Regardless of how much has been said against bandhs and blockades, there is no dearth of people who would resort to these disruptive forms of agitations at the drop of a hat. So despite the bruises the entire population received on account of the recently concluded 121-day economic blockade along the national highways connecting the state to the rest of the country, thereby cutting off its lifelines, nobody seems to have learnt the lesson. The series of bandhs currently being called in the wake of the atrocious, cold blooded double murder of two perfectly innocent men, a father and son, by a splinter group of an underground organisation, is a demonstration of this. There can be no argument about it that the murders deserved the strongest condemnation but this does not mean those who empathise with the victims must resort to not only shooting themselves in the foot but also heaping more misery on the ordinary people. However, this is precisely the scenario. With a strike by the employees of the Public Health Engineering Department, PHED, the department to which one of the men killed – the father – was associated as a caretaker at one of the department’s facilities at Irilbung, the state is today forced to do without treated piped municipal water. Not only are the difficulties imaginable but the prospect of water borne diseases breaking out is immense too. This is to be dovetailed by a three day bandh by another faction of an underground group. Yet, it does seem the government would once again simply wait and watch. Though this strategy does wear out agitators, the injuries caused both psychologically and physically to the population is nothing trivial. If the government was willing to place its ears close enough to the ground, it would sooner realise that the morale of the people at this moment is at a nadir. Few, if not nobody, see a bright future for themselves or for the state anymore. The problem is, the government does not seem to think this is too heavy a price to pay for the tactics of inaction it has been so deliberately and consistently following.
The other truth is, the habitual callers of these disruptive strikes are of two kinds. One class belong to government services and whose job and livelihood securities are guaranteed regardless of whether they perform or simply sit on their haunches doing nothing. The second more often than not belong to a class who do not earn out of their own sweat, but live on other people’s earnings. Very often they call themselves social workers. If a survey were to be taken today amongst ordinary folks who live by their labour, both in the hills as well as in the valley, there would be few if any who support these strikes. Sure, they too would be outraged by many of the issues over which these strikes are called, but in no way would they condone these self-inflicted injuries in retaliation, after all they are the ones who are left to bear the brunt always. Why are these habitual strike callers not sensitive enough to understand the plight of ordinary vegetable vendors, day labourers, rickshaw drivers etc. A day without work is a huge blow on them and their families’ nutrition standards. Many less fortunate may even have to go hungry. What about the small time entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, motor mechanics etc, who do their small businesses out of rented spaces. Surely the days without work on account of these strikes are not going to be accounted for in the rents they have to pay at the end of the month.
When will these demagogues ever listen to the pulse of the people instead of decreeing what the pulse of the people should be and then enforcing it on the people? When will the government ever put its foot down and say no more of this? This lawlessness has been allowed to go on for far too long making the state and its people suffer inordinately. The inevitable consequence is, the state is lagging behind in so many spheres today. In particular, quality of life has plummeted so much that all with the means are virtually running away to settle elsewhere. The young population also do not anymore have their eyes on the state, and would not only prefer studying outside but also working and ultimately settling at the places of their work. If nothing is done to reverse the trend, Manipur in the near future is going to become a land of geriatrics and untalented, for the young and talented would all go away. It is a tragedy that the government which takes every opportunity to boast of achievements and blame others for failures, do not measure their deeds in terms of their contribution to this bleak future before the state.