Very often, certain injustices are based more on perception rather than on actual reality. Perception, as anybody would vouch can also be illusory. This being the case, it would be pertinent to re-examine many of the so called issues of injustice that vex Manipur, which at this moment seems terminally ill on account of its deep and multi-faceted ethnic divides. One of the sore issues, as is evident from protests raised often by various tribal campaign groups, is the question of reserved quotas in government jobs for scheduled tribes being supposedly siphoned off to general candidates. While one has not heard of any open policy or even covert policy to this effect, as they say, there cannot be smoke with a fire. Since the perception of this injustice is very much a bitter reality, our plea is for the government either to confirm the suspicion or else dispel it. This can be achieved simply by coming open with the employees list in every government department and then finding out whether the prescribed percentage as per the reservation norms of the state have been adhered to faithfully. In other words, this is a plea once again for the government to come out with a white paper on the profile of its own direct employees.
The matter should be treated as serious. The grievances of those who are to benefit from the quota system is understandable, but what is often not noticed is also the harangue suffered by those who are outside the cover of the system at being constantly insinuated of cheating. This being the case, before the bile builds up any further, a white paper of the nature we are suggesting is vital. Let it be established if quota seats in government employment sector have indeed been de-reserved in a systematic manner inimical to the interest of the tribal population. If this has been happening, who was responsible for it, how it was allowed to happen, and what modus operandi was used to put into effect this practice etc. This is important, for once these information are available, it would be known who to fix accountability on and what remedial action to be taken to prevent further misuse and so on. Hopefully, also established would be whether this is an ethnic ploy of the majority community to grab every power handle and employment opportunity, as is often hurtfully and probably thoughtlessly implied by those campaigning against this perceived injustice.
As we had suggested, even if there have been cases of quota seats having been given away to general candidates, there is unlikely to be any motivated ethnic ploy. From an intelligent reading of the situation, although there seems to be evidences of such practices in the past, it would be too soon to presume any sinister design. What is more likely is they simply happened on account of corruption. This needs a little more elaboration. It is now known to everyone (and nobody in the state would deny it), that government jobs are bargained and sold for huge sums of money, with even a constable’s job going for as much as Rs. 3 lakh bribe money. The uneasy fact is, there are so many who cannot afford this money, so the job market is automatically restricted to the class which can pay this price. This class are mostly in the valley, not because of anything else than that they can sell their land. In the hill districts where the tribals live, land has no value monetarily because they do not belong to individuals and cannot be sold. Doing a survey during any government job recruitment drives amongst prospective candidates for these jobs should establish the veracity of this hypothesis. These are indeed the times that farm lands in the valley change hands more intensely with the candidates raising their bribe money. It will be noticed that even the tribal development department, which is always under the charge of a tribal minister and tribal bureaucrats, general category employees have come to dominate the office. This could not have happened other than through the prevalent phenomenon of government jobs going up for sale. Since not many qualified for the quota jobs would be in a position to pay the bribes, many of these jobs would have been sold off to those who could and these would be mostly general job seekers from the valley. The government employment white paper we are suggesting should be able to establish this. Our plea than it, let the injustice be undone, but let those crying out for justice not be too quick to point their fingers at any concerted manipulation by the majority community, or else their sincere effort too would begin to be seen as politically motivated, and they would begin to seem like proxies of vested interests working to destabilise the fabled social harmony Manipur was once known for.