The spate of ransom kidnappings by the dime a dozen militant organisations operating in the state today has seen a quantum increase in the past few weeks. This is perhaps in anticipation of the approaching financial year end. Government departments are now beginning to frantically look for ways to utilise their plan money before the current financial year ends, so that they would be entitled to get further funds for the next financial year either for continuing projects or new ones. Under the circumstance, should it be a surprise that there should be a rise in ransom kidnappings? The targets are government departments, especially ones which command considerable money such as the engineering departments. The usual pattern is to abduct mid-level officers who are exposed and vulnerable, unlike those placed higher up in the government hierarchy who are provided personal security or else are entitled to living quarters in secure areas. The lives of the captives are then put on line to coerce their departments to raise astronomical sums of money for their release. Many hard bargains later, the captives are released. Since all of these transactions are done out of public eye and unofficially, the amount of money which exchanged hands always remains only a matter of speculation by onlookers. This being so, much of what pass as information of ransoms paid are based on rumours and speculations, and hence never absolutely reliable. The figures also expectedly vary a great deal.
This ambiguity is dangerous. They are virtual “black holes” into which any amount of government money can come to be funnelled in and turned black. There can be no denying this has indeed been happening. The extortionists take away huge sums of plan money, but in the hole they created in doing so, much more money would have leaked into pockets of many vested interests in positions of power in the establishment, beginning at the top of the government hierarchy. In other words, while the development projects suffer in terms of compromised quality, the extortionists and government functionaries end up slicing off huge chunks of the developmental pie. This is a sinister matrix of vested interest in which the predators and their quarries stand to benefit from the game. As to where the extorted money go is anybody’s guess but the unreported further leakages from these “black holes” are evidenced by the literally stinking lucre in the hands of an expanding class of nouveau riche government functionaries and their crony contractor-businessmen living beyond their known means, amassing expensive properties at home as well as in different metropolises in the country.
A curious Catch-22 situation defines the situation quite illustratively. If extortion amounts can be accounted for officially, and its contribution to deficits in budgetary expenditures openly entered in the accountant’s book, the “black holes” would disappear. But how can extortions by unlawful organisations be legitimised? Since this cannot be done, as long as extortion continues, the “black holes” will remain, and an unaccounted amount of government money will continue to flow out illegally and turn black. It is difficult to imagine how Manipur is ever going to break free from this trap, for vested interests so deeply entrenched and intertwined are not as easy to shoo away. Perhaps in the end it will be what is often referred to as “poetic justice” or “divine intervention” as the religious would prefer to call it. Those with a scientific bent of mind need not be aghast. We see this more as the unconscious working of social psychology. Or, to give more “agency” to the social organism, it is a kind of inherent, archetypal, defence mechanism within any society to cleanse itself of attributes that threaten its own existence. So if many fatten themselves with money from these and other equally ingenuously constructed “black holes”, they would also ultimately be condemned to end up as their own victims. Not only would they have to continue to live against the backdrop of the mutant violence that has engulfed Manipur today, but also the dreadful knowledge that the boat they so unscrupulously are contributing to sink by their corrupt acts, is also the boat they are in.