Demise of Productive Institutions and Rise of `Social Workers`: Manipur Tragedy


By Amar Yumnam
There is an interesting Latin phrase as “absentee la edit cum ebrio quilitigat”. When translated into English, it runs as: “to quarrel with a drunk is to wrong a man who isn`t even there”. Everything happening in relation to Manipur seems to exactly fit into this phrase. Look at the governance, and it is so difficult to find any agency administering governance in Manipur. Look at the behaviour of any population group, one cannot help feeling that it is no different from the drunk man in the Latin phrase. Indeed, it is as if Manipur is just not there. There simply does not seem to have any meaning in endeavouring to reason with the administration. In name, there is a government, but the social and functional reality of its existence is doubtful except in areas of systemic corruption or, in terms of the Latin phrase, it seems to be drunk all the time with cheap liquor. As the government has been drunk all the time, all these years and in all functionality, the people too have been made drunkards lock, stock and barrel.

Democracy Recalled: Since we presumably follow the country-wide pattern of democracy, it would be in place to recall the functions which the elections serve in a democracy. First, it is a selection process for political actors who are supposed to enact policies and programmes keeping the interests of the constituents in mind. Second, elections are a mechanism for establishing accountability and punish corrupt politicians. Well these are functions which are best practised in circumstances where both the elected political actors and the electorate are conscientious as well as conscious. The misfortune of Manipur has been the absence of and also the non-attempt to generate these circumstances. Even worse is that the political class has become fully conversant with the mechanism for personal aggrandisement by exploiting the system while simultaneously making the people drunk with political liquor. In the process, the very incentive for enacting good policies for social upliftment has disappeared, and this has been accompanied by the murder of the mechanism of accountability. Since the public too are drunk, the system for establishing accountability as a constraint on political misbehaviour has collapsed.

In fact, something has gone terribly wrong in the process of indigenising the democratic process in Manipur and the establishment of modern administrative system. There is every reason to believe that most of the contemporary political economic problems are to be traced to this failure. So also the large scale emergence of opportunistic “social workers” should be traced to this lapse in the absorption of a new political system to the home soil. The relentless pursuit of non-endogenous policies with no attempt to contextualise and contextu-ally evolve programs has played havoc with the society and polity of Manipur.
1960s Recalled: Here we need to remember one wonderful social capital which once characterised our land. In the 1960s and very early 1970s, we had our own fully home grown concept and practice of social service. It was pure, fully grounded on
the home soil and ensured absolute mass participation of all. Social services in the schools (we invariably went to the local schools) were full of fun, satisfying and ego-boosting as collective as well as individual promoters of cleanliness and hygiene. Besides these had the positive components of encouraging collaborative work, fostering team spirit and generating a joint responsibility in sustaining our own physical environment. The same was true for every local environment as well. For any locality requiring a new approach road, we had the collective social service which gave pride individually as well as collectively. For any locality requiring a new school building, we had our social service to do that. One could name any socially productive requirement, and we had our social service to rise to the occasion. But today, all these have died to such an extent that even funerals demand huge volume of Sekmai for smooth conduct of business.

We should however immediately emphasise here that this social capital did not have a natural death, but it was murdered with strangulation. The 1960s and the 1970s experienced the inroads of state in the economic and social functioning of the people and society. These happened without prior or simultaneous information to the general population. Policies and schemes evolved non-locally started floating into the administration, and only those close to it were aware of these. Among these there were many which were meant to finance schemes which the local population were naturally performing through the social services. The people who were close to the administration stealthily pocketed these funds while the general public were happily engaging in their usual social services. These happened for some years. After some time, the general public became aware of what had been happening over quite a few previous years.

This realisation had two very deleterious effects. One, the very indigenous social service was murdered at one go. Second, the anger and consequent helplessness taught the people that the best practice, pragmatic one at that, is one where everyone should attempt to strike closeness with the administration and thus suck public money in the name of social service.

It must be because of the second impact that there now prevails an absolute disconnect between social issues and the electoral outcomes. It has gone to the heart and mind of the people that, as it had happened in the case of social services in the 1960s, any involvement in community service has to be pretentious and the innate desire should be to extract maximum personal benefits at any cost. It is this disconnect between genuine concern for the people and the manifest services in the name of the people which has led to the recent large-scale birth of “social workers” in the social scene of Manipur. It is as if anybody can getaway with anything. This is the most dangerous social trend and the biggest challenge to the future sustenance of Manipur as a society.


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