By Amar Yumnam
A few things have become matters for constant deliberation and deeply disturbing to the minds among some close professional colleagues where I earn my bread. One is the absolute decline in the quality, capability, preparedness and commitment to learn the higher things and allow ideas to flourish among the new crop of students entering the designated space for higher learning in Manipur. Second, we observe in every direction we move that poverty does not seem to be declining whether in the region or in India as a whole; this is happening in an environment where inequality, absolute as well as relative, is on the rise. Third, the creative society which we all should aspire does not show signs of emergence in this part of the world, which supposedly should be the most dynamic zone as the space for South East, East and South Asia meeting each other.
On the face of it, we may see all these three issues as unrelated, but I feel these are symptoms of a single disease. The South East and East Asian countries are now the focus of international attention and are the ones responsible for the onset of the Asian Century. One of the factors responsible for this has been the emergence of “reverse innovation” wherein instead of the technology flowing from the advanced countries to the less developed countries it becomes the other way round. Unless a capability to innovate is evolved no society can become responsible and responsive one. This is what EarlDonald means when he writes in hisOn the Absence of the Railway Enginethus: “When in teasing mood I sometimes suggest to my students that the beginning of the endof the Ancient World is to be found not in Alaric`s capture of old Rome in AD 410, not inthe Turkish sack of new Rome in 1453 nor, indeed, at any of the much canvassed datesin between, but in an event which occurred in England in the early eighteenth century,
they tend to look blank, baffled or bored according to temperament. Yet the case can beargued that the division between Ancient and Modem was marked in 1709 when atCoalbrookdale in Shropshire, Abraham Darby first successfully smelted iron with coke,for it was this development which launched mankind, slowly at first, but withprogressively increasing rapidity, into the totally new world of an expanding andinnovatory technology and introduced into the human consciousness the wholly novelconcept of self-sustaining growth, both technical and financial.” It is this realisation which the President of the European Union, Jose Manuel Barroso, emphasises in the State of the Union Address in September 2013 thus: “We must encourage…innovative dynamism at a European scale. This is why we must also invest more in innovation, in technology and the role of science. I have great faith in science, in the capacity of the human mind and a creative society to solve its problems. The world is changing dramatically and I believe
many of the solutions are going to come, in Europe and outside Europe…I would like Europe to be leading that effort globally.” I am intentionally referring to this European effort as it relates to the determination of an advanced region to recapture the earlier global dominance. Contrast this with the contextual realities we had mentioned in the beginning and the absence of any effort to join the global race for advancement in this part of the world.
We know that we are good in sports and absolutely good at that. We are also good and absolutely at that when it comes to joining the world of knowledge. Here is a catch though. The commitment and effort to excel in the world of acquiring knowledge and creating knowledge are found among the youths who have left the place for institutes outside the region and outside the country. This quality of excellence charges our youths around the globe. But the very few youths who come back to the homeland are not as charged as the non-returnees, but instead possess orientations for cheating, bluff and join the social bandwagon of pushing ahead through means foul rather than otherwise. This unequal determination and capability has been rising at a very fast pace that the remaining youths do not even reach their counterparts a decade or so earlier by a big margin. The returning youths do not fire the imagination of the remaining youths here in so far as the knowledge world is concerned.
But we cannot leave it just like that. We need to collectively apply our mind as to why such a passé has come in the case of Manipur. Quite often it is said that the landlockedness of the place has been the destiny, and this constraint has stunted the people down. But how do explain the global experience of many countries and regions similar to ours having experienced wonderful development outcomes. A recent study points out that good governance, trade relationships and coordinated infrastructures development with the neighbours have been critical. These are exactly where Manipur is found absolutely wanting. To put it in a different way, absence of political will and absolute lack of managerial skill have been the undoing for Manipur.
Here it would be rewarding to reread Jeremy Bentham who said in 1830: “the proper end of governmentis the greatest happiness of all, or, in case ofcompetition, the greatest happiness of the greatestnumber, it seems to me that I have made a declarationof peace and good-will to all men.On the other hand, were I to say, the proper end ofgovernment is the greatest happiness of some one,naming him, or of some few, naming them, it seems tome that I should be making a declaration of waragainst all men, with the exception of that one, or ofthose few.Be the subject what it may, unless it be allowed tome to say, what, in relation to that subject, are myjudgment, my feelings, or my desires, I cannot sayanything in relation to it; and as to my judgment oneach occasion, giving it, as I do, for no more than it isworth, it seems to me that it is on my part nounreasonable desire to be allowed—free from everyimputation conveyed, or endeavoured to be conveyed,by the word dogmatism—to be allowed to give it…….This being the basis on which all legislation and allmorality rests, these few words written in hopes ofclearing away all obscurity and ambiguity, all doubtsand difficulties, will not, I hope, be regarded asmisapplied, or applied in waste………….in so far as between the happiness ofthe greatest number, and the happiness of any lessernumber, any incompatibility or successful competitionis allowed to have place, it may be styled a sinister end ofgovernment, or say, object of pursuit.”
The term to be marked is sinister. This is exactly what has happened in the governance in the land here where both political and bureaucratic corruptions are systemic.This prevalence has disconnected governance from performance. This has created a societal-wide relationship between informality and corruption. It is exactly this force which has dampened the commitment and capability levels of the youths. A bad scenario indeed!