Right after a torrid few months, the trip to Tuensang was a trip that was necessary. Debbie and I had spoken about it since November (‘15) but it was still hinging on ‘will happen/wouldn’t happen’ because this wasn’t just going to be a tale of two friends traveling, it would be with a government department.
In early January, it was finalised. Debbie’s father, then Director of the Land Resource Department (LRD) of Nagaland, accommodated us with the rest of his team which consisted of a youthful group of individuals who were more or less around our age.
In one week, we visited around ten villages in the district of Tuensang clocking in some crazy hours on terrible, less-travelled roads.
A quick brief on the state and district:
Nagaland is one of the eight states located in the north east of India. It is divided into eight districts of which Tuensang is the largest. Although other tribes are predominant, it should also be understood that each of the districts in Nagaland is home to a tribe. For example, the northern part of the Wokha district is home to many Sema/Sumi villages but the district in itself is home (headquarters) of the Lotha tribe.
Tuensang however is home to four tribes: Chang, Khiamniungan, Sangtam and Yimchunger. Each have their own distinct dialects and traditions.
The Tuensang district, through their Eastern Nagaland People's Organization (ENPO) have also issued a demand to be a separatist state due to the size of the district as well as the number of tribes that make up the region but realistically, that does not look the least bit likely.
The Land Resource Department undertake frequent trips to all the various districts to keep a check on progress as well as canvasing sites for their next possible project. This trip was undertaken to oversee a special project under the Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP), a Government of India initiative implemented countrywide under the Pradhan Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) scheme.
Each of these villages and projects are looked after by a dedicated Watershed Development Team (WDT) that are made up of members who take on the responsibility to keep a check on each state. Each member ultimately takes charge of one village (that are under the project)
For Debbie and me, this was not only learning about our home state but also the functioning of the government.
We have been away from Nagaland since we were six/seven years old and within 2015, we both landed up back in Nagaland just as suddenly (we’re still unsure if this shift is permanent) and since then, it has been a constant struggle in trying to adjust. Adjusting with new social surroundings is always hard but it’s harder when that new social surrounding is the place you call home. But without getting into the specifics of that, there we were, on a learning curve; about a new district, about facts and figures, about the way departments work and governance in general and most of all, about traditions and practices.
We slept in a new village every night, ate a meal revolving around pork for lunch and dinner, visited one of the Indian – Burmese borders and also tried smoking what seemed like a type of local tobacco that gets you high.
Apart from the experiences, it also opened out eyes (and minds too) to two important facts:
1. While corruption is a predominantly black cloud that looms in the government sector, it doesn’t mean that the officials don’t put in the work. What you need is a leader who is willing to put in the work.
2. Young people are not slackers. The belief and determination among the 16 WDT individuals gave me hope for the future. Their need and want of helping the people from every echelon was visible in their efforts. It was inspiring.
Meandering through those terribly dusty roads, we learned more than we could have anticipated.