Manipur must engage its global diasporas for its own good

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Manipur must engage its global diasporas for its own good.
By Bishwajit Okram from Republic of Ireland.

Manipuris may be taken away from Manipur; but Manipur can never be taken away from Manipuris, be where they may.

The culture, the tradition, the music, the dance, the foods, the weather, the image of the blue hill clad mountains, each of them follows Manipuris like a shadow wherever he or she may go. They just don’t go, but remain stuck in the mind of all the Manipuri Diaspora members-national or international.

During the good old days, never was there a need for a Manipuri to go outside the state to earn his/her living. Perhaps, Manipur was a rich and self sufficient princely state then.

On the other hand, it was a land of opportunity and became an immigrant state giving opportunity to people especially traders, semi skilled and unskilled labours from the other states of India.

The price we pay is unforgivable by generations of posterity that are to come; majority of the traders in Manipur are not indigenous people. It’s not the fault of these traders to come and do the business in Manipur. It was the making of our own, may be by default.

KEN-Manipur

The deteriorating law and order problem during the last 20/30 years can be seen as a blessing in disguise. Parents have been sending their wards to other states for better life and better education. Many have chosen to stay back outside the state and go beyond, for greener pasture.

The good news is, Manipur now have a wider spectrum of skill set. It won’t be difficult to spot Manipuri professionals in every city of India, and to some extent in many leading cities of the world.

Global Manipuri diasporas can now help Manipur in many aspects of Manipur’s development.

According to a survey conducted by International Organisation for Migration (IOM), it says of the more than 1,500 first-generation Indian and Chinese migrants surveyed in Silicon Valley, USA, showed that 74 per cent of Indians and 53 per cent of Chinese wanted to start a business back home.

It would be interesting to discuss how engaging overseas Manipuri diasporas can benefit Manipur.

Some of the findings by the Geneva based International Organisation for Migration (IOM) can be emulated for action by Manipur to rope in the service, talents and skills of Overseas Manipuri Diaspora community.

“Engaging diasporas in the development process can limit the costs of emigration and mitigate brain drain”-IOM IOM reports that brain drain and diasporic human capital are of concerns both in quantitative and qualitative terms. For instance, the report supplements that in central and eastern Europe often are the young and most dynamic who migrate abroad to work, leaving important gaps in the higher segments of the local labour market. This causes shortages in sectors most important to the country’s socio-economic advancement.

There are hundreds and thousands of Eastern European citizens who are working in the western European countries. For Example, Polish nationals from Poland are the highest immigrants in Ireland.

Considering the number of Manipuri students coming out of Manipur every year, one can easily vouch the millions of moneys that are draining out along with the brain to other states and places for so many years. Indeed, this has been the biggest costs to Manipur’s development. The money that should have been circulated in the state, the brain that should have been utilised for the development of Manipur, both have been put to use for others betterment.

On the other hand, there has been little inflow of capital into the state through investments and other sustainable projects. According to RBI source, the FDI inflow to Manipur during 2011 was so insignificant that it was not even .01% of the total all India inflow.

One common reason cited of not attracting investments in Manipur however, is the law and order problem.
The recent most news, that the Japanese government has declined to continue financing the sericulture projects in Manipur, is one shameful example.

Manipur has become a state, leave alone a third party such as countries like Japan or foreign companies, to which even its own sons and daughters are reluctant to go back, and to invest for something.

The wise thing to do, for a win-win, is to start engaging diasporas in the development process of Manipur. Manipuri diasporas know Manipur better than anyone third parties.

Emigrants improve their skills abroad which, on their return, should benefit the home countries confirmed an IOM reports. Why not Manipur capitalise on its global Manipur diaspora community?

A detail research work carried out by IOM suggested that even the economically developed countries are benefitted from transfers of money and knowledge made by their diasporas, for instance Israel, South Korea, Ireland and Scotland have benefitted immensely from their global diasporas.

India started recognising formally the contributions made by its global diasporas. January 9 was declared in 2003 as the Celebration Day of Diasporas com¬memorating Ghandi’s return to India from South Africa. Every year 7 to 9 of January India organised Parvasi Bharatiya Divas inviting Non Resident Indian from all over the world.

India has already started this initiative; Manipur can capitalise on this initiative.

“Engaging diasporas might have a beneficial trickle-down effect for home countries”-IOM
Orozco (2003) briefly put the five most important economic involvements of diasporas as tourism, transportation, telecommunications, trade, and transmission of monetary remittances. There is no doubt that these are the 5 basic elements Manipur needs for its own development.

Irony is, though we are flushed with opportunities related to tourism, our government is still insensitive to the need of touristic actions required. The example is the occupation of the lone resort centre at Sendra tourist home at Moirang, Loktak Lake by Para military personnel.

If a Non Residence Indian, Manipuri wants to go and stay in any tourist resorts/home in Manipur, the state has nothing to offer. Our government is not convinced yet that there is sufficient demand for Manipur’s tourism. This, diasporas can convince it, if they are engaged continuously, as many global Manipuris are eager to visit their root.

From the investment point of view, HP-Hewlett Packard investment into India was engineered by such a net work called The Indus Entrepreneur, one of the most powerful networks of Indian diasporas.

In the other sectors, according to IOM’s reports, it says that a report by the Asian Development Bank (2004), 19 of the top 20 Indian software businesses were founded or managed by professionals from the Indian diaspora. Further the report says that software industry has created 400,000 new jobs in India and exported over US$ 6 billion worth of goods and services as back as 2002. By 2011, the number of new jobs created has gone into millions and the export in the sector has gone up many times more than that.
In 2002 India received only US$14billion as NRI remittance, but in 2008-09, India received US$46.9 billion as NRI remittance. It is more than 300% increment over the last seven years. (http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/keyword/remittances/featured/5)

Portugal, South Korea and Ireland can be considered as having successfully benefited from their diasporas, as they transformed from countries of emigration into coun¬tries of immigration, the IOM’s report says.

Countries like Ethiopia and Ghana considered its diasporas as a source of mobilising funds to finance the anti-poverty strategy for its Sustainable Development Poverty Reduction Strategy.
It is also a known fact that South Korea’s economic achievement was fuelled significantly by its global diasporas’ contribution.

Politically, Republic of Ireland received huge support from the Irish American diasporas to have the Good Friday agreement signed in 1998. That agreement had culminated into a historical milestone of disarming Irish militants, a landmark for the beginning of the end of the armed conflict in the Northern Ireland. Today, those fighting with weapons are now actively engaged in political mainstreams. Some of them are even ministers and political leaders. One of Irish Republican Army leaders, Gary Adam heads Sinn Fein, a political party in both the Irelands, north and south.

Such a model of solving perplexed political issues in the world can be a lesson for India in general and Manipur in particular.

Another benefit that can be considered is the networking. There are many professional networks involving diasporas that provides immense benefits to all the parties in the world. For example, AAPM (Advance Australian Professionals in America) , a network funded by Australian businesses in America. TGKN (The Global Korean network), for promoting socio, cultural and economic network communities overseas, for India, prominent one is TWWIN (The world¬wide Indian Network).

Manipur must make one or many of such net works. Already, overseas Manipuri diasporas like European Manipuri Association, North America Manipuri Association and Canada Manipuri Association’s members are showing interest in making networks of global Manipuris.

Few recommendations that Manipur should adopt in order to attract its global diasporas can be:
Manipur must appreciate the value of trust, branding and its presentation to the outside world;
It must identify the diversity of interests of its global diasporas and strategies required thereof;
It should facilitate diasporas to keep ownership of their own initiatives and contributions; otherwise why should one spend one’s time?

It should enhance collaboration with diasporas based on objectives, needs, rewards, tools and timeframes;
It should provide a platform for gender-specific responses;

It needs strong commitment from the state at a high institutional level; otherwise mutual trust cannot be established;

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KEN-Manipur initiative is an initiative to create a web-based interactive platform for Manipuris to effectively engage in an environment of professionalism and theme-wise discussion for the socio-economic development of Manipur and Manipuris across the globe. It is also to enable global Manipuris to contact and share knowledge with higher officials in the relevant ministries within Govt of Manipur. Thus, KEN-Manipur is aimed towards building a Public-Private-Partnership for exchange of knowledge and investment for the benefit of Manipuris and Manipur. See http://kanglaonline.com/?p=36270 for more info.

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