By Amar Yumnam
Ibobi is right now running his third consecutive term as the head of the people in Manipur. A comparison and an understanding of the transformation of him in the first term of assuming the responsibility to the third term persona would be absolutely interesting, relevant and necessary.
During the first term he was not visible as someone strongly committed to ushering Manipur to a growth path. He seemed not very sure of what his commitments and designs would be like for taking Manipur to a new path of trajectory. But on hindsight, it looks like that he was meticulously charting his path and shrewdly establishing his hold over the administration. Come second term, there emerged sure manifestations of his strategy, commitments and assertiveness of prowess of decision-making. But in his third term, we see the qualities of a matured politician. He has now completely mastered the politicking games in India. He has also mastered and sharpened the strategy for holding on the reins of politics in Manipur. But to an economist the most important quality he has displayed is time consistency. This speaks of pursuance of a policy whatever the general acceptance or otherwise of a policy. The possibility of a bad policy to succeed if followed consistently and of a good policy to fail if followed inconsistently was analysed succinctly by Edward Prescott and won Nobel Prize in Economics for that. The core quality of Ibobi today is his time consistency in policies and programmes. Since we have a head of the people who is time consistent in policies and programmes, the issue now is how we can dovetail the actions of the actions of the diverse sections of the population for meaningful social outcomes.
Here I would like to quote Ray Kurzweil who says: “Human life expectancy was 37 years in 1800. Most humans at that time lived lives dominated by poverty, intense labour, disease, and misfortune. We are immeasurably better off as a result of technology, but there is still a lot of suffering in the world to overcome. We have a moral imperative, therefore, to continue the pursuit of knowledge and of advanced technologies that can continue to overcome human affliction.” In the context of Manipur, we have now in Ibobi a person whom we can profitably utilise to the pursuit of betterment of well-being for all. While we can leave to him with confidence that he can deliver on the infrastructure and other social overhead capital in so far as the decisions are within his domain. The developmental cost being borne by Manipur today consequent upon the landslide near Kohima on the prime national highway is because of historical lapses on the part of the national policy makers. In other words, while Ibobi is increasingly making his presence felt in the polity and the economy of Manipur, the Centre’s weaknesses and non-matching of his efforts are getting unfolded. A sustainable and holistic transformation of Manipur would be realisable sooner if the two sides tango; as of now it looks like only Ibobi is responding to the calls of the times while the Centre is not keeping pace.
While we may leave to Ibobi to take care of the material part of development, there still remains the need for “a moral imperative .. to continue the pursuit of knowledge and of advanced technologies that can continue to overcome human affliction.” This is where the academic leaders of the land have to rise to the occasion. Academics is a very subtle business which demands an absolutely congenial framework, mental commitment and a coherent pursuit. Affecting developments in this is a time consuming and very difficult task; it requires long term commitment from both the academic leaders and the academic practitioners. If the academic leadership is unconcerned about the needs for a congenial academic framework and devoid of convergence in actions with the interests of the academic practitioners, then knowledge would not emerge for reduction of human affliction in the land. But in the case prevailing blatantly in Manipur, this exactly seems to be scenario. This immediately disconnects the interventions in this sector diverge from the designs of the head of the people, and to that extent pushes the social transformation of Manipur further into the future.
This kind of a scenario puts to naught the newly emerged capability of some of the academic practitioners to deliver academic inputs in a contextual framework. The State now demands and her development necessitates a kind of academic inputs to the learners for appreciating every topic in the context. This would enhance the relevance of the education being provided. This would also have the most coveted impact of encouraging innovation. We must know that innovation comes from application of knowledge to new contextual realities. If the academic leaders only try to use recollections of the past to fresh settings and perceive academics as only construction as is happening today in Manipur, then academics itself becomes the casualty. This cannot make the designs of the head of the people fruitful and knowledge too would fail to rise to the occasion. But the moment today is historical and Manipur cannot afford to incur such a blunder now. The contemporary development paradigm has established that innovation cam be learnt and can be reproduced in an appropriate academic framework in convergence with right state policies. Now is the historic moment for Manipur to catch on to this opportunity and thrive.
(Amar Yumnam is the Director of Center for Manipur Studies and Prof. of Department of Economics, Manipur University)