Since the government apparently has no clue as to how to break the impasse of the atrocious blockade along the state’s lifelines which is now close to completing two months, let it prepare at least to take care of the situation of extreme scarcity of essential commodities in the state, including very importantly, petrol and diesel. In its abject lack of will to do even this, other civil bodies, including students are beginning to take the responsibilities upon themselves. Like nature, society abhors a vacuum and there will always be a tendency for any vacuum of governance to be filled by whatever alternative available in the vicinity. This is precisely what is being demonstrated before everybody in the present situation. The government all of a sudden has become conspicuous by its absence and thereby leaving other power centres in waiting to step into the area of responsibility which should have been the government’s alone. It is a peculiar situation in which there is only the government to blame for students and others self-righteous, self-proclaimed leaders to assume law keeping responsibilities, and conversely, there is only the government to blame if what the students allege are being done by unscrupulous market manipulators to artificially hike prices to make a financial killing out of a public crisis turns actually to be the case. In this sense, it is a double responsibility the government is abdicating.
What the government should be doing now first and foremost is to settle the SADAR Hills issue conclusively. Even if this proves to be too complicated to resolve, considering there are conflicting interests pulling in opposite directions, it must at least do everything to control the fallouts of the blockade. First it must step out of its ivory tower to send out the message definitively that nobody can assume the powers that should legitimately rest only in its hands. Second, it must investigate and establish if the charges of gross and unethical manipulation of prices by unscrupulous traders to make capital out of the public’s suffering, is true. Depending on its findings it must take necessary actions to prevent this crime of greed and avarice and to exemplarily punish those who have been masterminding it. This is of prime importance. After all, it involves a very vital and emergent component of public welfare. If the government continues not to take this matter into cognizance, the situation can only get worse. Today it is students but who can say tomorrow who else will step in and decide to do what the government should have been doing all the while?
The government must therefore take stock of the availability of essential commodities in the market, and depending on its finding, begin a method of rationing them. If the blockade continues any longer it will be an emergency the state is faced with and emergency measures are called for during such times. It must also show its concern by personal examples. Ministers, MLAs and officials still continue to travel in huge convoys while the ordinary people are left with no option than to give up the use of their motor vehicles because of the acute fuel shortage. When these dignitaries travel together, they still use a car each for themselves. Cannot the Ibobi government at the least issue strictures on the matter directing ministers and MLAs to restrict their entourages when on necessary tours to the districts and when some of them travel together to the same destination, to share vehicles. This is not so much about saving fuel. It is more about sending out the message to the larger public that they too are concerned at the way things have been developing. Field Marshal Sir William Slim, whose forlorn cottage inside the Kangla is today becoming an important tourist attraction, had something to say of this moral solidarity between leaders and people as well as people and people in his book “Defeat into Victory”. He said when ration for the men in the battle frontline was delayed for whatever the reason, he made the soldier in the rear posts also go half ration until their colleagues in the front received theirs. This served a dual purpose. One, the soldiers in the rear posts were made to have a vested interest in ensuring there are no delays in reaching ration to the frontlines. Two, and more importantly, there was a moral bondage secured between everybody involved in the war effort on the Imphal-Kohima front. This bondage, according to him contributed immensely to the lifting of the spirit of his team and we all know how Slim and his team turned the table against the Japanese Imperial Army after a series of crushing defeats in Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia and Burma. Do we still have leaders of similar even it not comparable calibres?