As we mentioned earlier, the representation of Kuki-Chin-Mizo groups in the IAS and IPS bureaucracy among the Scheduled Tribe community is far greater than other groups like the Nagas in Manipur while it is almost minimal in the case of smaller tribes. There would be several reasons for such a disparity in representation. But, what is more important is that the communities themselves have to do a soul-searching of their own. Maybe, because the Nagas are more politically oriented or the smaller tribes find themselves drowning in the midst of bigger tribes, but that is for the social scientists to analyse and discuss. What we are trying to do here is to lay the cards for everyone to see and form an opinion.
Chief Minister N Biren Singh once mentioned that a communal mindset among government officials and leaders of state have been creating hindrances in the developmental process. He had appealed to leaders and government officials to avoid the mindset of prioritising their own people or community. Perhaps, a course correction in the bureaucracy so as to bring about a balance in the administrative setup has become the need of the hour.
We must all agree, bureaucrats are human too and they are prone to the pressures of their own kith and kin and naturally vested interests develop in the long run, while administrative objectivity is lost in translation. It would have been manageable if numbers in the ethnic representation in the bureaucracy were evenly balanced.
Meanwhile, the majority community has long been at the butt-end of allegations of robbing the benefits meant for the hill people while blindsiding the fact that it was mostly bureaucrats from the hills who are at the helm of state affairs with only a sprinkling from the valley. While one can still count the number of direct IAS and IPS officers from the majority community, there are plenty from among the hill communities who enjoy the benefits of being from the Scheduled Tribe communities and they have been ruling the roost all this time and even enjoying the double benefit of reservation at both entry point and promotion avenue as well.
It was a common refrain among employees of all ranks from the valley that ST employees are again and again enjoying the benefit in times of promotion also, thereby causing much heartburn. This has been the prime reason for sections of the majority community coming up with a demand for transformation into the ST category.
More importantly, what has been missing from the general debate is how long the reservation system is going to continue. In fact, there has to be a review of the constitutional status every 10 years and in that the question of whether the aims and objectives of providing reservation and other benefits has been achieved or not are assessed and whether the special facilities have had the desired effect are studied.
More than three decades ago, when the issue came up for debate tribal legislators vociferously opposed it. Since then, the review process became a routine affair with the committee putting its stamp of approval on continuance.
Another area of importance is the emergence of a tribal elite or a privileged class of ST families whose sons and daughters continue to enjoy the benefits taking after their grandfathers and fathers who had been able to achieve a higher status through ST benefits, while those under-privileged tribal folks in the interior areas are not really getting the benefits of being a ST either through poverty or lack of support from the well-entrenched ST babus.
So, isn’t it time for us to talk about bringing the idea of ‘creamy layer’ among the Scheduled Tribe communities also?