Manipur At the Transition Point: Time to evolve a Yunnan policy

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By Amar Yumnam

There was a time that the elders used to advise us to do good as humans and not look for immediate fulfilment in this life. In this paradigm it was made to believe that “goodness” in this life would ensure happiness and prosperity in the next life. The majority of the population above the age of fifty years today were largely inclined to believe in this orientation. But times have changed. The present generation of youths do not fall prey to such paradigms. Nor does the present generation of parents eager to instil such beliefs among their children.  This is the wind blowing around the globe. The emergence of widespread, widely-shared and deeply influential technologies has made them realise the potential and possibility of fulfilling demands in this life itself instead of postponing to the next one. This is happening in the case of Manipur as well. The large scale exodus of youths from Manipur for studies, jobs and other opportunities to places all around the world implies the deepening roots of this new drive and belief. While those who can thrive and adapt to this new context and the challenges associated with it are in the race, the others unprepared and diffident of success in the new competition have either become addicts or joined the cadre of groups involved in all sorts of pseudo-maturity and manliness.

What this unfolding social scenario conveys to us is the inevitability of delivering development today. Development in Manipur has to occur today, and the scope for enhancement of personal life has to be ensured today in an equitable and inclusive way. This is the only way to ensure the sustainability of the society, polity and economy of Manipur today. But development never occurs in a vacuum. It requires lots of endogenous positive factors while also demanding congenial exogenous environment. All these factors interact while also possessing unique characteristics for facilitating development to occur. While the domestic – provincial and country level – requirements have been in debate for quite some time, the international factors have not yet been subjected to much debate and scrutiny.

Here I would like to recall the important roles that cities have played in the transformation of the surrounding areas. Globally cities have been the sources of technological transformations and knowledge growth. The positive impacts of these on the surrounding areas have always been the foundations for spreading the extent, coverage and effect of development experiences. It was Bombay inter alia that has made western India reach the present stage of development. On the other hand, Kolkata has never played this Bombay-like role in the eastern and north eastern India. There is no likelihood of this kind of a role being played in the foreseeable future either. For the north east today, some may argue that Guwahati can and may be allowed to play this role for the region. The problem here is that, Guwahati does not possess the kind of technological and knowledge components for playing the catalytic role for the developmental transformation of the surrounding areas in her areas of impact.  

This is where the imperative arises for Manipur to evolve policies for cooperating, collaborating and benefitting from the technological and knowledge capabilities of cities close to her in geography, demography, culture and ethos. While evolving such policies today, we have to be alive to the emerging international and globalisation contexts of Manipur. Any development policy framed in the context of Manipur now should be alive to the likely challenges and the potential opportunities of the emerging larger Asian strategy for wide-based and inclusive development dynamics. Two points are significant here. The cities within the country and should rather generate positive externalities, Kolkata and Guwahati do not have the capacity and potential strength for such roles. This being so, Manipur has necessarily to look for cities around the neighbouring countries, given the emerging and relevant global context, capable for playing this role for her. While in the earlier development contexts, the world could afford to wait for the capable cities to generate the positive externalities, this is no longer so; today the surrounding areas have themselves to be pro-active for tapping the strength of the nearest city with knowledge and technological capabilities.

In this perspective, the nearest city which Manipur can look forward and look up is Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan Province in China. The research and understanding of South Asia among the Yunnan scholars and budding social science researchers are visibly much deeper than it was two years back or so. This necessitates the building of the knowledge capability of Manipur to understand the neighbouring regions in the surrounding countries in order to serve the cause of India better and enhance the capability of Manipur to thrive and dovetail into the fast growth of the nearest areas of the neighbouring countries. Further, the energy scenario of Manipur is absolutely bad and quite unlikely to improve either in the near future. Here the technological strength of Kunming in the solar energy sector provides a way to look for a permanent solution to the energy related issues in Manipur in a way without adversely affecting the environmental quality of Manipur. The available solar technology have elements capable of addressing energy issues at all the tree levels of the individual, the household and the community. The agricultural research institutes in Yunnan have wonderful laboratory farms. All these farms serve the twin purpose of building research capability and enhancing the scope for income generation. Manipur has lots of positive lessons to be learnt from this.  While examples of this nature can be multiplied, what needs to be done is the evolution of strategies for deriving benefits from this prevailing technological and knowledge capability in the neighbouring areas.  Time is now for Manipur to evolve a Yunnan policy in the interest of saving the future of youths and ensuring sustainable development dynamics for the land and people.

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