Editorial – Manipur’s Vision 2020

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The chief minister Okram Ibobi’s statement today that Manipur would be self sufficient by 2020 is undoubtedly the best news in many years. We however wish he had elaborated on how he thinks this would be so, considering that 2020 is less than a decade ahead. The matter being important, we urge upon the chief minister and his government to provide the roadmap to this stupendous goal so that the people of the state get to know the claim is a lot more than just rhetoric aimed at the elections next year. This scepticism is natural. Just take the case of how the government has been tackling the onerous problem of unemployment, undoubtedly one of the most dangerous time bombs ticking in the state. All this while, solving this problem has been about artificially creating government jobs, most of which in the police department, all of which, it is everybody’s knowledge, for very high bribe prices, making many who otherwise would have been not much more than salaried middleclass government employees into overnight millionaires. But even if this were to be overlooked, the problem is, regardless of these new jobs created, the unemployment time bomb continues to tick and at a rate incremental on a geometric progression.
Why would not this be so? After all, the employment created in the manner cannot by the wildest stretch of imagination be said to be regenerative. They were created as commodities to be sold and consumed, and after they had been consumed, they would have served their purpose. They were also meant as temporary reliefs at best and cannot even be called as an attempt towards a more lasting solution. The pattern of problem solution has virtually been the same in all departments of governance, including in the very approach to tackling insurgency. What marked them out is the ad hoc nature of the remedies sought without any longer term measures backing them up. This being the case, it is important that the chief minister spells out his newfound optimism that Manipur which now seems irredeemably buried in seemingly closed-ended problems. Just how would he make Manipur shine and be self reliant in another decade. It is indeed encouraging news, but one which can acquire substance only if a road map to this promised future is made known and subsequently proven convincing. This, we think is extremely important from the standpoint of the need for transparency in any genuinely democratic government. What is demanded is not a development strategy that calls for blind following by the public, but one which takes the people into confidence at every step. It must also be a strategy which is forged by enlightened debates amongst the intelligentsia. Let this not be reduced to another story of development by mega dam controversy.
It is relevant that the chief minister talked of augmenting the employment situation in the state. Once upon a time, as an agrarian society, practically everybody was self employed. They also needed much less than what they need now. Their appetite for more is also being whetted continuously by the advertising world consequently their expectations have soared, often beyond the ordinary means of the state’s economy to meet. We therefore hope that the new approach will take the twin strategy of educating the public on the need to tone down their culture of inflated consumerism, alongside lifting the state’s economy to new highs. Both these will be no mean tasks. The first will be difficult for here the lessons taught would have to be lessons practised. First and foremost official corruption must be reined in so that the growing disparity between the rich and poor is arrested. Second, those who are already rich and powerful must exercise restraint in their own pursuit of pleasure and ego through consumerism. They must show by example that there is a difference between need and greed. It would be pertinent to remember here what Mahatma Gandhi once said on the matter: The earth has enough to meet man’s need but not his greed. This timeless line is also quoted by well known economist E.F. Schumacher, in his book “Small is Beautiful: The Study of Economics as if People Mattered” which has been literally the bible of environmentalists through the decades. To sum it up, let the blueprint of Manipur’s 2020 vision which chief minister Okram Ibobi mentioned in passing be elaborated and made public.

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