The Code Of A Warrior
Tlawmngaihna is an untranslatable word; it is the Mizo code of ethics and Dharma. Tlawmngaihna binds the people of Mizoram to be hospitable, kind, unselfish and helpful to others. Tlawmngaihna to Mizos stands for a compelling moral force which finds expression in self-sacrifice and the service of others.
Vanlalruata certainly lives by this code. He was born in the Khawhai, Champhai District in Mizoram in 1975. The son of marginal farmers, he grew up with a strong sense of community and service. His parents were not well educated, but his father collected books from wherever he could to offer the world to Vanlalruata.
With the little he had, he knew he was still better off than most in his beautiful Mizoram. Keenly observing the way Mizoram evolved after receiving statehood in 1987, Vanlalruata had grown increasingly dissatisfied with the way things were. The voice of the people was grossly under represented in decisions about their own future, the familiar story of corruption and pilfering of funds and basic amenities being denied to the people.
With the help of two friends, HL Liansawta- a retired medical assistant from the Army Medical Corps, now the principal of a Hindi school in the capital Aizwal and Lalrinzuala Chawngthu- publisher and editor of a monthly magazine called Crime Reporter; Vanlalruata started ‘My Prism’ or The Peoples Right to Information and Development Implementing Society of Mizoram. Prism is the most active anti corruption organisation in the state. In the few short years since it‘s establishment, Prism has gained the trust of the people through it’s dogged anti corruption campaigning and follow ups of various PILs, RTI inquiries and FIRs filed by them
“The main challenges are the introduction of public monitoring systems through public motivation campaigns, conducting timely analysis of the work done by all Government bodies and anti-corruption movement and resource mobilization (tax generation). We have never applied for funds or facilities from the government and its agencies and this will keep us clean as well” Vanlalruata explains.
Their campaigns include- probes into the unfair implementation of the NREGS scheme in urban areas, a detailed report on the former Chief Minister of the state for possessing disproportionate wealth compared to his income sources. The report also revealed that he had acquired hardware from the Agriculture Department at 50% subsidy for his own private company. Prism has filed PILs for investigating misappropriation of public money during the construction of two Hydel projects and fake travel bills being submitted by members of the Legislative Assembly. A PIL was also filed in protest of the hiring of under qualified lecturers in Government Hrangbana College, Aizawl and another to probe the misuse and underutilization of funds under the Police Modernization Scheme.
Another remarkable initiative by Prism is their Election Watch campaign. They collected data relating to political leaders for the 2007 – 08 financial year. After a thorough analysis they submitted a ‘list of incompetent MLA candidates’ before 2008 MLA General Election, to their respective party Presidents. Prism also published 10,000 copies of a book which contained the names, particulars, accomplishments, past follies, assets and liabilities of each candidate before the same election. They have since joined hands with National Election Watch and hope to continue this work in all future elections.
They have also filed and pursued over 30 FIRs with the State Anti Corruption Bureau in cases encompassing issues like evidence gone missing from police possession in a murder case, misuse of funds meant for the construction and management for a Nursing College by the Health Department. Misappropriation of public money by Environment and Foresty Department in construction of a new zoo named Aizawl Zoological Park and even one to hold the Agriculture Department accountable for not implementing a Farmers Field School in 2009.
Vanlalruata reminds me of a Mizo folktale about ‘Taitesena‘. A brave warrior who never let a call for help go unheeded and shunned any attempt to reward him for his efforts, and one who, legends say, never ate more than three handfuls of rice per meal. The timeless tale of a brave warrior fighting against all odds.