by Heigrujam Nabashyam
I am not an expert in Manipuri nor am I a linguist. But what I can understand from my fifty plus years experience in life is that, I cannot find a word – perhaps for want of knowledge – which could translate the Manipuri word ‘Loohenbaa’ either in English or in Hindi – the twolanguages read in Manipur.

Surely it is a word full of meaning, and it means – neat and tidy and in perfect harmony and discipline. If a person says, ‘Loohelli’, a derivative of Loohenbaa, as an observation on something or someone, it means the thing or the person is neat and tidy and well in order – an expert may say in a better way.

I do not know how the word was originated – maybe some linguistic experts would throw some light on this – but what one can understand is, the aesthetic sense of cleanliness, beauty, harmony and discipline are found reflected in Loohenbaa.

However, it is not my intention to go into the beauty of the word. It so happened – though funnily – that the idea struck me when the SPFgovernment launched its cleanliness mission – “The Zero Garbage”, sometime last month to clean and beautify the seven urban assembly segments of Imphal with much fanfare with the Chief Minister himself in the vanguard of the mission – a commendable job.
There is no doubt, Imphal Bazar area, particularly the Khwairamband Keithel and its immediate surroundings have become extremely dirty and filled with filth since the last few years.

Now, anyone would understand that if there are human beings, garbage are bound to be produced and especially in market area production of garbage are rightfully maximum. This is only natural and is not a problem, too. What is required is to manage it, that is, the garbage should be removed and clean the area everyday, like it is done in any home or in any town of the world. But this – unfortunately is not to be the case in Imphal, the seat of power of Manipur.

There is a municipal authority, whose number one duty is to see that the garbage, produced every hour, everyday in the market and crowded areasare removed and cleaned everyday. One also understands that crores of rupees are also pumped into the municipal body to enable it to perform its duty. However, not to lag behind its guardian angel – the SPF government, –  responsibility, accountability and transparency of the municipal authority are close to zero, hence the mess.

One would remember that some two-three decades ago every corner or crowded place in Imphal urban area had garbage pit. And public of the neighbourhood used to put their daily household refuse into it. And in the beginning the municipal service used to remove the garbage from the pit every weak or so. However, later on, that basic service was barbarously withdrawn and the public had to suffer immensely.

Now, thankfully since the last few years, some private agencies have come into the picture and have started collecting household refuse from the residential area of Imphal on monthly payment. And relatively the residential areas are not that bad as regards garbage management is concerned. In fact, in most neighbourhood, if the situation arises, the public themselves do the cleaning of their neighbourhood – an innate quality of the people. Indeed one would notice that most people – rich and poor – wear clean clothes and live in clean homes. No wonder, there is no problem for volunteers in the Leikai – neighbourhood, anytime of the year to do any cleaning service or community work, if the situation arises, not only in Imphal but anywhere in Manipur.

However, with the crunch of space and the excessive use of plastic materials which are non-biodegradable, managing garbage have become difficult in every home and every leikai, which ultimately have put pressure on garbage management at all levels. Now, this calls for serious attention of the government to the garbage management, like in other states.

Luckily after a long time the SPF government seems to have woken up after the centre has pumped in some fund for the beautification and gentrification of the urban area. Now what is important is, the Zero Garbage mission must find a mechanism to ensure that garbage are removed from the garbage pit or bin and clean the area, not for the few days of the mission-month but for the days to come like in any other town in the world  – as simple as that. And as for littering, litter bins be placed wherever required; this will take care of the problem.

However, the government must ensure that it sensitizes the municipal authority and all the related officers of the state to the need to remove the garbage and clean the area everyday so that the Zero Garbage mission make some sense, otherwise it would be back to square one. This does not need Herculean effort; or does it ? However one wonders the intention of the SPF government; because instead of doing what is required to do – sensitization of the state machinery, etc. – it is doing something else, as reported in the local media, now and then.

Recently on a public platform, the Chief Minister seemed to lament corruption in public offices; made a wise crack – card to car – on MNREGS implementation amusing the listeners but perhaps unwittingly likening to the Cat-fable ‘Houdngna sung-gom chaabaa’ – cat eating milk, where the mother told her little son, ‘Ebung-go, hudongna sung-gom chaabara yeng-oo”, while she was attending in the household chores. The literal meaning of what the mother said was, ‘Son, look if the cat eats the milk; though what it means is, the boy must see that the cat does not come near the milk or else, it will eat  it up. When the little boy saw the cat coming and eat the milk, he did not do anything but simply called his mother and said, ‘Ema, houdongna sung-gom chaare’ – Mother, the cat has eaten the milk; a lovely story!

The Chief Minister should have stopped the gross misappropriation of funds he was lamenting about. Surprisingly, the CM did not do anything meaningful, like the little boy, he simply tells the public in an artful manner that unlike others, he is the one who is not corrupt. This is too ridiculous.

Such kind of lila-drama one must remember is very harmful to the very poor and troubled Manipur – it legitimizes corruption – and this has made one to believe that what the SPF leadership needs badly is to reinvent itself in the spirit of Loohenbaa; then rest could be assured – fighting corruption or Zero Garbage, to begin with, would be a monumental success.

Author is ex-Candidate, Singjamei Assembly Constituency, Manipur


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