SENAPATI, Sept 25: A free medical camp was conducted yesterday by Senapati District Women’s Association (SDWA) in collaboration with premier hospital Catholic Medical Center (CMC) at Mini Indoor Stadium, Senapati District H/Q. With a massive medical team consisting of 14 specialist Doctors and 36 nurses, the medical camp also provided free medicines to those patients. Apart from minor surgeries performed by specialist doctors, mostly women and children attended the camp. More than 500 patients were stated to be treated by the camp. Specialist doctors from Pediatric, Medicine, Gynae, Opthal, surgery and others treated the patients.
Meanwhile, the SDWA has extended its profound gratitude to CMC, Koirengei, Deputy Commissioner, 47Karong A/C MLA Dr.V.Alexander Pao, PHED, Spt., Chief Medical Officer, Grace Cable and Pastors of Poumai and Zeliangrong Baptist Churches for extending the medical camp financially, materially, physically and spiritually. The SDWA has also wished the MLA, DC, CMO, CMC medical team, all concerns a fruitful and prosperous future for their tireless efforts to heal and help needy people.
In a seminar on Good governance organised by state agencies Prof Amar Yumnam was talking about certain flagship programmes which had facilitated the decentralisation of corruption. How very interesting! We had raised this issue earlier in one of our editorials. The programme in question is the controversial National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). We sometimes wonder why the controversial scheme has been named after the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi instead of the other Gandhis. NREGS has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Tamenglong district was among the first to be included in the selected 200 districts across the country when the first phase of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme was launched for the first time in 2006. By April 2008, all the districts of the State were covered by the scheme. The scheme has been renamed Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme since October 2010. But as it turned out, only 15 percent of the allocated funds reaches the rural people while the rest is being swindled by politicians and employees of the concerned department which had come out in the open through RTI queries. There are still hundreds of ignorant people whose job cards and pass books had been withheld by the Zilla Parishad members, Pradhans and Ward members. By withholding the job cards and the pass books the elected representatives takes out the money meant for the beneficiaries by forging signatures. Yet, the inbuilt mechanism of check and balance in the scheme and that of social audit could be easily circumvented by these representatives in collusion with the officials. On the other hand, threats and intimidation by use of even criminal elements thwart the efforts of those who try to raise voices against such misappropriation of funds. And, the police conveniently looked the other way, even when there were complaints against the erring representatives and the officials. State documents claimed that, Manipur is one of the states which have successfully implemented the NREGS and it tops among other states of the country. One remembers the on-site visit of the Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh when he took a dig at the figures presented by state with a comment that “It is too good to be true.” He had assured the state that he will be sending an independent team to assess the real achievements in the state. So, what has it achieved? One of the major achievements of NREGS is that it has successfully killed the work culture in the rural areas of the valley and hill areas of state. Before the advent of NREGS, there was a work culture based on hard work and better yields. Sadly it has now been transformed into a ‘work culture’ where you get wages even if you do not work at all (if you are willing to pay a sizeable percentage to the local representatives). Another major achievement has been that, through devolution of powers the flagship programme schemes has successfully created a new class of corrupt representatives at the village and regional level, which is why we have been seeing huge election related expenditure in the ensuing Panchayat elections. The NREGs has become a honeycomb for the newly emerging grassroots leaders. This must be precisely the state of affairs when Prof Amar Yumnam was talking about decentralisation of corruption. Corruption which was previously the exclusive domain of ministers, MLAs and bureaucrat officials at various levels has now reached the grassroots level officials and representatives like the Zilla Parishad members, Pradhans and Panchayat members through devolution of power coupled with largesse provided by NREGS funds. The recent Panchayat elections will remain the costliest ever and prime indicator of corruption at the grassroots level. Candidates had no qualms in making huge expenses in trying to win over voters. The logic is simple. Once elected, they will be compensated through the NREGS funds. As we have seen, several complaints on gross misappropriation of NREGS funds by the Pradhans, members of Panchayat and Zilla Parishad in collusion with concerned officials have come out in the open. We need serious introspection on the mode of implementation and the monitoring mechanism.
Devils and Holy Cows
By Angomcha Bimol Akoijam
For the state of affairs, or the mess to be precise, in Manipur, whom do we hold responsible? Our political class and its leadership are the obvious class of people that come to our mind. Perhaps, our criticisms of this class of people are justified. Besides, pointing accusing fingers at the power that be at New Delhi are also there. Of course, there are enough instances whereby people do swear and blame our naharols, the insurgents, for the same. Incidentally, such feelings and thoughts have been echoed largely in private domain in contrast to our public criticism of our political class and New Delhi. Perhaps, legitimate as such criticisms are, one is tempted to ask: Are they the only ‘devils’ in our eyes who have created and presided over the mess that Manipur has come to be? I suspect, not.
Indeed, there are the media, civil society groups, professional organizations, intellectuals, ‘prominent citizens’, middle class, educated youths and students and various other ‘interest’ groups. Are these categories of people mere holy cows and victims in the absurd theatre that Manipur has come to be? I suspect, however some want to present them as such, these categories of people have critical contributions in the making of Manipur as we know today.
Three Realms and Beyond
Governing our collective life has been what Montesquieu had described as ‘three estates of realms’, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Modern institutions have the check and balance mechanisms through the separation of power amongst these three realms. When the executive fails to carry out their responsibility, the legislature seeks to make it accountable (a function called the ‘legislative oversight function’) and when either of the two fail, there is the judiciary which intervenes. Public Interests Litigation (PIL) is a reminder of the same judicial function.
Beyond these three realms, there is the ‘fourth estate’, the media, which brings out the voices and concerns of the general populations and other interests groups. In a sense, it is a realm which seeks to generate and assert the ‘public’, in form, content and intent. Besides, there are other realms, such as civil society groups which also ensure that the public good is sought after and maintained.
These are basics of modern collective life. Normally, explaining this all over again might invite a Sherlock Holmes’ ‘Elementary, My Dear Watson’ kind of response. But in Manipur, it seems, it is no longer elementary. For, some of the basics of a civilize life have been so distorted that any attempt to look at the stake holders, the different realms, are made with resistance, if not outright hostility against any attempt to bring out the role of these different realms, particularly those that exist beyond the three realms.
To many, in fact, as long as one criticizes the political class, the insurgents and even New Delhi for the mess we are in today, it seems perfectly okay and acceptable. But if one dares to turn the critical gaze at the other realms of our society and polity — the intellectuals, the civil society groups, the media etc, one seems to encounter defensive responses, which, amongst others, include denials and or playing perfect victims, and even vicious attacks against those who seek to make these categories of people see their role in the making of what Manipur has become today.
Incidentally, it seems that our political class seems to show an ability to accept the criticisms, by their silences or meek attempt at explaining away the criticisms by diverting the issue or deflecting the responsibility. Even the insurgent groups do express once a while that ‘people have been alienated from the movement’ etc.
But will our media, intellectuals, civil society groups, prominent citizens, middle class professionals and other interests groups would be able to spell out their role and responsibility in the making of the present mess that we are in today? Or are they capable of accepting criticism? That’s a political and ethical question.
Thinking Institutionally and Taking Responsibility
There are ample examples that can show the distortions of different realms that have produced, nurtured and sustained the mess in the state. For instance, take the case of the dismal power situation in Manipur. The atrocious lack of electricity in the state remains for a decade now, spanning across two plan periods and numerous annual budgets being presented. It is an institutional failure. But what is the general understanding on the situation, across board? The wide-spread retorts that one gets to hear in private or public sphere have one common theme: people do not pay electricity charges/bills, that’s why we do not have power. That the ‘institution’ has failed to generate or collect the dues is not an issue. Or the question has never been on what has been done by the concern institutions to tide over the problem or what have been their plan projections of the demand and capacity of supply etc. No wonder, life becomes miserable as institutions are allowed to escape their responsibility.
On the other hand, with the obvious failure of the executive to ensure a modicum of adequate power in the state, did we see the legislature seeking to make the executive accountable for the failure? In short, has there been any debate on the issue whereby the members of the Assembly, taking reports and assessments by constitutional body like the CAG or their own assessments on the issue, tried to make the executive accountable and respond to the situation all these while? Incidentally, just as Delhi is not dark as Manipur is, we have seen the legislature has sought to make the executive responsible and accountable for their decisions and acts in the Parliament (including taking the CAG report as a basis on issues such as 2G scam or coalgate). And of course, ‘national media’ have also been buzzing with these ‘public debates’ on such issues of public importance.
Incidentally, just as the executive has failed to provide adequate electricity, and the legislature have also not done their expected role to ensure accountability on the issue in Manipur, one PIL was filed at the Guwahati High Court. And it’s been more than a year, and we are yet to see whether the Judiciary, the third realm, can make those institutions accountable so that we have a modicum of functioning institutions, rule of law, and a life with dignity and well-being in the state.
But what has been the role of the other sections of our society and polity on such a crucial issue? That’s anybody’s guess. However, there have been enough reports and talks of ‘development’ in the state. One wonders as to how one will to generate employment or establish industrial units (manufacturing and service) with this kind of power situation. But flyover and market buildings seem to have been flagged off as ‘signs’ of our ‘development’, ‘modernity’ and ‘progress’. And there has been talk of turning Manipur into a tourist paradise with international airport etc, without bothering to ensure the basic element as electricity in the state.
Of course, electricity is not the only one. There is, amongst other, the perennial armed insurgency. If one were to understand from some editorials in newspapers in Manipur, there has never been any serious attempt to address the issue by the successive governments or our political class. Of course, despite its undeniable presence with critical impacts on the life and times of the state for decades, denial and distortions of the same have been by and large the hallmark of the polity and outlook.
In short, what have been our responses to some of the critical issues that affect our collective life, including the kind of understanding on those issues? This question cannot be only for the political class but for the rest of the society as well. When the collective life is in such a critical mess, we cannot selectively make devils and holy cows out of our society and polity. It’s time to look at the role of the categories of people in which each one of us gets implicated. That’s a way to regain self-respect, agency, responsibility and a better Manipur.
Religion And Politics
By Ananya S Guha
When politics is mingled with religion, nothing could be more dangerous than this, in a country like India. This is because that religionists who are fanatical are bound to come in the picture. Politics and religion should be studiously kept out in a secular country. Religion, is essentially private, but when religious bodies get interfering to talk about political matters and make interventions there, this is not only unjust, it can lead to bloody situations. I am saying this because over the years this has been happening in the country.
Sant Bhrindanwale was encouraged by politicians, but when it was necessary to search the Golden Temple, which had become a hunting ground for militants, the exercise in fact back fired and led to riotous things, including the grisly murder of our then Prime Minister. Secondly look at what happened in Assam, it was given a religious ethnic colouring right from the beginning, and fanatics seized the opportunity to create fear and pandemonium among the people of North East India, residing elsewhere.
In that manner one must be really fair to the Leftist Parties, who clearly but firmly dissociated the two and came down with a heavy hand on trouble makers who were hell bent to create trouble in the name of religion. On the aftermath of the Babri Masjid riots, in 1992, Jyoti Basu made it certain that West Bengal was largely free from the mayhem, which affected the rest of the country. The Leftist parties have a clear mandate against fanaticism of this kind, and they make pretty sure, that it is left out of party politics.
Politics and religion, spells danger against eclectic forces operating in the whole world. The Islamic West divide, is largely due to interventionist politics of the US in Islamic countries, appearing as saviour of Nations. Once that thinking is in, then stereo types assault the world, and there are clear divisive forces, anti West, pro Islamic etc. In the process we have seen Afganistan and Iraq as clear cases of violence torn countries, where living every moment is not only a ghastly experience, but is the trauma of living day in and day out in the shadows of putrid violence, where a person may be killed any time.
Children especially encounter fear, morbidity and trauma in their lives. Even if they come out of such an experience, they cannot be the same, and may later on be perpetrators of violence themselves. Nothing could be more tragic and ghastly than this.
In India in Godhra and Gujarat the same was the case, religion intruding into politics at the behest of politicians, or those religious ideologues, who have been influenced by the politics of hatred against particular religious communities. This calls for a ban on politicians who have anything to do with religious bodies, and the reverse. At least that would be the first step to keep at bay inimical forces commingling the two for reasons of sheer hatred, and nothing else.
Olympian expresses wish to return to state