Long Memory, Spirit Enlivening and Social Advancement: The continual failures of Manipur

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By Amar Yumnam

Maynard Keynes was right when he asserted that in the long run we are all dead. But the individual and social functioning are not all short-sighted. The short-run and immediate functions and performances are all oriented to the long term objective of improving individual and social well-being on a lasting basis; the drive for longer term enhancement of life is salient in both individual and social characteristics. But the significance lies in the outcome of the functioning. Every outcome of a functioning and performance leaves a long memory mark at both individual and societal levels.

The point I am trying to drive home is that every action and every outcome at each moment is significant. Occasions do come when a functioning and an outcome are characteristically different from the experienced trend such that these tend to impact on the consequent outlook, functioning and expectations for probable outcomes. When the new and trend-setting functioning and expected outcome are positive, the spirit of the individuals and the society gets enlivened. This is very important. The drive for advancement and the possibility for achievement are strongly dependent on the spirit with which the individual and the society function. Both require and demand spirit enhancing environment, functioning and outcomes. The similarity ends here. The individual and the society operate under different paradigms though they need not be necessarily conflictual. The context and the stimulations are different. There are many moments in an individual’s life where the spirit needs to be enhanced and thus need to search for interventions to do so. One significant component for this in Manipur society are the various prayers and rituals, which do help in sustaining the expectations of the individuals. Such an option is not available in the case of the social collective, and, if available, like in the case of the Lai Haraoba, cannot have the kind of spirit enlivening impact as in the case of the individuals.

The enlivening of the spirit of the society can be achieved only through actions, initiatives and performances which invigorate the collective expectations about positive outcomes in both short-run and long memory. In a modern democratic context, such enlivening can be achieved only through the functioning, performance and performance-based promises of the state and her institutions. An individual or a household may maintain a cattle despite absence of economic returns, but the state cannot and should not do so; the state has to be necessarily driven by the objective of enhancing the collective well-being and affect positive improvements in the collective long memory.

Now the relevant question before us is how has been the character of state functioning and performances in so far as they impact on the collective long memory and collective expectations for future. I would like to talk of two instances here. One is the presentation of the head of the people of Manipur in the pre-Budget discussions with the Finance Minister of India. The second one is the news of the emergence of an Autonomous College in Manipur. Both are significant news items and both have terribly failed to enliven the spirits of the people; the first one in a limited extent and the second in a widespread nature.

It is definitely interesting and important that the head of the people of Manipur was there in a Pre-Budget Discussion of the Finance Minister of India. So far so good. But when the newspapers reported the themes and contents of the presentation of the Chief Minister of Manipur, the whole spirit of positive expectations gets dissipated. We are not to blame the Chief Minister here for these only betray the weaknesses and absence of appropriate understanding of contexts by the bureaucracy of the provincial government. The proposals are perfectly all right if the Chief Minister were interacting with the Finance Commission or the Planning Commission of India. However it was a case of the provincial head interacting with the Finance Minister of India on the national budget. The orientation and issues to be tackled by the national Budget are very different from what the proposals of the province’s Chief Minister desired to be addressed. The concern for macro approach and policy orientation of a national budget should have been digested by the bureaucracy performing the state functions in Manipur and accordingly prepare the proposals of the Chief Minister. There are ample ways to respect the policy orientation of the new government at the Centre and put forth proposals for policy initiatives to address the specific issues of Manipur within a larger framework. Unfortunately, the provincial bureaucracy seems to have confused the institutions and processes of the country, and reduced the intervention of the head of the people of Manipur to a non-starter.

The second major development is the news of a college in Manipur attaining the status of an Autonomous College. The news per se is definitely a positive news. But the question to be answered is: Did this news enliven the spirit of the people of Manipur in so far as higher education is concerned? Without mincing words, we can say that it did not. By any yardstick, it definitely was not a First Best choice decision of Manipur. It definitely did not have the spirit-enlivening impact it could have if it were the D. M. College or the Imphal College. To this extent the challenge before the new Autonomous College is definitely heightened, and we do wish the institution rises to the occasion. Here a brief on what has happened to higher education in Manipur would be of relevance. The late 1960s and the entire period of 1970s were the heyday of expansion of facilities for higher education in Manipur. Unfortunately, this quantitative expansion was not followed by qualitative improvements as required by institutional enhancement and social progression. The social outcome today is that higher education in Manipur is in absolute shambles; the decline is visible daily. Today we may not worry, but two or so decades from now the society would pay the price in terms of lack of competitiveness and inability to face the challenge of compression of space and time; the long memory impact has much to worry about.

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