By Amar Yumnam
Diwali generates positive feeling, expectations for betterment and sense of brightness. This would naturally make any conscientious individual to introspect on own society. What exactly is the case in relation to the ruling deities here? On introspection and lived experiences, it comes out glaringly and painfully that Manipur has been a happy hunting ground for the charlatans, quacks, scoundrels and scallywags for quite some time. Though there are sure signs of this scenario getting altered as we cannot fool all the people all the time, the pace of change is slow and the scoundrels are attempting feeble attempts to sustain their act. The best example of this is to be found in the functioning, performance and indulgence of quite a few Lai Seva Committees in the valley areas looking after the funds of the local deities in Manipur. Pascal once said: “Ordinary people have the power of not thinking of that about which they do not wish to think”. With the small and non-expanding livelihood opportunities in Manipur, the proportion of this non-thinking population is readily available for easy mobilisation; the expenses involved for mobilisation are a few pegs of Sekmai.
Now the gang of charlatans and scoundrels find the existence of this group of ordinary people a convenient medium for indulgence in their pursuits of cheating and stealing. There are now in every locality economically well-off people who had achieved the present level through means of cheating and stealing. The Public Distribution System of the government has been a very common source for the emergence of this type of population. These people possess “little learning” (remember “Little learning is a dangerous thing”) and so have low levels of conscientiousness if any; they have no compunctions in speaking lies. In fact, since lying has been the source of their personal and economic strength, they have perfected the art of presenting lies to look like painful truths. Besides, these people do not have and do not enjoy any legitimate social status. This being the case, the fundamental social indulgence of this group of population has been the creation of scope for convenient social activism to project themselves as socially concerned individuals. This group of population would be given company by another group of population who want to be active somehow. As there is little scope for positive entrepreneurism in Manipur and they themselves do not possess the required capabilities for emerging as successful entrepreneurs, these second group of people look for convenient and personally advantageous engagement. To admit ignorance amounts to defeat in the Latin American societies. Similar prevails in Manipur. The mind is somehow to be engaged. But as Montaigne said: “Many of the world’s abuses are engendered – or to put it more rashly, all of this world’s abuses are engendered – by our being schooled to be afraid to admit our ignorance and because we are required to accept anything which we cannot refute”. The second group of people look for pseudo-social engagement and exploit the environment for personal aggrandisement. The Lai Seva Committees become the most advantageous arena for public engagement by the combination of these two groups of population. They would look for continuous engagement of these committees for various reasons. First, the funds of the Lai Seva Committee are easy sources for meeting personal expenses. Second, the funds also provide them an opportunity for maintaining a circle of influence among miniscule groups of ordinary population at no personal costs as the expenses on the Sekmai pegs are met from the deity funds. Third, these people have no historical record of positive role playing in the society in every phase of their evolution right from the school days. So the pseudo social engagement in the name of thinking for the deity and the locality is perceived as the only opportunity to project themselves as socially positive persons. So these people would continuously cross the river to the other bank to fetch water for that is the only way to highlight their activism and swindle, true to their training and culture, the funds in the name of the deity. The nineties of the last century were the flourishing times of these groups of population for they had both the politicians and the provincial law enforcing agencies as facilitators of their activities.
But all these are not sustainable acts. All these do not generate positive effects in the locality. The local social capital would suffer a decline. While there could be individual advances, the overall shared education and social sector advancement would suffer regression. The locality collectively bears the cost of regression while the personal costs of the scoundrels and scallywags are borne by the funds in the name of the deity.
It is very widely mentioned that it is a highly cultured society. We are happy to hear that, but we are absolutely depressed in not finding social examples of this richness. We have now examples of decay of every inherited ethnic norm of the society so much so that we have now people amongst us who have no qualms in cheating in the name of the ruling local deities. The primordial gods and goddesses – whose existence we celebrate as the origins of our life, society and culture – are cheated upon by our own scoundrels. So the rootedness of corruption and decay is now widely visible in Manipur. There are also signs to reverse this tragedy. The collective responsibility lies in hastening this reversal of decay.