By Amar Yumnam
The Indian National Congress (INC) as of today is very busy campaigning for the opponent, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). All its preoccupations and accompanying pronouncements only work to add momentum to the Narendra Modi tide instead of providing any fresh food for thought and debate to the people of India. The long years of ruling over the country since independence, except some short interim periods in between, seems to have stunted the agility of the party to rise to the occasion when serious conditions arise. The latest experiment for a decade with ruling over the country as if the Prime Minister is not important for the country must have added to this decline in the preparedness of the party to take the people seriously and nation building as primary. As the elections for the constitution of the next parliament gets near, this arrogance of the party, pseudo-confidence of the organisation and unpreparedness for engaging with the populace are increasingly visible. The widespread national debates and the involved articulations by all reflect the absence of conscientiousness in the Congress Party and the taken for granted attitude in it.
The biggest weakness of the INC governance since independence has been the failure to appreciate the heterogeneity in the population and the geography of the country. This is how “security” driven policies have all along been the norm over Manipur, and the development orientation in policy making has doggedly refused to emerge. This refusal to acknowledge the differential needs of the heterogeneous population and geography is now being reinforced by the recent Raghuram Rajan Committee Report produced by the committee with only seven meetings among the members and in a period less than three months. In absolute ignorance, and so defiance of the latest understanding of development issues among scholars and organisations around the globe, this committee has the audacity to say that geography is unimportant and institutions are nothing more than the organisations. This is at one stroke signifies the hang-nail of the relevance, existence and issues of Manipur both in terms of population and geography. This was an expert committee which could label the North East as “politically sensitive” without ever defining what the term means.
Contrast this with the absolute nation building mode of the BJP today. This party has put in place a system and an accompanying mechanism for inclusive approach to the preparation of agenda for the next elections and the next government on the bases of differential issues in the varied population and geography of the country. This is an approach which no party has ever done so far in this country. The party personalities who have just visited Manipur in connection with the training programme of the party in Imphal and the various rounds of discussions with a cross-section of people here are signs of the party’s national design. To say the least, it is an absolutely robust approach for evolving the big country, India, into a nation. The party should adopt this approach in policy making as well if it comes to power.
Though the signals are slowly emerging, it is only the outcome after the electoral process that would tell us which party comes to power. Whatever the case, the time is now for Manipur to put her concerns forward. While there could be many issues about Manipur which need to be understood and addressed by the government, I would think of border as a key issue. I am not talking in the sense of the recent issues surrounding fencing at the international borders in Manipur, which are of a dimension very different from what I intend to dwell on now.
I would think of border from two angles. First, Manipur is a border province of India. This being the case, the union government feels it affordable so far to ignore the unique developmental needs of the province. The Rajan committee like understanding of Manipur needs to be called a day. India is definitely non-linear in both population and geography. This demands the following of non-linear policies alive to the differential realities of non-linear population and geography. Unless this is done, the nation-building process in this country would remain un-initiated. India now possesses the technological and financial capability to adopt such a principle of inclusiveness for the non-linearity in policy making. What is missing till now is the mental orientation and preparedness for this in the government that administers over the country.
The second sense in which I would like to talk of border is from the angle of governance at the provincial level. This government should be alive to the fact that there are both international and national borders as boundaries of this province. Being alive to this reality entails appreciating the differential geographic and institutional needs of development intervention for these areas. While articulating and framing development policies at the provincial level, this appreciation should be the guiding principle.
In fine, with the approach of the parliamentary elections we must ensure the adoption of two principles as guides in policy formulation for the forthcoming government. First, the Indian government should henceforth formulate and adopt development interventions in tune with the heterogeneity in population and geography of the country; attempts at homogenisation and absolute homogenisation policies have not served the interests of the nation so far and would not serve either in future. Second, the union government should enable the governments at the “non-major” provinces like Manipur to evolve and adopt policies attuned to the geographic and population characteristics specific to each. The Rajan Committee like approach of putting the cart before the horse of demanding the capability to absorb funds without having ever put policies for generating the capabilities in these “non-major” areas should be done away with. Both these policies would create an atmosphere for correcting the tough discontinuities across inter- and intra-borders.