IMPHAL, April 3: The onus is on the government to create an enabling environment for the participation of civil society in the planning process, said Dr Sajjad Hasasan, Special Secretary of state Planning department.
Dr Sajjad was speaking to a group of leading economists, activists, media persons and state government representatives today in a seminar ‘Civil society participation in the 12th Five year Plan’ organized by the Human Rights Alert and the Department of Economics, Manipur University at Hotel Classic.
The seminar was an attempt in finding ways and means for the participation of civil society in the planning process and of creating space for articulation.
The seminar was attended by well known Dalit activist N Paul Divakar of Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (Keep your Promise Campaign), noted economist and Dean of Social Sciences Manipur University Professor Amar Yumnam, Human Rights activist Babloo Loitongbam of HRA, Resident Editor of Imphal Free Press daily Irengbam Arun, Head of Department of Economics MU Professor E Bijoykumar, Dr Ksh Jhaljit of MU, and RK Noyonsana Devi Chairperson of Manipur State Social Welfare Board, besides a host of civil society representatives and environmentalists.
Opening the discussion Babloo Loitongbam quoted the Approach paper paper of the 12th Five year Plan, wherein ‘innovative’ and ‘imaginative’ solutions for the problems for the north east were stressed.
The Approach paper had said, ‘The North Eastern region has special challenges which need new and innovative solutions. It has enormous development potential, but its growth has been slow. Development of infrastructure, better connectivity, greatly improved access to trade with the rest of the country and ‘Look East’ window to Bangladesh and South East Asia will yield rich results. The low levels of private investments in the region are due to the perception of limited opportunity and difficult logistics and access. These are complex and sensitive issues for which imaginative solutions must be found during the Twelfth Plan.’
Babloo Loitangbam said that economists from Manipur University have come out to act as a bridge between the civil societies and the government.
Planning Secretary Sajjad Hassan said, there is a mutual mistrust between the state and the civil society which needs to be removed through a participatory approach.
He further said institutions of planning need to be revitalized with the participation of civil society in formal sectors like the State Planning Board and District Planning Boards while admitting that these institutions have become dysfunctional in recent times.
Stressing on the rights based approach in planning Dalit activist Paul Divakar stressed said, there is a need for the participation of the people and the civil society while formulating plans.
He added the development of the poor and the excluded have been neglected while India remains obsessed with lopsided growth.
He said, ‘Unless we engage ourselves with the government, there cannot be any fruitful end. The civil society has to engage themselves even with the worst dictator.’
‘Why should someone makes laws and plans for us?’ asked the Dalit activist.
Delivering his presidential speech Professor Amar Yumnam said, ‘Economics Department of Manipur University is committed to an increased interface with the society. That is the logic on which the department has joined hands with HRA to organize such a seminar.’
While welcoming the opening extended by the state Planning Department he said, an interface has become necessary to take advantage of the new situation. He further said, a rights based approach to planning is becoming fundamental.
The seminar had three sessions. The first session on ‘understanding Planning Process in Manipur’ was moderated by Professor Amar Yumnam, while Dr Sajjad Hassan was the resource person.
The second session on ‘Focus on Women Issues’ was moderated by Ms Ranjana Manoharmayum while Professor Elangbam Bijoykumar was the resource person. The third session on ‘Focus on Development Issues’ was moderated by Irengbam Arun, Resident Editor of IFP and Dr Ksh Jhalajit was the resource person.