Editorial – Deceptive Pictures

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The claim of achievements by the Congress led Secular Progressive Front, SPF, government of chief minister, Okram Ibobi, in the address by the Governor of Manipur, Gurbachan Jagat, was more disturbing than reassuring. As expected, a major portion of the speech dealt with the law and order situation, and from the government’s point of view, this has improved. The claim, all are now aware, is based on two presumptions. One, certain underground organisations have agreed to lay down arms and hold peace talks. Two, the fighting force of the Manipur Police has grown, if we may add, exponentially. Once upon a time, it was the education department which was accused of over employment. Today this dubious distinction has been wrested away by the home department. It is amazing that in a matter of three years, January 2008 to January 2011, the size of the police force has jumped from 15,414 to 24,618. For a small state of two and half million people, this is indeed a quantum jump of 9201 police personnel.
Apart from the obvious picture of a massive militarisation of the state this gives, there is also another interesting sidelight. It is today an open secret that all of these jobs had a definite monetary price tag on them and even a constable’s job is known to cost at least Rs. 3 lakhs. The inference is, in the creation of these 9201 police department jobs, black money in bribe would be at least Rs. 276 crores. This should somewhat explain how so many marble palaces have sprung up amidst the continually decaying and expanding ghetto that Imphal has come to be. Obviously the government cannot claim this parallel growth of opulence black economy amongst rich and powerful as another achievement. But this is a reality nonetheless, regardless of whether the Governor’s speech is silent on the matter.
The second point to note is, the government’s other claim of having brought law and order under control on the alibi that some underground groups have agreed to sit down for negotiation is flawed. The first sets of underground groups under the suspension of operations, or SoO, are 18 Kuki militants groups in two umbrella organisations, UPF and KNO. This however is not a new development and the government has already claimed a breakthrough on this count several times before. The other development in which certain factions of a Meitei underground organisation agreed to hold talks, while no doubt good, can in no stretch of imagination be called significant. The crux of the insurgency amongst the Meiteis is still resolute on pursuing their agenda of fighting for sovereignty. These talks in the sidelines with minor and hopelessly splintered groups are hardly likely to have an impact on the larger politics of insurrection in the land. They are good in so far as some minor though very haranguing public irritants have been reined in. But this is nothing very much for the government to blow its own trumpet about.
While it is natural for the government to claim whatever it can to show it has not been sleeping, and while it is equally natural for the government to hide what is not flattering to its own image, let the reality be not lost sight of totally. The truth is the general public is less secure today than they ever were. This insecurity is not any more just about the raging insurgency of which anybody, guilty or innocent, can fall victim. Frightening as this predicament may be, Manipur has come to live with it for decades, and everybody has learnt to buy their own peace in their own little ways. It is not a happy condition, but one they know they cannot wish away. Life goes on. Besides this however, they have many more things to be mortally afraid of. Above all, this is about a diminishing hope of finding respectable career and livelihood. Many young men and women are flocking away from the state in search of greener pastures. Many more less fortunate are lost in dreadful unemployment at home and an increasing number are resigning to drugs and despair. The government boasts that in three years it stretched and strained to create 9201 police jobs. Even if together with some intakes in other departments (which is hardly happening), the number of jobs created in the same period were to be 20,000, this would still remain a fraction of the nearly 40,000 degree holders our colleges and universities churn out every year. The government employment exchange is the index of this and today it has nearly 7 lakh and still counting job seekers registered. What vision do the government have for them all? The Assembly should be debating issues such as this, and not be complacent with presenting selective data that conjure up deceptive pictures of peace and progress.

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