Updated: November 9, 2021 10:16:43 pm
Even as Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah last month requesting that his government’s choice of a Mizo-speaking Chief Secretary be accepted over the Centre’s non-Mizo candidate, Renu Sharma — an AGMUT cadre IAS officer of the 1988 batch— assumed office on November 2.
On October 29, Zoramthanga, whose Mizo National Front (MNF) government is a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally, wrote to Shah saying that a “Chief Secretary without the knowledge of a working standard Mizo language will never be an effective and efficient Chief Secretary” in Mizoram and thus, the Centre should reconsider its order appointing Sharma to the post.
He added: “The Mizo people by and large generally do not understand Hindi. None of my Cabinet Ministers understands Hindi. Some of them even have a problem with English.”
Zoramthanga’s letter came a day after both the Centre and the state picked a Chief Secretary after the retirement of Lalnunmawia Chuaungo. While Sharma was the Centre’s choice, the state government wanted its additional chief secretary, JC Ramthanga, for the post.
However, it seemed that the Centre’s choice finally prevailed and Sharma — who had earlier been posted to Mizoram twice (finance and general administration departments, 2011 and home and personnel and administrative departments, 2016) — landed in Aizawl on November 1 to take charge.
A source close to the Chief Minister said that such requests were “routine practice”. “It is normal for a Chief Minister to recommend a Chief Secretary of his choice. This is true not just for Northeastern states but other states in India too. In fact, even previous Chief Ministers in Mizoram have made similar requests,” said the source.
“It is not that the Mizoram government does not want an outsider. We welcome it but the Chief Secretary personally assists the Chief Minister in several matters and it is much simpler if they know the language,” he said, adding that they had “expected” the Centre to “pay heed to the request”
“Usually, the Centre respects the suggestions made by the state government, provided the suggested Chief Secretary is qualified. Pu Ramthanga is highly qualified and is nearing retirement. So we do not understand why they did not listen to us,” he said.
In his letter, Zoramthanga added that language was the reason why the Centre had never appointed a person who did not have a working understanding of Mizo. “Whether it is the UPA (Congress-led United Progressive Alliance) Government or the NDA Government at the Centre, this has been a practice since the creation of Mizoram State,” the Chief Minister wrote.
Chuaungo had replaced Arvind Ray — an Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre IAS officer of the 1984 batch — as Chief Secretary in 2019. It is unclear whether Ray had an understanding of the Mizo language. But the source added that “language” was a “problem” during Ray’s tenure too.
Zoramthanga had also pointed out that he had been a “faithful partner” of the NDA in the Northeast from the beginning, while many states were shifting alliances. “I, therefore, believe that I deserve a special favour and consideration for this faithful friendship with the NDA,” he wrote.
He also said that if his request was not accepted, the Congress and other Opposition parties would make a “mockery of him” for being in the NDA.
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