GUWAHATI: In a state where the fear of the gun runs high, K K Sema, a retired civil servant in Nagaland, has taken the lead in arousing the conscience of the public. A patron of the Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation (ACAUT), this 66-year-old has mobilised public opinion against corruption and illegal taxation that are deeply rooted in the Naga society.
Following ACAUT’s formation in 2014 by a group of young educated Nagas, people started speaking up against corruption, corrupt politicians and insurgents. Sema says the best thing to have happened in Nagaland in recent years is that people have become fearless. After clearing the Nagaland Civil Services exams in 1974, Sema was appointed as an extra assistant commissioner before being promoted to IAS. In his career spanning over three decades, he was transferred 22 times with most postings being in remote areas.
“In 1978 when I was serving as a young officer, I stood up to a powerful MLA. Soon, I was transferred. That was the beginning. I realised that the road ahead won’t be smooth,” Sema says. The insurgents in Nagaland run a parallel government and they survive on “taxes” collected from traders and government officials. Denial by any, which is very rare, could lead to abduction, payment of higher taxes or even death by bullets.
“Taxation by the myriad Naga political groups (read rebel organisations) is unsystematic and torturous. Then, there are government and other organisations which collect taxes. Goods coming to Nagaland are taxed at least five times. It is hurting people,” says this crusader of the anti-graft campaign that has virtually evolved into a mass movement.
Sema says the ACAUT has been instrumental in stamping out the “syndicate” system from commercial hub Dimapur. Under this, the prices of commodities used to be fixed by elements, which forced traders to buy goods solely from them. “We exposed a number of scams. We demanded that they be probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Unfortunately, the state government hasn’t handed the cases to the agency,” Sema laments.