Tuesday, August 18, 2020

COVID - Appreciating a slow-moving life

For a long time, I wanted everything to move fast. While I was traveling in bus, I wanted my bus to go fast and overtake all others on the road. While having food, more than enjoying the taste, I wanted to be the first one to complete it. This may give you the wrong impression that I completed a lot of things in life. Well no; I just wanted to complete something quickly and then sit idle or binge-watch movies. It was never about taking another project!!! 

I still remember our 11th class excursion trip to the Nelliyampati forest range in Palakkad district of Kerala. Nelliyampati is a wonderful area to get lost for days. There time moves slowly, nature sings in your ears while pure white cotton clouds massage you. Here one can forget everything about the outside world and just be with yourself. Unfortunately, when I went there, my only objective was to finish all viewpoints and come back first. At that time, it looked like a great achievement. Now, after another decade and a half, when I look back it was one of the stupidest things I did. I wish someone told me those words at that time. I continued the same practice in my numerous journeys across India - always sprinting.

Now stuck at home in this COVID time, I got enough time for reflection. Did I achieve something by sprinting? Honestly, I can't say yes. Slowly that realization is coming to me, life is not sprinting its marathon. Many people told the same sentence before; but unless and until one experiences the same, live through that; it is difficult to understand its true meaning. 

To understand and enjoying the real beauty of a place or to feel the taste of food, one needs to invest time in it. Here you need to spend a currency called time. It is better to do a couple of things right rather than just completing a dozen items. Now I am not jumping from place to place, and trying not to finishing food in seconds, or reading books just to reach my yearly pledge. It is better to take a step back and enjoy it.


Sunday, August 16, 2020

National Education Policy 2020: 3 - Key Problems In Indian Educational Sector Part II

5. Ignoring phenomenal works in Indian languages

A lot of world-class literature in Indian languages are ignored in preference to English. It is an irony that in social media age we are even ignoring the best of English as well.

Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, John Keats, William Wordsworth, Elliot, Blake, Kipling, Yeats, Coleridge, Rossetti, Lawrence, Dickens, Woolf, Orwell, Forester etc. are great no doubt. At the same time, there are a lot of wonderful writers who produced seminal works in other languages.

English is one of the greatest languages of all time; and in India, it is probably the only pan-Indian language that equalizes all. But, do we really care about some of the greatest works of Indian languages, other than the names which we learned to crack some quiz questions?

How many of us read Cilappatikaram, Manimekalai, Randamoozham, Pathummayude Aadu,  Oru Desathinte Katha, Durgesh Nandini, Kapalkundala, Devdas, Chokher Bali, Anandamath, Kulliyat-i-Sauda, Umrao Jan Ada, Nadaar Log, Jangloos, Godaan, Laal Passena, Gunahon Ka Devata, Karmabhoomi, Nirmala, Madhushala, Kamayani, Svapna Vasavadattam, Vikramorvasiyam, Mudrarakshasa, Kadambari, Makam, Mayabritta, Bheda… list is endless.

I am not saying we should stop reading English works and start with these ones. Of course not. Being said that, we should also give some attention to these works. If one cannot read it in the original language, then at least read its translation.  

Life is much more than just engineering and medicine.

6. Refusal to accept failure

Society fails to accept failure as a reality. We consider failure as the end of the world. Though we read about thousands who failed first and then went on with a blockbuster life, we do not change our opinion about failures in schools and colleges. Society considers those people are good for nothing.

To fix this issue and for political mileage, we started making everyone pass. Better pass percentage was good for optics. This only made matters worse. When half of the people were failing it was ok, but when 99% people are passing the stigma on failed people became even higher. We gave extraordinary importance to marks; at the same time ignored whether there is any value addition.

Studies showed that a lot of kids in 6th and 7h were not able to do 3rd class’s math. Companies are complaining that they need to retrain graduates to make them employable.

Society must accept the fact that failure is the other side of the coin.

7. The flawed Teacher Recruitment process

I did not study the teacher recruitment process in other states. However, in my home state - Kerala, there is a flawed policy exiting for a very long time.

The current educational system in Kerala represents the socio-political condition of the state. Here, the private school management is very much organized and protected by the power of communities’ politics. Most educational institutions – aka aided schools – are at least partially or fully supported by the state government. Government pays the salaries of both teaching and non-teaching staff on the same scale as that of teachers in government-run schools. The catch is the government does not have a say in the recruitment of teachers in these schools. Management collects money from individuals and appoints them as teachers; the amount they swallow is quite high. Once appointed, are eligible for government salary and pension – in one buying a government job.

Huge networks of these schools are run by caste and religious organizations. This often led to giving preference for those people who belongs to the same caste/religion of management. Since a good percentage of these schools are minority-run, governments do not dare to intervene. This is mainly due to two reasons. One, these actions will be considered a breach of freedom for minorities to run their own institutions. Second, upsetting them costs a lot of votes in the election. Hence, this process of buying government jobs is going on for decades. For those entering government, schools must pass PSC exams, be in rank list and wait. Vacancies in government-supported private schools are not open for them.

Now in unaided schools, where government does not pay salaries, are run by taking money from students as tuition fees. The problem here is, teachers are paid very less compared to that of government. Teachers are not organized. They cannot raise any voice, as there are people out there who are ready to work for lesser salaries.

Nowadays government and private schools are engaged in a bitter competition to get kids. For the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, kids switched to private unaided schools in mass, where English was the medium of education. Numerous schools popped up and fees became affordable even for the lower middle class. This created problems in government schools (especially in government-supported private schools - aided) and threatened the security of teacher’s jobs. If the teacher to student ratio come below a certain level in a school, then the teacher will lose their jobs. There is catch with those who bought their way to school, they cannot get a transfer to a fully government-owned school or to a school which is government-supported but under different management. Stiff competition from unaided eventually forced government and aided schools to get their act together.

In many other states, especially in tribal belts, there are too many ghost teachers. A report came out during, All India Survey on Higher Education stated that there are around 80,000 or more ghost teachers in the Indian higher education system. This is just in the higher educational system, think about the school level.

Poverty runs so high that; parents send their kids to school just to get the mid-day meal. Many schools have just one teacher for multiple classes. If they got transferred or retired, then there may not be any replacements immediately.

State and central governments spend very less percentage of GDP on education. To make matters worse, primary and secondary education is neither glamorous nor a vote-catching scheme. Unlike many takes pride, Indian origin students passing spelling bee test in the US does not represent the quality of education in India.


8. Outdated Syllabi

Indian school syllabus is outdated; may not be that much in ICSE or CBSE, but definitely at state level.

A lot of things happened after the discovery of Newton's law and Kirchoff's theorem. Science, history, and geography are especially bad. History books are often written as novels. Indian history is often started with Harappan civilization, Aryan invasion then jumps to Alexander, Mauryans and Ashoka, Guptas and other empires here and there, then Sultanates and Mughals. After Aurangzeb, it directly jumps to East India Company, British Rule, the Indian independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi and then independence.

Decorating this will be, a couple of social movements, INA, WWI, WWII, a couple of revolutions like – American, Italian, French etc. Over a period, there were changes but history is not yet taught at a scientific level. History is not only about Emperors, kings, and princes it is a lot more about common people and their life. When I was in school, China’s cultural revolution was written as a success story; it was only years later I found out that it was one of the worst human tragedies.

The world war was not fought in Europe alone, there was a lot of fight that happened in the East Asian theatre. Millions not only died in Europe but in Asia as well.

East of West Bengal comes as one-liner when we discuss INA. Otherwise, history textbooks across India hardly refer to any seven sister states of North Eastern India. Currently, it is heavily loaded with colorful stuff rather than culture, art, and least of all - common people.

Geography is also not different. I think literature is far better compared to other subjects.

As I mentioned several times in this article, education is not as glamorous for governments from an election point of view. However, it is the foundation of India and a passport to the future. If we miss once, then an entire generation must end up paying the prince.

In coming articles, we will start exploring new National Education Policy 2020.


Saturday, August 15, 2020

National Education Policy 2020: 2 - Key Problems In Indian Educational Sector Part I

1. Can education be free when private capital is involved?

We hear statements from policymakers – education should be free and available to all. Is this possible? First, the government does not have enough capacity to build institutions and infrastructure for India’s huge population. Private sector fills the void to an extent. Major players are - religious institutions, charity foundations, private trusts, and a plethora of for-profit (especially in higher education) organizations. Some are for social improvement; others have their own goals and to make money.

In this scenario, could education be free? I do not think so. The next question is, should that be affordable? Yes, all should get the opportunity. If capital is the problem, then the government should fill the gap.

I am a true believer in capitalism. However, in education, I believe the government should play a critical role. We as a country need to spend a higher percentage of GDP on education, build institutions, focus on girl’s education. 1 rupee here will save 10 rupees in other places. At least double educational expenditure as a percentage of GDP.

Another key factor in the educational sector is the regulatory mechanism and funding agencies – UGC, AICTE, State boards, CBSE, NCERT etc. There are talks about creating a single, all-powerful regulatory mechanism that governs everything from Delhi. Is that good? There are pros and cons.

One, a single body enough for education at all levels? Two, the concept of a centralized institution a good idea? For both, my answer is no.

Answering the first question, the needs of pre-primary and post-graduate education is totally different. There is a reason why kids even on 6th and 7th are not able to do additions and subtractions. We neglect preprimary and primary education. Building these institutions are not as glamorous as setting up IITs. This is exactly what is going to happen if we push everything to the same bracket. Let there be multiple regulators focusing on specific areas of child development.

Answering the second question, education is a state subject and there is a reason for that. The needs of each state and the level in which they are currently in are totally different. A lot of educational initiatives were in fact introduced and driven by states.

Consider the case of mid-day meal system which drove kids to school. British, introduced it in Madras presidency and French in Pondicherry. Later in independent India, Kamaraj started a whole scale program in Madras (now Chennai) and later extended to other districts.

Travancore started a noon-meal program in the 1940s; this was extended after independence with assistance from ‘Co-operative for American Relief Everywhere (CARE)’. In 1984, a feeding program with Kanji (rice gruel) was introduced across LP schools. State also started offering travel concessions to students way back in the 1950s. Even now students in Kerala can use public transport systems by paying 25% of the actual fee.              

By 1990-91 number of states implemented mid-day meal program swelled to 12.

People who run the state administration and educationalists from there are in the ground and understand the realities better. Let them have the flexibility for customization. At the same time, we need to make sure, all states are doing the minimum expected out of them.


2. A mess nick-named as ‘self-governing’ and ‘autonomous’

The second problem is regulation.

Numbers do matter, but hundreds of colleges coming up like mushrooms in the rainy season is not a good thing. For e.g. Plethora of engineering colleges in southern India are run by private entities where the quality does not even peep through the gate.

It was only last month Haryana state vigilance bureau arrested 14 senior ranking officers of state for obtaining MSc Zoology degrees illegally from Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan based deemed universities. (TOI). As a matter of fact, in India, MSc Zoology is not part of distance education. What more, many of these officers were not even on leave in exam days!!!

In 2005, the Supreme Court of India declared ‘Chhattisgarh Private Sector Universities Act’ as unconstitutional. Under this act, 112 private universities came up in one year!!! As per some reports, approximately 30,000 students were studying in these universities.

In Karnataka, it was IT department which exposed MBBS admission scam.

Education is an industry now. People are here to make money; it is the regulator's job to make sure that none of the colleges operating India are fake or giving fake degrees. They also need to make sure; colleges are not giving degrees without students attending classes or writing exams.

When someone asks me whether a college is good for their son’s/daughter’s admission, I have no clue. There are no specific numbers that I can look in to. All have the highest qualifications on paper. So mainly I investigate their placement records. Not a very good parameter to look in to, but something which one can rely on. In a way, this also has its flaws. Colleges in big cities often have better placement records than far better colleges in tier-2 and tier-3 cities. Just being close to the industry is an advantage for them.


3. Apathy towards non-STEM subjects

Everyone wants to be in the science stream; if that is not available then in commerce/business stream. No one wants to be in humanities.

Parents often find arts and humanities as a risky field for jobs. Also, not good for their social status. Most often top rankers are not interested in taking majors in history, arts, geography, and subjects like that.

If you look around, many great people of all time were experts in multiple areas. Great universities like Harvard encourage students to have an understanding of multiple subjects. But in India people focus on STEM (Science, technology, Engineering, Mathematics) which is good; but the lack of appreciation of other subjects is the problem. This often leads to a place where students lack an understanding of history and humanity.

In society, all problems are not engineering problems, and all cannot be solved in that way. It's not that there are no opportunities in other fields. Just look at the DataScience area, there is a lot of demand for people who understand sociology, human behavior, statistics etc.  

Lack of understanding in history is leading people to believe in things which divide society based on caste and religion. I often heard many educated people talk about avenging for things that happened centuries back; people who bar fellow human beings in their gated communities, just because of their religion.

4. Utter disregard for physical work

I do not know how people get the idea that physical work is beneath them. Many of those who talk hours on the plight of farmers hardly have any idea how to use gardening and farming tools.

Parents prohibit their kids from playing in the dirt; in the same dirt where humans flourished for millions of years.


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

National Education Policy 2020: 1– An Introduction

"I was impressed by how Amy customizes learning. She told me about one of her students, who is completely non-verbal, visually impaired, and can’t move his arms or legs. Rather than focus on what this student couldn’t do, Amy instead identified something he could do: nod and shake his head. She came up with a writing system based on yes-or-no questions, so that he could journal about what he did over the weekend with family just like all of his classmates.

Amy’s goal is to create an inclusive environment where her kids learn alongside their peers. Instead of the traditional model where special needs students are siloed into their own program, her students are integrated into the broader school. Each one learns and socializes in homeroom, eats in the cafeteria, and participates in recess and gym class.

The result is a school where students with special needs are treated as valuable and important members of the community. In addition to making sure her kids are integrated into the broader student body, Amy also works with the general population students to help them understand their differently-abled peers. They start learning and talking about disabilities in the classroom as early as kindergarten- Gates Notes, Bill Gates

Amy Campbell is ‘Teacher of the Year’ in the state of Washington (Gate’s home state), US.

Malcolm X once told, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” If one is denied of this passport, then it will be difficult – if not impossible – to open so many doors.

In a philosophical sense, education is not limited to formal education. Being said that, formal education is essential for livelihood and upward mobility. One can always see a lot of people, who are phenomenally successful in life, without any formal education. However, we should always remember, people who dropped out of schools /universities and attained great things in real life are exceptions, not the rule. There are millions on the other side, who, because of the lack of formal education are struggling in life. You may ask this question, what about those millions who completed higher education and still struggling in life. Well, that is a different question – the one we are going to discuss in great length in this series.

As a matter of fact, we did not inherit a deeply flawed system. We cannot always blame history for everything.  We had something, which was created by the British and we had an opportunity to fix/modify it over a period. That educational system failed to enroll the masses. Before blaming this one also on Nehru, let me remind you that all governments got fair chance to fix it. Education is a state subject; hence even the regional leaders also cannot wash their hands out of that. Our refusal to accept the changes happening around the world only made the matters worse. Currently, we have an educational system that is partly flawed, corrupt, unfair, and out of date (especially the one run by state boards).

Let us discuss the problems first.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Opening a wrap hole to North-Eastern India - New gateways at Chattogram and Mongla

Chattogram to Agartala

Carrying two TEUs of TMT steel bars (for Agartala in Tripura) and another two TEUs of pulses (for Karimganj in Assam) she left Kolkata port. The destination of this ship is a port in Bangladesh called Chattogram. This is the new transit point for Indian cargo, destined to North-Eastern India. From Chattogram, containers will be shifted to Bangladeshi trucks and will start her final leg of the journey to northeastern Indian cities like Agartala.

Transit trade will be very beneficial for both countries. Rest of India will get a shorter route to North Eastern Region. This landlocked area will get an opening to the sea for trade. This route not just cut down transit time but also reduce fuel cost, and retail price. After all, the end-customer needs to pay for all transportation costs. 

For Bangladesh, waterways will be dredged and port infrastructure will be upgraded. GoI will bear 80% of project costs. Transit trade will generate additional revenue and business opportunities. In addition to increased traffic at Bangladeshi ports, Bangladeshi vessels and trucks will be benefitted. 

Another good news is, under Inland Water Transit and Trade, five more ports in each country will be designated as Port of call. This is in addition to six existing ports. This work is already in progress, in selected stretches.

More trade often brings countries close together and create shared prosperity.


Sunday, August 9, 2020

Will New Delhi Announce Final Naga Peace Accord on this Independence Day?

PM Narendra Modi and T.Muivah

The million-dollar question in the air is, will this year mark the end of the longest-running insurgency campaign in independent India? Talks are on in an undisclosed location in New Delhi, between senior officials of Central Government and NSCN-IM leaders led by general secretary Thuengaleng Muivah, to reach such an agreement. 'M' in the group's name represents T.Muivah - the veteran of Naga Insurgency who is now in his late 80s. Representatives of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, who also have lot of stakes in the settlement, are present in the capital. Prime Minister’s representative for talks, R.N.Ravi (who is also the governor of Nagaland) will soon arrive in the capital.

However, lately, all is not well between the governor and Naga insurgency groups. Recently Governor invoked his powers under article 371A of the constitution; and said his approval is necessary for transferring and posting of officials above district level. Reason cited was the parallel taxation of state residents by NSCN-IM and other insurgency groups. Though NSCN-IM issued statements, groups seem to separate governor from central government and sounds interested in working with New Delhi. Since the parallel taxation by insurgency groups are nothing new, it is possible that Nagas are not willing to relent on something which is not possible for New Delhi to agree.

The main roadblocks are - flag, constitution, and territory. I do not think New Delhi will agree on separate constitution for Nagaland. All are too aware of the mess created by Article 370. As far as territory is concerned, it is difficult to negotiate. Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Assam will not be willing to give their territory to Nagaland so that NSCN-IM can claim a greater Nagalim. Even if governments of neighboring states agreed, it is tough for the political dispensation to sell that idea to their people. Remaining one is the flag, maybe New Delhi will allow Nagaland to have a state flag.

Along with NSCN-IM; Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) - a joint forum of seven other Naga organizations - is also supposed to sign the same agreement. As per reports, NNPG successfully concluded their negotiations with New Delhi.

History of Naga Insurgency


Demand for a sovereign territory for Naga people probably dates to the pre-independence era. The original demand was for an independent greater Nagalim by integrating Naga inhabited territories of India and Myanmar.

As a forum for Naga Groups, then Deputy Commissioner of Naga Hills District, C.R.Pawsey, established 'Naga Hills District Tribal Council' in 1945. Next year, this council was reorganized as a political organization and named as 'Naga National Council (NNC)'. A lot of talks happened and NNC reached a nine-point agreement (aka 'Naga-Akbar Hydari Accord') with then governor of Assam - Sir Muhammad Saleh Akbar Hydari on 26-28 June 1947. In those days Nagaland was not a separate state, but a part of Assam. Ten tribal groups signed this agreement.

Under the accord, Nagas will have the rights on,

1. Judicial - all cases civil and criminal between Nagas in Naga hills will be disposed of by Naga courts under Naga law or such laws introduced with the consent of Nagas. People can appeal to the governor if the verdict is a death penalty or exile. If the case is between Nagas and Non-Nagas, and the judge is not a Naga, then the judge will be assisted by a Naga assessor.

2. Executive - What Naga council is prepared to pay for, should be controlled by Naga Council. This includes Agricultural, Public Works, Education and Forest departments.

3. Legislative - Laws passed by the Assam or Central Legislature would not affect the agreement or the religious practices of Nagas; unless Naga Council agrees to that. In case of disputes, it will be referred to the governor.

4. Land - Non-Naga cannot have land or resources in Naga Hill unless Naga Council agree to the same.

5. Taxation - Naga Council will be responsible for taxation and its expenditure.

6. Boundaries - As far as possible, bring all Nagas under one unified administrative unit.

7. Arms Act - Deputy commissioner will act on advice of Naga Council.

8. Regulations - Chin Hills regulations and Nengal Eastern Frontier Regulations will remain in force.

9. Period of agreement - 10 years. After that, it can be extended, or a new agreement can be negotiated.

Indian Constituent Assembly refused to ratify the accord. While Nagas were thinking of a sovereign state, the Constituent Assembly was thinking more of a district autonomy within Indian constitution.

In June 1947, Nehru rejected Naga's demand for separate electorates. During this time Angami Zapu Phizo (A.Z Phizo) was on the rise in NNC. NNC met with other tribal groups and tried to convince them to form independent countries instead of joining with the Indian Union. This did not gain any momentum. On August 14, 1947 - one day before Indian independence - Nagas declared their independence.  


Phizo was arrested on the charges of creating trouble in India-Burma border, and sent to Presidency Jail in Culcutta. After his release, he became the president of NNC. In 1949, he became the chairman of NNC by a margin of one vote. After this, NNC was more oriented towards independence. Phizo asked for a plebiscite on the question of Naga independence. This was rejected by New Delhi. NNC went ahead and conducted one on their own and declared that 99.9% of people voted in favor of them. Results were immediately rejected by Assam and New Delhi. I often wonder why groups claim to have 99.9 or 99% voted in their favor when claiming 80-90% looks more realistic and believable. NNC was on an inevitable collision path with the Government of India (GoI).

GoI started where British left. Naga Hills District placed under Part A tribal Area and was administered as an autonomous district by Government of Assam. Naga Tribal Area (Tuensang) became Part B tribal area and administrated by Governor of Assam.

In 1952 India conducted her first elections. This was rejected by Naga separatists. Next year, 1953, Nehru met Burmese Prime Minister 'U Nu' to conclude discussions on India-Burma borders. This did not go well with separatists. They thought it as a plan to divide Naga regions. Since Nagas live in both countries they were looking for integrating all Naga areas ruled by both countries.

In the early 1950's NNC decided to boycott GoI and posted notices which threaten government employees (mainly Nagas). Government launched police action and passed 'Assam Maintenance of Public Order (autonomous Districts)' act in 1953. Assam State Armed Police and Assam Rifles moved in; but they were not able to quell the insurgency. The ground situation worsened and the government enacted the 'Assam Disturbed Areas Act' in 1955. This provided the required legal framework for paramilitary forces and armed state police to operate in the region.

In 1954, Phizo formed 'People's Sovereign Republic of Free Nagaland'. During this time, there were troubles in the leadership. Angami leaders T.Sakhrie (secretary of NNC) and J.B.Jasokie broke off with Phizo. Sakhrie was murdered later (1956). Other dissenters took refuge under GoI. NNC established Naga Federal Government (NFG) and Naga Federal Army (NFA) in 1956. Same year Phizo fled to East Pakistan. From 1957 to 1971 East Pakistan provided them weapons and ammunition. In 1960 Phizo fled to London and he stayed there until his death.

When situation worsened further, The Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Ordinance 1958 was signed by President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad on May 22, 1958. Later the ordinance was replaced by 'Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act 1958' on September 11, 1958. Disturbed Areas Act and AFPSA are still in use in states hit by insurgency. This act provides extraordinary powers to the Armed Forces. There is a lot of demand to repeal this law from people living in those areas.

Naga People’s Convention (NPC) was convened in Kohima in 1957; in Mokokchung in 1958 and again in 1959. Nehru and head of NPC Imkongliba Ao agreed for a separate state for Nagas under Indian Union in 1962. Imkongliba Ao became the head of the interim assembly in 1961. Though weakened this did not stop the insurgency. Army and militants clashed in Manipur in March 1961 which resulted in the death of 16 militants. Five months later, Imkongliba Ao was shot and he died two days later.

After the formation of Nagaland

GoI created Nagaland on Dec 1, 1963. Elections were conducted next year and Nagas signed a ceasefire agreement with the government. As per some estimations by that time around 4000 people died in the conflict. Another problem was, there were so factions that had different opinions and claimed to speak on behalf of Nagas.

In 1964 Nagaland legislative assembly passed a resolution urging GoI to integrate Naga areas in neighboring states to Nagaland. Naga militants went on fighting the government and bombed public places - a train, railway station in Lumding, Diphu etc. Numerous people died in these bombings. Some reports claim that China also gave military training to Nagas in Yunnan province starting from January 1967. As per some reports, another 4000 people got killed in between 1964 and 1972.

In 1966 the government of Indira Gandhi conducted six round of talks with Nagas in New Delhi.

An assassination attempt and further conflicts

Militias tried to assassinate Nagaland Chief Minister (CM) Hokishe Sema near Kohima. He escaped, but three other people died. GoI, ended ceasefire unilaterally in 1972. In 1975 assembly was dissolved, and the state came under the presidential rule. Same year NNC faction led by A.Z.Phizo's brother K.Y.Phizo signed Shillong accord with GoI. This gave Naga regions limited autonomy within the union. A.Z Phizo rejected Shillong accord in London.

Later Indian prime minister Morarji Desai met A.Z. Phizo in London in 1977. This didn’t result in any accord. President's rule was withdrawn, and elections were held in 1977.

In 1980 NNC split and Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chisi Swu and SS Khaplang established the ‘National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN)’ on January 31, 1980. This group continued with their insurgency. In 1990 A.Z.Phizo died in London.

NSCN split in to two in 1988 – NSCN-IM and NSCN-K.

NSCN continued their violent attacks and government hit back. In 1993 fight broke out between ethnic kukis of Manipur and NSCN. 86 people died in tribal clashes in 1993. In 1993, NSCN massacred around 100 Kukis in Zapati district of Manipur. They killed 16 more kukis - mostly women and children in Manipur, in 1994. Later leaders of Nagas and Kukis signed a peace accord in 1994 in Kohima. This did not stop NSCN from killing Kukis in Manipur.

In 1996, then Prime Ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao offered to hold unconditional talks with Naga groups. In 1997 H.D. Deve Gowda met NCSN leaders at Geneva. Later I.K. Gujral also offered to negotiate with Naga groups in 1997. NSCN-IM faction agreed to a ceasefire which came in to effect in 1997. Nagaland CM, S.C. Jamir met NSCN-K and NNC faction at Atlanta (USA) and conducted discussions. Fortunately, S.C. Jamir survived another assassination attempt in Kohima that year.

1998 saw more talks between GoI and NSCN-IM in Bangkok and they agreed to extend the ceasefire by one year. Later that year, then Indian prime minister Vajpayee met Muivah and Isak in Paris and continued their talks later in Amsterdam. In 2001 negotiations were continued in Osaka. The government let Muivah and Isak come back to Nagaland after long periods of exile. In 2000 NSCN-K announced a 6-month ceasefire. This ceasefire extended when it reaches the expiration date. As per some reports, another 17,000 people died during 1972 to 2001. 

It is interesting to see the locations of these discussions – Paris, Amsterdam, London, Atlanta, Osaka, Bangkok. You might be wonder how the insurgents are financed and who finance them. We will look into that at the end of this article.

Negotiations were shifted to Kohima. A breakthrough came when GoI announced in 2002 that it will not renew the ban on NCSN. In a setback to NSCN-K Burmese troops attacked their HQ in western Burma in 2003.

Manmohan Singh continued negotiations with NSCN leaders in New Delhi. The ceasefire was more observed in its breaking than on its holding. In addition to fighting with government, Naga militants were also fighting against each other.

Burmese Army conducted a couple more operations against NSCN-K. Three-time lucky, Jamir survived another assassination attempt in 2007. Manmohan Singh government-imposed president's rule on Nagaland in 2008. Within three months elections were conducted.

Later in 2010 leaders of several Naga groups signed agreements with GoI in Kohima, in 2010. Ture to its nature, NSCN split gain on 2011 and NSCN-KK was formed.

NSCN-K repealed the ceasefire agreement. However, this led to another split in the ranks and NSCN-R was formed. R stands for reformation - people who wanted to continue with the ceasefire.

In 2015, NSCN-IM leaders Isak and Muivah signed a framework agreement with GoI. While the other major NSCN faction, NSCN-K joined with another militia organization and broke off peace talks with GoI.  Isak Chishi Swu died in 2016. Even T.Muivan very old, in his late 80s.


There are two main factions in NSCN. NSCN-IM and NSCN-K.

This group runs a government-in-exile - Government of the People's Republic of Nagaland (GPRN).

NSCN-IM primarily consists of Tangkhul Nagas. They have influence over Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Tamenglong districts of Manipur; Wokha, Phek, Zunebhoto, Kohima and some parts of Mokokchung and Tuensang districts of Nagaland; Naga areas of North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong districts of Assam; and some areas of Arunanchal Pradesh.

T.Muivah, the General Secretary, and Isak Chisi Swu, The Chairman of NSCN-IM were earlier based in Thailand.

This outfit's military wing is called the Naga Army. As per some reports, it has one brigade and six battalions. Town commands and specialized mobile groups are also available to boost muscle power.

Politically NSCN-IM has 11 regions that are delimited based on tribal considerations. They try to run a parallel government wherever possible. The administration is divided into defence, home, finance, foreign, education, information and publicity, forests and minerals, law and justice, and religious affairs.

GPRN is responsible for interacting with world bodies, media, garner support, and raise funds for operations. NSCN-IM's annual budget runs into crores.

Allegedly major source of income for this group is drug trafficking from Myanmar, along with extortion, bank robberies, and other criminal activities. In addition, the outfit generates funds internationally.

Both NSCN-IM and NSCN-K run parallel structures of taxation throughout the regions under their control.

They also receive assistance from neighboring countries - supply of arms and ammunition, logistics, safe havens, camping, and training facilities. It is believed that till 1971 US also supplied them arms, finance and intelligence. Some articles state that, till the late 1980s, China also provided support. Pakistan’s ISI is reported to be the major backer now.

After NSCN-K was waked out of the ceasefire agreement with GoI, they were reported to be behind the attack on an army convoy in Manipur which killed 18 soldiers of 6th Dogra Regiment of the Indian Army. After this incident Tatmadaw (Myanmarese army) took control of NSCN-K headquarters in Sagaing region of Myanmar. Group head S.S.Khaplang also died in 2017. This considerably weakened the organization.


Every time India government concludes an agreement with Naga outfits another one pops up and keeps the insurgency humming. Almost all prime ministers of India negotiated with the groups and many reached significant breakthroughs. But then some other group comes up. Hope that time such a thing will not happen.

Continuing negotiations shows, the importance of a political process to resolve things. An army can win the day on the ground, but it must be backed by a strong pollical process. Without this political framework, the military gain will whither away. At the same, we also need to open up the state and show that we meant it.



1. Naga-Akbar Hydari Accord (Nine Point Agreement)

2. India/Nagas (1947-present)

3. Naga National Council - Wikipedia

4. Angami Zapu Phizo

5. Nagaland - Wikipedia

6. Myanmar Army Takes Control of NSCN-Khaplang Headquarters –The Wire

Saturday, August 8, 2020

What Beirut Explosion Teach us? Isn’t there a ‘Warehouse 12’ in every country?

Copyright, Christina Drakaki, via marinetraffic.com

'MV Rhosus' - Russian owned and carrying Moldovan flag - left from Batumi, Georgia (the country, not the state of US). The destination was Beira in Mozambique. On the way, captain got an order to take additional cargo – destined for Jordan - from Beirut (there are different versions on why ship stopped in Beirut). Captain Prokoshev redirected the ship to Beirut port. As per captain, even then, the ship was leaking but it was seaworthy. At the port, crew was not able to board the heavy equipment (additional cargo) and the owner failed to pay the port fees. Another version says that MV Rhosus was forced to dock at Beirut port due to technical difficulties. This happened in September 2013. As per lawyers, authorities inspected the ship declared that it is forbidden from sailing.

In short, they captured 27-year-old MV Rhosus along with its cargo. What was the cargo?  2,750 bags of Ammonium Nitrate. Ship sent her last message indicating her position on Aug 7, 2014. Lebanese authorities released her crew also on that month. By this time, ships charterers and company which owns the cargo lost interest in the ship. Maybe they do not want to spend more money on that. Owners also abandoned the ship. Her dangerous cargo was moved to 'Warehouse 12' and ship was also abandoned by port authorities right in the pier. She stayed there for three years. ‘MV Rhosus’ started leaking heavily and started sinking on Feb 2018. Looks like port authorities did not care much on this submerged ship since she was not blocking the path.

Ammonium Nitrate

This chemical is commonly used for manufacturing fertilizers. This is also a dual use substance, as it can also be mixed with fuel to make explosives. If not handled with care this can explore and cause huge destruction. On Aug 12, 2015 800 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded in a contained storage station at Port of Tianjin, China killing This resulted in other explosions and killed 173 out of which 104 were fire fighters. Before that, similar explosions happened in Australia, US, Mexico, North Korea, Romania, Spain, France etc.

What Authorities Did?

As per customs they sent six letters to judiciary asking for the solution of the cargo on June 27, December 5, 2014; May 6, 2015; May 20, October 13, 2016; and October 27, 2017.

Was just sending letters to the judiciary was enough? That also just 6 letters in 7 years. They seem to send the letter to Judge – Urgent matters. What happened to those letters? Was it followed up with political administration? Why judiciary did not respond (as per customs) to those letters?


On Aug 4 a fire, probably started from another warehouse entered warehouse 12 and ignited ammonium nitrate which resulted in a huge blast, the sound of which was heard more than 200 km away. This blast and destruction are crushing for a country that ran to the ground by her administrators. Lebanon was not always like this. She has a long history all the way to bronze ages. Modern Lebanon was under the Ottoman empire. After the victory in the first world was French got Greater Lebanon. Her current boundaries are defined by the ‘Treaty of Sevres – 1920’.

After 23 years of French rule, Lebanon got her independence in the middle of World War II in 1943. Her capital Beirut became the regional center for trade and became a financial hub. 15 year-long civil war changed everything. It crushed the country; Taif agreement brought peace but it was always a delicate balance. Even now protests are going on in Lebanon; this one started last October. It will take more than an article to explain the problems faced by Lebanon. Let us investigate what we can learn from the blasts.

Governments across the globe need to learn a lot from this blast.

1. Create a safe protocol to handle explosives and follow it in letter and spirit. In a lot of countries, there are protocols for everything; but hardly anyone follows that.

2. Be extra careful with nerve agents, biological warfare labs, nuclear development and testing etc. All these facilities should be far away from human population centers; in an area where it is easy to contain the worst-case scenarios.

3. Items of dual-use - like ammonium nitrate which can be used to make fertilizers as well bombs - if captured from smugglers or otherwise should be disposed of immediately. There should be huge personal fines on people who fail to do so.

4. All such accidents should be investigated transparently, and reports should be made public.

5. If any authority keeps such unsafe/fragile/dangerous items in population centers then it should be moved to safe isolated places or disposed of.

6. Since the location of explosives and such warehouses hardly ever made public, common people are not aware of this. Authorities are doubly responsible in these cases.

7. One should not wait till next accident to make another change.

Beirut Port was nicknamed as ‘Cave of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves’ for its alleged role as the center of corruption. The accusation is Lebanon lost billions of dollars in tax revenue due to undervaluing imports, systematic and widespread bribery to avoid paying customs tax at this port. 

A lot of countries have institutions accused of such things. Always remember, stealing is one thing which may be forgiven but losing life due to neglect in the labyrinth of the bureaucratic system is beyond redemption.



1. Ship citied in Beirut blast hasn't sailed in 7 years. We Found It - NYT

2. 2019–2020 Lebanese protests - Wikipedia

3. Taif Agreement - Wikipedia

4. A big blast should lead to big change in Lebanon - TheEconomist

5. Beirut blast: Tracing the explosives that tore thecapital apart - AlJazeera

International Phonetic Alphabet - How to make others understand

Used by NATO, International Civil Aviation Organization, etc. this pronunciation is well understood across the world. I was searching for this list for some time. Hope that it will be useful for you as well. When you use this structure, the person on the other end of the telephone better understands the spelling.


1. Wikipedia