kaling Moyong were elected to state assembly in 2014 while engineers Bagra, Taki, Moyong, Kangong Taku, Tanya Soki and Taba Tedir have been elected in 2019 brining a qualitative change in leadership. However, Chief Minister Pema Khandu proved his political wisdom by inducting engineers Taba Tedir, who had refunded Rs 3.5 crore land compensation of Trans-Arunachal Highway, and Tage Taki to his cabinet which undoubtedly would be an icing on the cake to meet rising expectations of the masses.
Regrettably, last simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly elections were the worst ever democratic exercise in state’s political history since 1978 as huge money was spent to influence voters in total violation of Election Commission of India guidelines, besides reports of numerous booth capturing, rigging, re-polling and violence that claimed few lives. This is contrary American president Abraham Lincoln’s definition of government: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth”.
The campaign for clean election free from “cash for vote” launched by Arunachal Christian Forum, NES and repeated pleas by CM Khandu turned out to be damp squib as crores of rupees were seized during election due to ‘cash for votes’ syndrome openly practiced in the state.
“Blaming individual or institution is useless as it has to be shared by all state holders, especially by the system. Corrupt practices are carried out in various aspects and various fields. To stop the ‘cash for votes’ tendency during elections, these corrupt practices should be removed,” Tongum said citing the glittering example of Mizoram where Young Mizo Association with the support of missionary groups had succeeded in launching campaign for election without influence of money power to ensure that all candidates irrespective of party get a fair chance in election.
Interestingly, Karate Association of India president Hanshi Likha Tara listening to discussion quipped: “One of his friends from Mizoram was very unhappy for spending too much during last election. And the amount was surprisingly Rs 2.75 lakh.”
Such attitude alone would remove corrupt practices from elections and accelerate development of any state and its people, the globe trotter said.
Such attitude is the need of the hour to catapult CM Khandu’s ‘Rising Arunachal’ concept free from corruption as advocated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Tongum added.