By Amar Yumnam
Culture – in the sense we understand as to how the general population and the community behave, interact and react to people, events and issues – have both fast moving and slow components. In right circumstances, the evolutionary process can be fast, and otherwise can be very slow. It is to be emphasised that circumstances are not uniform across social contexts, communities and spaces. The fast evolutionary process with positive milieu can definitely fasten the development trajectory of any society.
For the case of India as a whole, a new wind of hastening the evolutionary process of the culture of governance functioning and social economic performance for enhancing the milieu of development is already visible. The recent decisions about approach to decision-making and raising of the railway fares are absolutely positive indicators of the way changes are taking place. For the last decade, India had faltered in following up the Economic Reforms initiated in July 1991. These reforms should have been pursued further by at least minimising the burden of subsidies hampering the capability to initiate new activities. Development will not occur and will not get faster in the absence of new investment and new activities. The new investment and the accompanying new activities will definitely instil a kind of motivation for cultural evolution towards new dimensions. But the inability to control and reduce subsidies has played havoc with the Indian economic performance during the last decade or so. The new government at the Centre has shown clear signals that it is no longer going to be following the same approach as exemplified by the policy decision to reduce subsidies of the Indian railways. The timing also is very important; since the next elections are five years away and the time for the new government has just started counting, it exactly is the moment to take hard decisions. This way, the positive outcomes of the hard decisions of today would start yielding generalised benefits in time for the next elections. So far so good for India in general!
But there is a problem for Manipur here. The wind in the rest of India does not reach Manipur within an expected period of time lag when it comes to positive ones; the negative ones really arrive though in real time. This is true irrespective of whether the agency involved is of the Union government or of the private sector; e.g. there is not much difference between Airtel and the BSNL in Manipur in terms of quality service unlike in the rest of India. We can continue multiplying the examples. This is an issue we should be applying our critical individual and collective mind. The political economic problems surrounding mineral exploration in Tamenglong and the push and pull tensions in the Chandel district are to be framed, understood contextually and addressed appropriately. Why is it that the positive influences of culture on development performance have not emerged in Manipur at all? Why is it that the ethnic diversity of Manipur has failed to ignite the development trajectory unlike in the developed countries of the world where diversity has enhanced positive competition? Why is it that the time preference for economic returns has remained stumblingly short-term in the case of Manipur as compared to the development need for long term investment outlooks? Why is it that the latest globalisation processes and the emerging potentials have failed to positively alter the cultural outlook for time preference for long term returns despite the historical globalisation reality that Manipur had been historical destination of many streams of population, mainly from South East Asia, for centuries? Why is it that all the communities are made to look like as pushing for exclusivist approaches to social functioning and community interaction by a handful of political protagonists? We have to break through all these blocks in order that development can be possible in Manipur. We have to strive for a smart culture where positive stimuli are generated for both intra- and inter-community functioning and performance.
The myopic time preference of the people must have been inherited from the long agriculture-based functioning and social existence. This must have been accentuated by the absence of a visible development trajectory for more than half a century under the new administrative dispensation capable of impacting on the inherited time preference of the population. Instead the time preference has been aggravated along ethnic lines and with increasing overtones of violence. The cultural orientation too has shown aggressive features of refusal to evolve.
This is where the government-based institutions become paramount in the case of Manipur. The change towards smart culture has to be aggressively pushed, nurtured and sustained by the various agencies of the government. The time is now for proving the mettle of the state. The government should be making up her mind on the core requirements for altering the time preference of the communities for short-term exclusivist benefits towards long-term returns in a context of co-operative competition. If the present trend continues, the chaos would only get worsened. We must identify the areas where the cultural dynamics could be fastened for stronger development performance, and strengthen the social sector interventions for enhancing the quality of the slow components. We have to make the culture of Manipur alive.