By Amar Yumnam
When the Soviet Union disappeared, the world was largely in a celebrative mood. But when the global economy has suffered the latest round of crises – financial crisis topping the environmental, food, water and energy crises – the world has realised that the celebration on the decline of a major adversary was misplaced and untimely. It is now passing through a deep introspection, articulation and appreciation of diversity. All these are happening within a context of acceptance of an interconnected universe as the ultimate. There are rethinking processes into the models of polity, society and ultimately of economy. These are happening mostly in countries already supposed to be models of success economies, like the United States of America and Continental Europe. Manipur is nowhere near a success scenario of polity, society and economy, but the global rethink does provide us an opportunity to rethink on ourselves and the country-wide model of India. The putting in place of a new government with fresh faces in the council of ministers, the fast emerging scenario of Asian development dynamics, the changes happening in Myanmar, the policy designs of India and the new non-endogenous social ethos of Manipur, the moment is critically opportune for Manipur to join the global rethink.
From Cicero to Stiglitz and Sachs: Only a few months back I had read the English translation of Cicero’s pre-Christ articulation of the imperatives for a civilisation to sustain. I was moved by his articulation of the virtues of patriotism which are needed to be both acquired and practiced by the population and her politicians. The core values and virtues of Cicero’s teachings are still very relevant globally and much more so for Manipur. Though nowhere he is referred to, the continuation his perspective can be seen even today. Two very recent books are found to be of prime value to read in the contemporary world. One is the Global Crisis: The Way Forward (which is a report of a commission of the United Nations, generally known as The Stiglitz Commission Report) and the other is The Price of Civilisation: Economics and Ethics After The Fall.
The Stiglitz Commission speaks of some principles to guide the global recovery policies after the recent and ongoing crises of finance, water, food, energy and environment. Emphasising the significance of ideas (not centred but diverse), it speaks inter alia of a balance between regulation and deregulation (read state and market), transparency in governance and decision-making, synchronisation of short-run and long run policies and concern for justice. The inimitable Jeffrey Sachs is deeply unnerved by the fact of worrying for his own country (the Unites States) after advising the different countries of the world on economic policy for almost four decades. He writes: “At the root of America’s economic crisis lies a moral crisis: the decline of civic virtue among America’s political and economic elite. A society of markets, laws,, and elections is not enough if the rich and powerful fail to behave with respect, honesty, and compassion toward the rest of society and toward the world. America has developed the world’s most competitive market society but has squandered its civic virtue along the way. Without restoring an ethos of social responsibility, there can be no meaningful and sustained economic recovery.” I had recently discussed Manipur with an American friend on the relative social strengths of Manipur. I pointed out to him the capability to point out mistakes, accept wrongs and listen to the critics for finding the social remedies of the American society compared to the absence of such a characteristics in Manipur. I pointed out that looking at the failure of social response to child kidnapping and women issues in Manipur as proofs. I told him that JACs could not be treated as social strengths but establish the disappearance of an ethos of once endogenous collective response. He told me that he was hearing a social critic of Manipur for the first time and based in Manipur itself.
Manipur Scenario: What gives opportunity to us is the recent composition of the decision-takers in the government under Ibobi. Manipur has been under the spell of decline of civic virtues and disrespect for ideas for quite a few years. Besides the economic and the political elite, the common people too have been infected by this disease. All the ethnic groups, state, non-state and anti-state agents have been greatly influenced by this decline in their functioning. The outcome has been that rogue elements have started dominating the functioning in every dimension of social life. This has further hastened the decline in civic virtues, and replacement of the endogenous ethos of the people by the violent ethos of the rogue agents. Now these are conditions which can never lead to the emergence of a sustainable social and economic environment, but only land the people into psychological destabilisation.
We cannot think of a long term continuation of this scenario. This is exactly where the new government gives us hope. There are persons from whom we can expect a new wind of governance principles among the new ministers. The first priority is that they should be able to prove to the people in Manipur that they think and work for the land, and not as ordinary representatives of the districts and constituencies they come from. This would not only address the present anger against district non-representation in the composition of the ministry, but would herald the emergence of an inclusive and wider perspective among the people. This would call for the evolution of a genuinely Manipur-wide development policy. The second priority would be application of mind and evolution of a policy to critically prepare the land and people for the emerging Asian century. The third issue would be the as good as dead scenario of all the government schools. Revival of these is fundamental for restoring the lost social virtues and social cohesiveness. We should remember that education is essentially a state responsibility. If the government is incapable of performing this function, it should decide to save the huge public money spent on this sector. The money thus saved could be used for serving the cause of the poor. All these moves would require bringing the rogue elements under rein.