New Delhi: A first-time Parliamentarian, Dr Lorho S Pfoze clearly spells out his priorities as arranging reconciliation between the different ethnic groups in Manipur and ensuring early resolution to the Naga issue within the 2015 framework agreement. A specialist in radiodiagnosis, the MP from Outer Manipur also has a prescription for Dr Jitendra Singh, the minister of state (MoS) for development of northeast region (DoNER), that, he (Singh) needs to allocate more time to Northeast for good health of the region.
In an exclusive interview with EastMojo, the Parliamentarian speaks about his plan of action for the state.
EastMojo: What is at the top of your list of priorities as an MP?
Lorho S Pfoze: My first priority is to go back to my constituency and talk to the various ethnic groups living there. Each one of those communities has their own issues and because of that, there is a lot of disunity, a lot of mistrust and a whole lot of conflict. I, therefore, need to work to bring people together. As a facilitator, my work would be to ensure that different communities learn to appreciate one another as also to bridge any gaps for peace and prosperity in Manipur.
EM: How do you propose to take up the long-pending Naga issue?
LSP: Above all, I represent Outer Manipur from the Naga People’s Front (NPF) in the Lok Sabha. The Naga issue is pending for a very long time. There has been 22 years of dialogue over hundreds of meetings, yet something is still missing. In 2015, the framework agreement was signed despite stiff opposition from the neighbouring communities and states. I think it is my duty to go back to those communities to build mutual understanding so that eventually they also support us. We will definitely impress upon the Government of India to bring about an amicable solution at the earliest because, in particular, the Naga youth is feeling very frustrated as things have dragged on for far too long.
EM: What role do you see for yourself in bringing about a peaceful resolution to the issue?
LSP: We will definitely try to raise the issue on the floor of the house. But since I am a lone member, at times, it becomes very difficult to get oneself heard. I have had the opportunity of meeting with the Prime Minister, home minister, defence minister, finance minister and various other ministers, and requested for an early resolution to the Naga issue. I have been given a patient hearing and hope that the government will try to bring about a resolution as early as possible. I also had the opportunity of meeting with the government’s Naga talks interlocutor RN Ravi, and we have held discussions on a few points. I think the government is serious and we have to look at the issue from various angles and newer perspectives.
EM: Dr Pfoze, your role would be especially very important as Manipur has the largest population of Naga ethnic groups outside of Nagaland.
LSP: Yes, that’s true. In Manipur, we have also had the most violent opposition to the Naga peace talks. Political groups had opposed the extension of ceasefire beyond territorial limits. They had also fiercely opposed the framework agreement. I think it is time that we understand one another. I had spoken to several civil society representatives, especially from the Meiti groups even during my election campaign. Once I return home, I will again initiate dialogue. Maybe not only at my level but also by involving members of the Naga civil society to interact with Meiti and other communities so that we support one another after apprising ourselves of each other’s problems and aspirations.
EM: Moving on to another topic, even as the focus of Indian diplomacy has shifted from ‘Look East’ to ‘Act East’, what are some of the main infrastructure constraints in the region, especially with regard to your constituency?
LSP: India is a very large country and some of these developmental projects were entrusted to the ministry of development of northeastern region (MDoNER) under the non-lapsable funds given to them. Incidentally, the North Eastern Council (NEC) has also been asked to take care of development-related issues. Unfortunately, being a trusted lieutenant of the Prime Minister, our minister is kept busy at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) most of the time. As a result, he is unable to devote much time to MDoNER. I only wish that the minister gives more time to MDoNER and also NEC so that their mandate is fully utilised. If the NEC has not been performing well, it is for the central government to monitor and see to it that it does well. The governing body of the NEC also has a big role to play and must demand more funds and more avenues of development such as infrastructure projects. The roads particularly are very bad. Unless connectivity is improved, trade and commerce won’t proceed. The ‘Look East’ policy is now ‘Act East’ but how can one ‘act’ when there is no communication? The border townships need to be well-connected by roads not only for the purpose of trade and commerce but also in the larger interest of national security.