It is funny, but if one were to try and recollect the major markers of the year that has just gone by, the mind draws almost a blank. Individual achievements there were some, but even these were nothing earth shaking or enough to cause a public euphoria – like a Nobel or a Booker. Nothing very spectacular in public life either – apart from the ongoing “family feud” in the Congress and other political parties which is newsy for all the wrong reasons. No, there hasn’t been anything worth a toast (psst a non-alcoholic one, lest the walls are listening). If there have been some expectations raised by these in-house feuds, ones which have already seen some opposition MLAs jump into the Congress wagon, we are sorry for being a damp squib, but we foresee nothing worthwhile in any of them. It would probably be the same wines in different bottles. The only good these “family disputes” have done is perhaps the possibility that it would have knocked home the reality that these parties have to periodically do house cleaning and also indulge in retrospective exercises so as to be able to keep their flocks together. We hope, although we are still doubtful, if the lesson has been learnt. To trust these politicians would learn lessons and be ready to change would be too optimistic. Here is a wish for the coming New Year which will usher in a new government then. Whichever party it is which emerge with a significant mandate of the supposedly sane adult citizens of this state, they must get down to the serious business of administering the state. Manipur is reducing to a killing field. The difference between what the state is witnessing and the horrors of Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia for instance would probably be a matter of a few degrees only.
One of the basic and biggest challenges that the government cannot run away from at this juncture without imperilling the future of the state is the issue of unemployment. We are surprised that the government needs to be reminded over and over that employment generation is not just about creating self employment, but of creating the conditions where private enterprises with employment capacities can grow. The self help groups are essential and must be encouraged, so is shop-keeping which incidentally is the popular notion of business in the state, but the challenge goes much beyond. Attempts must be to foster the birth of captains of enterprises. Something of this is happening in the health sector for instance and to a lesser extent in the media, amongst others. What the employees get in these sectors cannot be compared with the service conditions of the artificially protected government sector, but it must be remembered what the former get is the real value of the market. If the market grows, these services too could be made to improve. The point is, the government’s effort must be to have the tide rise so all the boats can rise together, and not just create a few hundred rich contractor businessmen and hope to have the employment problem taken care of. Sadly, this point is missed altogether time and again. We cannot speak for any other enterprise with justice other than the one we are in – media. Because of the hype of the media as a pillar of democracy, even the government has come to have a healthy respect for it as a disseminator of information. But as a business, the government’s attitude is the same patron-client relation it has faithfully institutionalised in the officialdom-contractor relationship. Advertisement bills remain un-cleared for years and advertisement executives of media houses are made to feel like contractors seeking favours in seeking their bill clearance.
This notwithstanding, if ten other sectors were to grow like the health and media sectors have, the government can imagine how much of the unemployment burden on its shoulders would be relieved. And if every sector of economic activities were to grow similarly, as is happening in many parts of the country, the state can actually become prosperous. Prosperity, peace, social justice etc, are not dropped like manna from heaven. They are to be achieved through imaginative government policies which can nudge and prop entrepreneurial spirit amongst its people. So even as a year ends and another begins, we entreat upon the government, regardless of who comes to be at its helm at the end of the elections, to evolve policies to create the conditions capable of unbinding Manipur’s own Prometheus. One thing is certain, this cannot happen unless key ministerial portfolios such as finance and home are treated with the seriousness they deserve, and not as subsidiary responsibilities of any self-proclaimed “supermen”.