Friday, September 29, 2023

Examining the Human-Elephant conflict and its implications in Wokha district

In a shocking turn of events during the Nagaland Legislative Assembly Session, the Minister for Forest, Environment & Climate Change and Village Guards, CL John, made remarks that have sent shockwaves across the state. On the surface, it may seem like just another political incident, but it carries deeper implications that demand our attention and response.
During a session where the human-elephant conflict in Wokha District and Bhandari Sub Division was being raised by Achumbemo Kikon MLA 40 Bhandari Ac, CL John’s comments raised eyebrows and ire. He suggested that the people of Wokha were “winning” the human-elephant conflict and callously mentioned that only eight lives had been lost to elephant encounters thus far.
While on the other hand CL John is heard mocking 40 Bhandari AC MLA, Achumbemo Kikon stating that ‘Pondro saal laga jama kurikena hudiya para bishi question ahishe’ is an insult not only to MLA Achumbemo Kikon but is an insult to the sufferings of the people.
These remarks have deeply disturbed not only the Naga community but, in particular, the Lothas, whose lives have been most affected by this conflict. What compounds this issue is that Minister John himself lacks a High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC) and struggles with basic pronunciations, including “ex-gratia.” This begs the question of whether he is qualified for his critical role. Villages in Wokha District are grappling with the devastating impact of marauding elephants on their paddy fields and plantations, causing immense hardship to local cultivators. The situation is dire, with the Bhandari block being among the hardest hit. In reality, the entire district of Wokha is feeling the repercussions, as elephants continue to wreak havoc in seven out of eight ranges within the district.
Compounding the problem is the inadequate compensation offered by the government, which falls far short of covering the losses incurred by affected communities.
The true number of victims may be higher than reported, as some choose not to disclose incidents due to cultural customs.
I express disappointment and shame that an unqualified individual occupies a cabinet minister position. Ministers should not only possess financial power but also relevant education, maturity, experience, empathy, and an understanding of the people’s concerns.
These qualities are crucial, especially in addressing complex issues like the human-elephant conflict. Minister John’s inability to communicate effectively raises questions about his ability to secure central funds to address Nagaland’s challenges.
Moreover, making light of Lotha lives and comparing them to wild elephants is deeply shameful and unacceptable. An apology to the victims’ families and the entire Lotha community is not only warranted but necessary.
Minister John’s actions have led to the circulation of memes on social media, further damaging his image. This controversy has prompted many, including anonymous bureaucrats, to express their desire for honest, educated, visionary, and corruption-free leaders in politics. They stress that political leaders should possess experience, knowledge, wisdom, and maturity, and those driven by personal gain should not hold office.
In the 21st century, mocking and ridiculing the loss of human life due to the human-elephant conflict is intolerable and divisive.
The Nagaland Legislative Assembly is meant for development, progress, and advancement, not for trivial matters like ex-gratia payments.
In conclusion, it is time for Minister John to heed the voices of the Naga people.
Demands for his resignation, a compensation fund for victims’ families, imploring effective measures and action in compacting human-elephant conflict and an unconditional apology are resonating widely in social media. We must hold our leaders accountable, especially when they hold positions related to the environment and the well-being of our citizens.
The people of Wokha District and all conscientious citizens of Nagaland deserve better.
Minister John’s recent actions have fallen far short of our expectations, eroding the trust and credibility that our representatives should uphold.
Yanren Humtsoe


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