By Akendra Sana
“So many of you guys are there.” This was a friend in a social gathering in South Mumbai some time back. This friend with some passing interest in sports was making a remark about the many sportspersons from Manipur in several disciplines of sports.
Footballers, boxers and so many others from Manipur continue to make a mark in sports in India, a country where sports deserve much more attention than what is received now. True no surveys, no empirical studies have yet been made but clearly many families attain lives of more dignity and comfort through remittances received from young sportspersons in several places. Surely this deserves more detailed study to draw concrete conclusions but clearly the earnings of say young professional footballers are decent and their contributions to their respective families and the community at large are commendable.
Then of course there is a huge workforce from Manipur spread all over the globe who through merits alone have excelled and without any artificial shelters like “reservations”.
One is convinced that there surely must be sound reasons that are noble for some Meiteis to demand “Scheduled Tribe’ status under the Indian constitution and similarly there must be undisputable reasons for some ST brethrens to resist such a move. But are these positions not only from perspectives that are immediate, visible, achievable and applicable in the short term. Yes this surely is largely about incentives available under the ‘ST’ category in the Indian Constitution as friend and journalist Pradip Phanjoubam also espouses in his recent columns. Would the two differing positions remain intact if ‘reservations’ in say government jobs ceases to be operational?
The angst about the need to preserve and nurture their land needs no further explanation. Meiteis through the millennia have been more givers as far as land is concerned. Considering the circumstances in major portions of North East India, it is only natural that many have genuine concerns that need to be addressed because several think that the situation is like “let us share your possessions while I keep mine untouched” cannot continue. To address this concern, the buck must stop at the desk of our lawmakers. They need to provide leadership and resolve and settle the issue.
The gains Meiteis under the ‘General’ category over the decades have made in several fields cannot be wished away. They have been phenomenal. In a sea of ‘reserved’ category in North East India and from the same backgrounds, the support systems or the lack of them, ‘unreserved/general’ category Meiteis have excelled in a variety of professions and vocations. This situation undoubtedly continues to sharpen the competitive edge of the ‘General’ category Meiteis for higher and better achievements.
Competition is an absolute truth in the real world out there. It is an everyday experience whether it is in small town streets of Manipur or in any advanced economies both for a blacksmith, a craftsman in a village or a computer software engineer in a major city. The challenges are the same. They continuously need to hone their skills lest they be left behind. In the real world laggards have no place. And yet the weak need to be protected and nurtured, meaning the strong and the able must provide leadership and show paths of progress and enlightenment. Let us remind ourselves that the circumstances have been more natural as far as the general category Meiteis journey as job seekers are concerned and therefore their growth has been organic and will be more sustainable in the ultimate analysis and in the long run. It is time we all, everyone wherever they are, in the hills or the valleys, as co-travellers in this life in Manipur look for what is achievable through sheer grit of mind and physique.
In the world of ideas, say in the academia or the arts excellence is measured by what is perceived as the best by a larger audience. It may have its limitations but then there is no absolute perfection in any human endeavour whether for individuals or groups. Competence and excellence are ingredients necessary in competition without which little tangible achievements can be met. It is only when growth and progress are natural and organic, can excellence be sustained for a larger good, a collective good whose benefits would cater to a much larger number of recipients knowingly or otherwise.
Varied economic activities are what civilizations have produced for continuance of all things human. Through them we seek sustenance and comfort. When King Loiyamba (1074-1122 AD) introduced “Loiyamba Shilyen” the requirements of continuance of the civilization must have been the compulsions. Today’s requirements are in a nutshell about ‘jobs’, good secure jobs, the kind of familiar government jobs, life-long engagement with promise of attractive post retirement benefits and of course spoils of office, if you wish. But there is also another different world today where money, security and comfort are all there for the asking only if you are competent. The debate therefore must now extend to cover that the needs of the modern world and that all of us, both the “reserved” and “general” categories included to cater to these needs of the world so that the ultimate pride we all so dearly cherish is restored and allowed to grow.
Some nine hundred years ago, King Loiyamba embarked on capacity building to meet the needs of an evolving and thriving civilization by assigning different functions to his subjects supposedly to achieve more cohesion and harmony, certainly a quantum progress from the simplicities of “food gathering” and only agricultural occupations. Is it too much to ask of this generation to seek ways and means to meet the demands of its populace – to achieve slightly better opportunities for gainful employment, to name just one desire of the community? Capacity building in today’s context only means providing means for more efficient result oriented economic activities. In other words, providing infrastructure for people to pursue any number and varied economic activities. For instance, try providing round the clock non-stop electric power supply and see how even simple small motor workshops, rice mills, computer service centres, not to talk other more sophisticated industrial activities, coaching centres and centres of learning – schools, colleges, university labs and departments and libraries start performing. It is not difficult to imagine how much of energy this simple arrangement would unleash and a lot of the ills of the community would vanish.
During that long conversation with the friend in South Mumbai amidst winded well negotiated positions we all tend to take to explain the uniqueness of North East India, I had at some stage responded with “fortunately there is no reservation in sports”.