Tlawmngaihna is an untranslatable word; it is the Mizo code of ethics and dharma. Tlawmngaihna binds the people of Mizoram to be hospitable, 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 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. Despite what little he had, Vanlalruata knew he was better off than most in his town.
But observing the way Mizoram had evolved after receiving statehood in 1987, he had grown increasingly dissatisfied with the way things were.
With the help of two friends, HL Liansawta, a retired medical assistant from the Army Medical Corps, and Lalrinzuala Chawngthu, publisher and editor of a monthly magazine 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 its establishment, Prism has gained the trust of the people through its dogged anti corruption campaigning and follow ups of various PILs, RTI inquiries and FIRs filed by them.
“The main challenge is the introduction of public monitoring systems through public motivation campaigns,” says Vanlalruata, who has never applied for funds from the government.
“This is what will keep us clean and help us conduct analysis of the work done by all government bodies and anti-corruption movement and resource mobilisation (tax generation).”
So far, their campaigns include probes into the unfair implementation of the NREG scheme in urban areas and 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.
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 the 2008 general election, to the respective party presidents.
Apart from that, they have also filed and pursued over 30 FIRs with the State Anti Corruption Bureau in cases where evidence has gone missing from police possession.
They have also looked into the misuse of funds meant for the construction and management for a nursing college by the health department and the misappropriation of public money by the environment and forest department in construction of a new zoo named Aizawl Zoological Park.
They even filed one against the agriculture department holding them accountable for not implementing a Farmers Field school.
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.