by Heigrujam Nabashyam
Speaking on the solemn occasion of the 12th Convocation of the Manipur University, the Chief Minister of Manipur called the Manipur University an “asset”.
The Manipur University is the highest seat of learning in Manipur. One should not fumble while paying respect to it. This is more true for the Head of the Government.
Now, pedantic apart, one must understand that there is no shame to speak in one’s own language not only in Manipur but anywhere in the world. If required one may speak through an interpreter, instead of telling things wrong in a foreign language. This is a practice adopted throughout the world and is found to be more honourable.
Only a few days before the convocation, some allegations against the authority of the MU had appeared in The Sangai Express. The charges were outrageous and had cast a slur on the teachers of the University. But what is strange is the authority of the University seem to take no notice of the allegations, or perhaps they think it wise to look the other way and remain silent.
The SPF government of Manipur is known for its shamelessly unresponsive behavior characterized by its masterly inactivity to any charge of corruption and misgovernance, – the comment from Home secretary Pillai on the working of the Manipur government : “ this kind of poor government ”, is interesting – and it exemplifies the favourite Meetei catchphrase, ‘Haining haijou ekaibide’ – Say as you must, but I am not ashamed.
Any effort on the part of the authority of the Manipur University to cast itself into the mould of the SPF government would be unbelievable and plain barbarian, for the simple reason – it is the highest seat of learning; the storehouse of knowledge and wisdom, which nurture the pillars of the nation and Manipur in particular.
It would do good for the academia to note that the charges were published in English in the English edition of the newspaper, not in a Manipurilol paper. It could have been read across the country unlike the Manipurilol papers which do not go beyond the closed local cynic circle who would not raise a finger, in protest against such rot, saying, ‘What do I get in return’ – not thinking anything except his immediate gain.
The charges are specific. And they are related to the alleged acts of of the Deans or Head of Departments, who allegedly circumvent the rules of recruitment of teachers, guest lecturers, research associates, etc. to facilitate appointment of non competitive, unfit and unqualified candidates who are known to them at the cost of efficient, competitive and qualified candidates – a serious threat to the very foundation of the University, if the charges are genuine.
There is also another disturbing charge or more of an assertion which question the efficiency and quality of the teachers. The charge is just outrageous and any teacher with some self respect would not be able to stand it.
In his address to the 12th Convocation, the Governor of Manipur, who is also the Chief Rector of the Manipur University, called on the academia to make the University, a centre for academic excellence. He opined that the MU should be the centre for “gifted students whose abilities can be developed by an equally gifted faculty”.
Judging from the unfortunate happenings in the University in the last few years and the charges made as late as a few days before the Convocation, the call of the Governor turned out to be no more than a mere wish and an extremely far cry, from excellence. To build up an excellent centre of learning, brilliant minds that can recognize quality and excellence and that aspire and aim for excellence are a must.
However, it would be highly admirable, if His Excellency, the Governor in his capacity as the Chief Rector of the University care to take a step ahead and act in the interest of the University in the true spirit of his enlightened speech. He can summon the Vice Chancellor and ask him to explain the matter and cause to set things right. If the Governor could make it, it could be a beginning in the right direction.
One may also take note of the fact that there are some academician who occupy important positions in the MU, who in their personal capacity work as social activist, etc. They are asset to the society at large. However being activist, they are expected to expose the rot in the Manipur University and set example.
One also understands that it would be too naïve to expect a sudden change in the attitude and social mores of a people whose respect for knowledge is not encouraging. The Manipur society, one would notice, is full of energy, enthusiasm and ingenuity in sports and in different art forms – both modern and indigenous. But sadly, besides tall claim by some culture doyens, the ethos of culture remain stagnant, maybe – xenophobia.
Culture of a people, like education would cease to develop, if it is not allowed to assimilate scientific values, like the Talibans do, or as the Red Indians in America abhorred anything that was new and foreign to them.
Manipur today has become a powerhouse of sports in India, the latest proof being Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010, where contribution of Manipur in the medal tally – on the basis of population – is more than thirty times of the national average – a Himalayan feat indeed! The secret of the feat is encouragement and support for sports that are generated in every Leikai – neighbourhood through clubs – associations. Imagine, if such encouragement are also extended to education of our children, there is no reason why Manipur should not be a powerhouse of education too.
We may know that Manipur had produced its first arts and science degree scholars in 1926 and 1927 – in Sougaijam Somarendra and Heigrujam Nabakanta respectively – from the Calcutta University, which was much in advance of the time in the region. However, quite laudably today Mizoram has the highest literacy and produces maximum All India Service officers in average and Meghalaya has become the hub of education in the Northeast, because both the states have learnt to respect knowledge.
The sad truth about Manipur is, other than sports, the thrusts of the clubs-associations, particularly in the valley, are on organizing community and religious festival and festivities, Housie-lotteries, Pujas, galas, etc. in all the seasons of the year, with accompanied loudspeakers blaring at top volume, with none to sensitize the leaders and the volunteers of the ill effects of noise pollution, etc. They give scant regard to the aged and the sick who need rest. They also give no one any chance to study in the neighbourhood during the bonanza of sports, festival, lottaries, festivities, pujas, etc. forget the much talk about Leibaakningba – patriotism.
Now, this is a truly damaging situation and call for serious attention of the leaders more than anything else. The truth is, they have the resources and the power to cause the desired change. Now has the time not come for the present leadership of Manipur to practice the Dharma of governance taught by the Mahapurush; or should one still say, ‘Haining haijou ekaibide’ ?
Writer is ex-candidate, Singjamei Assembly Constituency, Manipur.