Leading from the front


To be able to lead others, a man must be willing to go forward alone.
– Harry Truman

Being a leader is not easy. For he is the one who has to show the way, in each and every aspect of life, to all those who have reposed their faith in him. He is the one his followers look up to, adhering to each of his directives, with the hope that their lives and belongings as well as those of their near and dear ones are safe in his hands. It is a different matter that in today’s age of cut-throat competition and with our ever increasing lifestyle demands, the definition of leaders and leadership has undergone a dramatic change. While many of us might want to equate leaders with successful people or professional achievers, the fact remains that only a few people are really cut out for the task.
Ace bureaucrat is one such born leader in our midst. While he may today find his name in the list of the many Deputy Commissioners to have served the financial capital of Nagaland – Dimapur, I believe he has already etched his name in the hearts of the people of this erstwhile garrison town. Thanks to a lot of his efforts, peace and normalcy is creeping in to this town once again and the people have slowly started picking up their lost threads in life.
Thanks to Maongwati’s radical and bold initiatives, many in Dimapur have started looking up to him as the answer to their prayers of their troubled city. Maongwati, however, is not satisfied with being just an able and successful bureaucrat. At a time when spiritual leadership has taken a backseat among people all over the world, especially in our strife-torn region, he has been striving to restore mankind’s faith in God and His Love, by openly sharing and preaching His Word and by displaying tremendous integrity and honesty in both his personal and professional spheres of life. The recipient of a number of prestigious awards and commendations, including the Governor’s commendation for outstanding service on two different occasions and a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Jerusalem, this charismatic leader has proved his salt as a guide, reformer and skipper of the lone ship in troubled waters.
Maongwati Aier was born to an illustrious family with four other siblings – two brothers and two sisters – all of whom are well placed and settled in life. His mother Makenla was a housewife and Sunday school teacher, while his father S.Lima Aier was an IAS officer himself who had served wholeheartedly to the cause of the Nagaland government in various capacities before finally retiring as Commissioner of Taxation and Excise. Given the achievements of his father, young Maong might have had learnt a few lessons in leadership and discipline at home itself at a very early age, enabling him to step into his father’s shoes as smoothly as possible. His father was the 1st Deputy Commissioner of Dimapur and he the 18th; the son succeeding the father decades later. Given the succession of authority, it is not surprising to learn that Maongwati is quite attached to his present residence – the DC Bungalow of Dimapur. As I glance across at the walls of the old Assam type house, adorned with numerous medals and commendations, he shares modestly, “This is the house where I grew up, where I spent a good part of my childhood with my brothers and sisters. This is the house where I now live with my wife and where my children are growing up. Though it would rather look like a government accommodation for others, I regard this house as my home.”
Having completed his schooling from Kohima, Maongwati went to St Edmund’s college in Shillong for his higher education – a place which, he believes, shaped him up as the man he is today, and of which he still has a lot of fond memories. “Till the late 80’s, St. Edmund’s was undoubtedly the best college in this corner of the world. Under the tough administration of the Irish brothers, the school really blossomed. We had the top most political scientists, economists, historians and professionals of the country teaching there. Coupled with the amount of emphasis given to the wholesome development of the students, it is not surprising that St. Edmunds had churned out countless number of achievers, who have excelled in each and every aspect of life and who are all making a difference today in different parts of the world.”
For almost three decades now, Moangwati Aier has served the State of Nagaland in all its districts and in different capacities, gaining experience right from the grassroots level. With his rich experience and family bearings, he has been able to make a difference almost everywhere he has gone. The road in front of him, however, has not been easy. As he says, “Two years back in April 2008 when I took over as the DC of this town, Dimapur had been declared a war zone. The most challenging task in front of me was the factional war going on in the town. In fact, an IRB jawan had been killed on my very first day in office.”
The time called for thinking out of the box and for bold and crucial decisions. Talking about the drastic steps he took on immediately taking charge, he says, “My first step was to set up the Dimapur District Coordination Group (DDCG). The DDCG was formed with all the presidents of different organizations like the Naga Council, Naga Hohos, the Superintendent of Police, Commanding Officer of Assam Rifles and Commanding Officer of the CRPF with me as the chairman. We (the group) met once every month and since we had direct access to all the different militant outfits, we began to appeal to them to stop killing each other and to reconcile for peace.”
Another feather to Maongwati’s cap was the formation of community policing in Nagaland. Explaining about this novel move, he says, “I managed to gain the confidence of the Naga Hohos and gaonbudhas (village elders) by setting up this system. Under this system, there are 10 community policemen in each of the 21 wards of the town. This system where the policemen are appointed by the gaonbudhas themselves has proved to be highly rewarding as they provide us with all the intelligent inputs. In fact, on a number of occasions these are the very people who have caught culprits, thieves, robbers, and the like.”
Being the administrator of a town has its benefits. But to administer a war-hit town where militants belonging to different factions are out for each other’s blood is no cakewalk. On many an occasion, Maongwati came pretty close to death, something which he acknowledges rather solemnly. He confides, “On three different occasions, I had to go in between the crossfire of both the militant factions to address them through the PA system, appealing them to stop the firing. On one occasion as the SP and I found ourselves in the middle of a crossfire, we narrowly escaped being shot at as bullets whizzed past us.”
Maongwati has had similar experiences in other parts of the State as well. In 2007, when he was posted in Phek as its DC, he had to assume office by removing a war camp infested with militants. “The scenario in the State was chaotic at that time. The two factions of the NSCN as well as the federal groups were all fighting with one another. A war camp had been set up at the clock tower in the middle of the town. With the help of the police, Army and the Naga Hoho, I had to conduct a flag march and remove the camp. Rapid flush-out operations were conducted and a police beat house was installed there.”
Though the road has been rough, the tide is slowly turning around now. With the coming of peace, the developmental process is slowly resuming once again. “Over the last year, five new multinationals have set up shop in Dimapur, which was unthinkable till a couple of years back. A new flyover will soon be put on the map to control the increasing traffic flow, while another will be sanctioned shortly,” he revealed.
While administration is an area where he has excelled, spirituality in the lives of the people is another area that this soft-spoken man is trying to address. For many Christians in Dimapur, Maongwati is not only an administrative head but also a spiritual leader, with many people going on record saying that he is the answer to their prayers for a godly leader. “Most Nagas lack integrity, respect for other’s rights, work ethics and transparency, among other things. These are the symptoms of a dysfunctional society. Through the grace of God and the prayers of so many well-wishers, I have been able to visit and preach in most of the churches of the State, where I have always tried to impress on the people of the need to remove apathy.”
Preaching is something that this bureaucrat loves immensely; in fact, he addresses the morning assembly of the town’s Lima Aier Memorial Higher Secondary School at Lingrijan on alternate days. He puts it, “My father started his career as a teacher and always had a dream to open a school. Accordingly, in remembrance of his wishes we started this school, which is looked after by my wife. Improving and strengthening moral values of students along with all round development is what we are trying hard to achieve through this school.”
Dwelling further on the need for moral education for our children, the intellectual in him exhorts, “Life is more than just achieving one’s professional goals and targets. We’ve many IAS and IPS officers who could not bask in the glory of their achievements, primarily because of increased alcoholism and narcotics consumption and other spiritual shortcomings. A human being is defined by his character; the moral fabric should not be stained even after professional goals have been met.” Maongwati is also the founding member and convenor of the New Path Shelter located at Assisi School, Dimapur. He elaborates on the shelter, “Nearly 50 women in difficult circumstances have been rehabilitated through this shelter, which provides training in livelihood activities and the necessary resources for women in difficult circumstances to pick up their lives once again.”
Besides proper education and a good dose of spirituality, the DC also a lover of sports feels that sports have a contributing role to play in the wholesome development of an individual. He remembers with fondness the sporting activities in his college St. Edmunds and says, “Sports is really a very important activity. A person excelling in the field of sports will also shine in other areas because he would have learnt to discipline his mind. Success in life, you see, calls for disciplining the mind, body and soul. As such the person has no time to dwell on bad habits”.
This visionary bureaucrat, however, feels that one of the biggest problems of the Northeast today, especially Nagaland, is apathy amongst the populace, especially the youth. In his words, “We are poor not because of lack of natural resources but because we lack the right attitude and interest to work. We can create awareness among the people about our wealth of mineral and human resources but unless we generate in ourselves that interest to work and a right attitude, things will remain as they are.” Maybe that is why he keeps urging the youth of the region to broaden their mind and horizons. “Go out of the State. See the rest of the country and the world. Embrace new cultures. Only then you will realise the areas in which we truly lack,” he extols.
Maongwati Aier is married to Imtila Aier and together they are blessed with three children – one girl and two sons. His daughter, the eldest, is doing her graduations in New Delhi, while his two other younger sons are in school. Despite his hectic schedule, the bureaucrat makes it a point to spend quality time with his family. “My wife and children are an important part of my leisure time and are the inspirations of my life. We make it a point to go out together during weekends but since our personal time are so scarce to be together at home, we prefer going out for long drives.”

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Posted on May 15, 2010, in Day-to-Day, Personalities/ Interviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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