Unique Experiment of Communitization in Nagaland
By: Oken Jeet Sandham
The kind of decentralization and delegation that has been attempted in the scheme of communitization in Nagaland is unprecedented in the country. With empowerment, the sense of responsibility will come that will enable release of creative forces which are latent in the community. Once the community owns, the Government institutions set up for them, the functioning of such institutions is bound to improve.
The concept of communitization, which was introduced none other than the present State Chief Secretary RS Pandey, has been in fact appreciated even by the President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and the former Union Minister of North East Development, Arun Shuorie. During Kalam’s visit to Nagaland in last October, he had the opportunity to interact with the students of one of the schools at Khuzama that was brought under Communitization program.
Expressing his considerable satisfaction at the new concept, the President even told to the public gathering that all such successful systems would definitely bring subsequent accountability in all aspects in later days and even asserted that all major developments had to be started from the grass root level. And this is what the communitization all about, he stated.
Arun Shourie’s last visit in Nagaland had lauded Pandey’s excellent idea of the concept of communitization and even described it (the concept of communitization) as “a model for the rest of the country.” In fact number of States in the country is emulating the idea of communitization.
Since the introduction of the Communitization of Public Institutions in Nagaland, various departments like Education, Health and Tourism have already started working with the Village Communities by setting up various Village Committees and Water Supply and Electricity are also coming under the purview of the program.
The reports of success story of communitization in Education sector are immense. The department had already introduced the communitization of elementary education in 90 villages and they are still collecting more data for expanding to more villages in the current.
“We are trying to cover all the villages in the State and the responses of the villagers and the success reports from the areas where communitization of elementary education are already in operation are really encouraging,” said the Principal Secretary of School Education, TN Mannen.
He said they had constituted Village Education Committee comprising of teachers, parents of the children (Students), representatives of the NGOs, the churches, Village Council. Therefore, the system of education has become more effective and they are now responsible for managing the affairs of the school. The staffs and teachers of the school will be looked after by them and they are empowered under the communitization to even deduct salaries of those teachers who do not perform their duties. “These amounts will be in their welfare fund and we will not take it back,” Mannen stated.
He also disclosed how the Khuzama ME School was done complete electrification with the contribution of the Village Council and a school room extension in Peren by the Village Council. There are also reports that some of the schools in Dimapur have already stop taking admissions as more students are seeking admissions there. All these rapid development in Education sector is because of the introduction of “communitization of Education” in the State, Mannen pointed out. He also explained that communitization of school education is not “shifting responsibility” but involving “community” in its functioning of the schools.
State Chief Secretary RS Pandey had during a seminar (Working with the community for universalization of elementary education quality issues in elementary education) clearly pointed out that “nothing is possible without community and further stated that the working with the community and quality issue had to be attended not only at the apex but at the grassroots level.
He also said the rich social capital should be utilized in the form of strong bonds and further stated that primary education was 80 per cent management and the best way to improve management was to hand over the management to the community.
“It is mostly the children of the from the poor family who attended the Government schools in rural areas which rich children manage to go private schools also but poor have no way out but to join the Government schools. In this context, education department was the first to be selected for communitization,” Pandey said.
The State Tourism department is all set to bring all its assets like tourist lodges under the “communitization” program soon. About 30 assets out of its total 56 are not properly manned. These are located to State headquarters, district headquarters, highways sides and some are in villages.
All these tourist facilities along with the assets situated in the villages will now be transferred to the respective Village Councils under the Nagaland Communitization of Public Institutions and Services Act 2002.
The respective Village Council can look after these assets or hand it over to some NGOs under the agreement with the Department of Tourism, said Tourism secretary LH Thangi Mannen. She said the Government would charge a nominal annual fee from the Village Council and they might “levy charges for the services or facilities in respect of the tourist facilities/assets” transferred to them.
The Secretary further said the Village Council might even initiate a scheme for “improvement of existing tourist facilities or creating new tourist facilities with or without the assistance by the State Government. “So I hope, there will be tremendous scope of positive outcome once it is given to the community,” she pointed out, adding, “Tourism has to be activities where tourism promotion, community participation is required and without the people’s involvement, tourism will never progress or be sustainable.”
The water supply is also being brought in under the communitization. Under the new program, the department will now hand over the “operation and maintenance” of the water supply to the Village Council. In order to effectively managing the affairs, Village Water and Sanitation Committee is being constituted with the women representations too.
The Department has never collected water tax from the rural and village consumers but under the new system, the Committee is now empowered to collect minimum tax and this will deposit in a separate account. Only little portion of it will go to the Government, besides the Government will contribute some lum sum grant to welfare funds of the Committee.
It is now believed that the problems of water pilferage, damages of pipe lines and dereliction of duties by departmental field staffs will tremendously reduce and Village people themselves will now be the owners. Therefore people will immensely benefit out of the new system once it is fully implemented.
The Power Department has also to hand over the management of electricity in villages to the Village Councils. But this will be managed through the dully constituted “Village Electricity Management Board” that consist of 5 to 9 members including woman representations and the tenure of the Board will be for three years. The departmental staffs posted in a particular village shall not be eligible to be a member of the Board of that village. The field staffs shall otherwise be eligible to be member of any Board other than of the village of posting/assignment.
The Village Council and the Village Development Board shall, however, coordinate and assist in the work of clearing of trees or other objects touching the electrical lines within the vicinity of the village, for the prevention of accidents and interruption of power supply, said SI Longkumer, Chief Engineer of the Power Department.
Under the communitization of Power Supply, the Board is empowered to check theft of energy within its respective villages, besides it is responsible in recovering of loss following theft of energy and should report the matter to the Village Council for taking punitive action in accordance with law. In this way, the sense of ownership will prevail to the community and ultimately effective working culture would inculcate to the minds of not only communities but also staffs, the Chief Engineer said.
The Board shall also operate the balance amount of electricity charge realized from the individual consumers, after making payment to the department. They can also operate any money that may be realized from the defaulters by way of recovery for theft of energy. Besides grants or any other contributions made by the village Council and Village Development Board, voluntary donations can be operated by them.
Although the program is in its infancy, encouraging scenes are already visible. All this is possible because of the abundance of social capital available with the community which sought to be invested by way of communitization.
Capacity building is critical for the success of the program. The State Government is committed to further promote the program as it is clear in Governor’s Address in last Assembly. So the kind of political support which is proclaimed by the present Government and given the richness of the Naga tradition in which community bonds are extraordinarily strong, Communitization is indeed hope for future.
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