Manipur and The Development Demands: Media, knowledge and all that

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By Amar Yumnam
T.S. Eliot once said: “What is actual is actual only for one time. And only for one place.” Let us apply this to contemporary situation to our land. Manipur’s development challenge today is unique, and the development scenario cannot afford and will not remain the same. If we ever wish to see Manipur sustain as Manipur, things have to change and change massively. Here I would like to recall two recent analyses of economists working on African and Asian-Pacific issues. One issue relates to the role of media (read press in the context of Manipur), and the other to use of knowledge for development. It would be interesting to appreciate the dynamics on these two aspects in the case of Manipur too.

Media Research: Economists now emphasise the fundamental role of media in causing governance improvements and fighting the menace of corruption. In Africa as well as the rest of the world, studies have established that deepening of democratic norms does help the emergence of responsible media. Once the media has emerged in a democratic framework, the primary responsibility of the media to evolve as an effective social tool for moving forward is critical. They have to rise to the challenge and play the role expected of them. But this is easier said than done. It necessarily demands a committed team in the media working persistently for a positive change in the society they function. This point has been considered significant particularly because in societies of critical development challenges, there are many forces working to influence the media. The latter should be able to hold their ground under pressure. We need to examine how our press in Manipur has been in recent times.

Knowledge and Development: Knowledge is now being appreciated as a key input while endeavouring for development. A new dimension to this understanding has now been added by incorporating management aspects into the development designing, development interventions and development administration. For a decade or so, the invisible hand as the ultimate framework of development has swayed the economists by relegating the state to the background. Now this has been subjected to heavy revisions consequent upon the global meltdown. While not asking for return of the state in the development arena as in the past, it is now emphasised that regulation is needed for ensuring the desired outcomes.

Development intervention cannot just be left at that. Development interventions are to be managed in such a way the manifest outcomes tally with the desired goals. While the desired goals are the long term objectives, the manifest outcomes are the results of short period completion stages of development interventions. Now this management of development interventions is not an easy task. It has to be based on a deep understanding of the social context where the intervention is being put in place and robust analysis of the contextual pros and cons. This understanding and analysis have to be applied without being swayed by contemporary personal biases and selfish errors. We need to examine if this is a characteristic of Manipur as well.

Media in Manipur: Media in Manipur today are no longer the same as they were two decades back or so. They now show signs of vibrancy. But courage and objectivity are still question marks. As stated above, media for development have to relentlessly stress and fight for truth and objectivity. They should be performing the task of change for development protagonists. The forces of corruption and rogue elements forming pseudo social change workers have definitely emerged as strong negative agent in contemporary Manipur. They have been working hard to subject all the media, institutions, organisations and the state under their thumb. It is the primary onus of the media to rise to the occasion and resist the pressure from this front. But it is exactly here that I feel the contemporary media in Manipur find themselves weakest. Even supposedly widely circulated newspaper allows herself to be nothing more than a notice board where any Tom, Dick and Harry can post any. In the process, the media allow themselves to be used as a strong channel for character assassination of people without in any way endeavouring to indulge in the primary task of news confirmation and truth enquiry. This has made our media in Manipur fail to perform the task of a change agent for development.

Knowledge In Manipur: The fundamentality of knowledge is now a most widely emphasised element in development analysis anywhere in the world. The Asian Development Bank is a major institution in Asia to apply this element on a large scale in order to ensure sustainable development in this continent. Now this application of knowledge for management of development entails three things. First, it appreciates the problems and weaknesses (including biases, whims and prevailing errors) in any society. Secondly, the first understanding should never be used as opportunity for personal aggrandisement either by the knowledge agents or any social group or individuals. Third, while applying the knowledge to management of development (read projects) attention has to be given as to how far any short-term result dovetails or conflicts with the long term objective.

Here Manipur today suffers from three critical weaknesses. First, the endeavour to understand the social context and apply knowledge in the way to ensure development is minimal at best in so far as the development intervention is concerned. It is true both for the state agents and those working presumably on behalf of the state. Second, the forces of corruption and the rogue elements have joined hands in working for development. This definitely is a very wrong use of knowledge and a very contemporary error of social functioning in Manipur. Here we can imagine the recent emergence of contractors as architects in many executions of development projects. Third, the resultant outcome of development intervention naturally moves far away from the desired goals.

Upshot: In fine, I have tried to look at the prevailing atmosphere of development administration and development thinking in the context of Manipur from the angle of emerging lessons from countries in Asia and Africa. In order to give proper context and direction to the whole issue of development in Manipur, there is an imperative for the press in Manipur to rise to the occasion and move beyond the medium for character assassination by behaving as bill-boards. There is also a primary need to push the significance of knowledge for development in a way much more genuinely significant than the forces of rogue elements and corrupt forces.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Excellent Article! – This should be applicable to each of the states in northeast .. ‘a massive change towards progressive development’ is the urgent need of the hour now!
    Each of the states can emulate best developed states across world and give a new dimension to India .. entire northeast can be a model for development for rest of India .. and this is possible if all of us contribute in our own individual ways ..

    1. By being aware and spreading awareness on the best practices followed across the world.
    2. Raise any bottlenecks in development to concerned authority and press for urgent action.
    3. Set a sense of competition (in terms of development) among each of the NE states, even though being close loving and caring sisters at the same time – this would only propel one state to excel by looking at another.
    4. Be the change – you want to see in northeast region!

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