By Amar Yumnam
I was in Thoubal on Sunday. This was my visit to the side after about a gap of one year. I must say I enjoyed it to the full. The economist in me was fully aroused. I was further impressed by the scale of the transformation given the unfolding scenario in connection with relations extending beyond the boundaries and to South East Asia.
Instrumental Value: The recent visit has established to myself how a political leader can play the role of an instrumental value to bring about visible and encompassing transformations to the region he fundamentally belongs. Thoubal today is very different from what it was less than a decade ago in so far modernising forces are concerned. The feeling is palpable and salient. Ibobi has given the scope and atmosphere to reconstruct and regenerate the community to the people of Thoubal. It remains to be seen yet how the means is converted into consequences of sustained transformation of the life process by the people of Thoubal.
Remaining Challenge: Chaoyaima of the 1950s was a wonderful instrumental value of the region in social sector. Ibobi is a phenomenon after him and with a larger canvass extending to economic dimensions. But the real challenge for him is starting only now. We now know the height of him as an instrumental value for the transformation till date happening in the area which he represents in the democratic decision making process of the land.
I can think of two major challenges. One, there is a big task of transforming his instrumental value for his constituency into an ethical force for the State. Second, there is the urgency of addressing the technological issues involved for sustaining the transformation Ibobi has put in place. I would explain what I mean by these.
The ethical dimension involved is of two types. First, there is the fundamental need for a large intervention for widening and deepening the idea and knowledge base of Thoubal in order to ensure the continuance of transformations and make the region as competitive to the rest of Manipur as it is today. The changes today are confined mostly to the material aspects of life, and there is imperative for strengthening the idea and knowledge base sooner than later. This is particularly so because Thoubal is situated on the highway linking to South East Asia. Taking proper advantage of this demands addressing the knowledge side. Further, Ibobi is just not a representative of Thoubal, but the head of the people of Manipur as well. So far his projects outside his home constituency have not caused the kind of appreciation and admiration he enjoys in Thoubal. Two orientations I would certainly emphasise. The transformations need to be expanded much beyond Thoubal and onto the entire stretch of the highway to Moreh. This
would ensure the deepening of the changes in Thoubal and transformation more robust. It would certainly serve a very ethical purpose of admiration for Ibobi spreading at least to the entire stretch and make his leadership positively felt in the mountains of Manipur. By the way, Thoubal is very close to the southern Ukhrul as well, and the image of transformation should extend there as well. The implications of addressing the ethical dimensions at the Thoubal and the State-wide levels are huge for the polity of Manipur.
Talking about the ethical dimension is incomplete if we do not address the technological aspect as well. Here, Thoubal has an initial advantage now. I had mentioned the ethical dimension of addressing the knowledge and idea aspects above in order for the dream of Thoubal Ibobi has to be fulfilled. There is now the need for looking into the capability of people in the area about their capacity to learn new technology and create new technology. Here Thoubal now has an atmosphere of material capability. The location of the area close to the Manipur University should be appropriately taken advantage of by interfacing on these issues.
Here again I would like to raise the ethical dimension again. As of now, Ibobi is a very successful political leader. But I would certainly like to see him emerging as the moral leader as well. With his strong political power, there must also be there strong resistance to his emergence as the ultimate. This is exactly where he should try to score by taking the people along with ethical interventions on the development front. He should now concentrate on making the people of the State feel that any project anywhere in Manipur has the same value as any in Thoubal. He might be meaning it, but the people of the State do not feel it yet.
Here, I would like to repeat what I have been emphasising for long. We like and need to feel the emergence of a genuine development policy for addressing the absolute and relative backwardness of the mountain areas of Manipur. Given the unfolding Asian century, we cannot afford further delay in this connection. Address the primary needs of development of the mountains of Manipur and the technological issues of the valley, then we would have an ethical dimension added to the leadership of Ibobi. If it becomes so, he would not just be instrumental value of Thoubal alone but would be of Manipur as a whole. This progression would certainly provide him a bigger space in the pages of history of the land.